59 Years Ago Today…

Gidget rode the tide into movie theaters for its theatrical opening. Based on the surfing adventures of the real Gidget, Kathy Kohner, the popular movie and the first (and still one of the best) Hollywood surf movie starred Sandra Dee, Cliff Robertson, and James Darren with support from Doug McClure, Joby Baker, Yvonne Craig, and Jo Morrow.

Gidget’s story of a teenage tomboy who doesn’t fit in with her female friends and who just wants to surf with the guys is extremely entertaining.  It makes a sincere effort to capture the surfer culture of the time albeit toned down for movie audiences.  The film has lots of exciting surfing footage, beautiful Malibu scenery, and a wonderful cast headed by the sweet Sandra Dee as the “girl-midget” nicknamed Gidget and the perfectly cast Cliff Robertson as the manly surf bum Kahoona. James Darren as the college-bound Moondoggie trying to ape the Kahoona but deeep down just a typical suburnan kid at heart is a fine contrast.

As hoped for from the first official Hollywood surf movie there is lots of surfing action, excellently photographed, featuring some of Malibu’s real life surfers such as Mickey Dora and Johnny Fain.  However, a major drawback is the main stars’ lack of athletic ability. The only hindrance about Sandra Dee is that she looks like she can barely hold a surfboard let alone surf on one. The constant filming of her and James Darren in a tank on the studio lot or in front of the blue screen pretending to be riding the waves is a detriment to this movie especially to fans reared on Kate Bosworth in Blue Crush. Unfortunately, using the blue screen would become standard practice in most surf movies to follow during the sixties.


Despite the minor flaws, Gidget exudes a wonderful Southern California fun-in-the-sun feeling, and aided by the attractive cast, remains a memorable first look at the cult of surfing and the throngs who are attracted to it. Read more about it in my book Hollywood Surf and Beach Movies: The First Wave, 1959-1969.



Comments: 3

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  • John Black

    Just want to comment that Twilight Time’s excellent Blu-ray release of GIDGET presents the film in its original CinemaScope aspect ratio for the first time in any home video format.

    Also, a shout-out to the late Deborah Walley for being able to do a lot of her own surfing in GIDGET GOES HAWAIIAN.

    Speaking of Walley, she owned a rare full-length print of the 3-D sci-fi film THE BUBBLE (aka THE FANTASTIC INVASION OF PLANET EARTH), in which she starred. That print may yet yield a Blu-ray release of the rarely seen complete version of THE BUBBLE.

    • Thanks for the updates. I think Sandra Dee was just so sweet as Gidget but she barely could hold the surf boards yet alone ride on one. I found Deborah Walley as Gidget irksome but do give her props for doing a lot of the surfing. I actually like Cindy Carol as Gidget more than Walley. Interesting that she possessed such a rare copy of The Bubble. Hope it comes to be.

  • John Black

    I agree that Sandra Dee was the best Gidget, by far. Of the various TV Gidgets, I preferred Karen Valentine, although she didn’t look very much like a “beach babe.”

    I know that the full-length print of THE BUBBLE (which is sometimes called “the roadshow version”) has been professionally scanned for a proposed future home video release, but that probably won’t occur this year. I believe that the original negative (of the shorter release version) will be combined with the scans from the roadshow version. I’ve heard from a reliable source that the roadshow version runs as much as 20 minutes longer than the release version, so there’s probably a lot more footage of Deborah Walley, Michael Cole, and Johnny Desmond.

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