Summer in ‘cember: Favorite things about… Gidget

The favorite film:
Gidget, a 1959 beach flick from Columbia.

Gidget not only learns to surf, but also essentially becomes a water performer, doing tricks with her surfer dude friends.

The synopsis:
Francie Lawrence is a young girl who reluctantly heads off to the beach on a “man hunt” with her friends. Her friends have the eyes for a group of totally groovy surfer dudes, but Francie would rather swim than scope out the hot-tays (much to the dismay of her fellow manhunters).

After surfer Moondoggie saves her from a near-drowning accident, Francie becomes infatuated with surfing. She scrapes together the money to buy her very own surf board and joins the merry gang of bums who hang out at the beach. They give her surf lessons and nickname her Gidget – a combination of “girl” and “midget.” As she learns to surf and becomes accepted as a part of the group, Gidget finds herself falling for Moondoggie, who seems to want nothing to do with her.

“Watch out Brigitte – here comes Gidget!”

Buy the complete GIDGET collection on DVD or stream GIDGET on Amazon Instant Video and a small donation will be made to the “Put Lindsey in grad school next fall” fund!

The cast:
Sandra Dee as Francie “Gidget” Lawrence
James Darren as Jeffrey “Moondoggie” Matthews
Cliff Robertson as The Big Kahuna
Arthur O’Connell and Mary LaRoche as Francie’s parents
The Four Preps as the super cool beach band (aka themselves)

Fun facts:

  • The film is based on a book, and the character of Gidget is based on author Frederick Kohner’s beach-lovin’ daughter Kathy, who grew up on Malibu surf culture in the 1940s and 1950s. Kathy began surfing at age 15.
  • Elvis Presley was originally wanted for the lead role, but Columbia decided that he was too expensive.
  • James Darren took it upon himself to release a single with Colpix Records in order to convince Columbia that he was right for the role. He was not selected originally because he was not an established singing star (not to mention the fact that he was a very weak swimmer). His single charted, convincing them to change their minds, and he became a teen idol.

Five of the Gidgets! From left: Kathy Kohner, Sandra Dee, Deborah Walley, Cindy Carol and Sally Field

  • The film is followed by two theatrical sequels, Gidget Goes Hawaiian and Gidget Goes to Rome, each starring a different actress in the role of Gidget. A “Gidget” television series starring Sally Field also aired for one season in 1965; “The New Gidget” ran for two seasons in the late 1980s; three television movies and one 60 minute ABC Saturday Superstar Movie based on the story ran in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.

Favorite things:

  • Francie doesn’t give into her friends’ peer pressure as easily as they’d like. She readily goes swimming in her odd-looking scuba mask instead of partaking in the man hunt.

Gidget goes scuba

  • Francie has super stereotypical 1950s parents: an understanding mom who tries to pass on life’s lessons, and an overprotective dad.
  • Sandra Dee is adorable. They couldn’t have possibly found a better Gidget, and none of the other Gidgets matched her (though Sally Field did a pretty good job in the role).
  • Mildly creepy Kahuna rocks a straw hat. And clam diggers. Hot.
  • All of Francie’s clothes are perfect. She has the quintessential cute, girly, pastel 1950s wardrobe.
    • Gidget is considered a “crazy tomboy” despite the fact that she has a very cutesy style, always has perfect hair and wears quite a bit of makeup (even to the beach).
  • Moondoggie and Gidget have the perfect angry banter throughout most of the film. They’re trying hard to hate each other but it ain’t workin’.
  • James Darren’s beauuuutiful voice
    • There’s no such thing as the next best thing to laaaaahv
  • Saturday night means duet time in the Lawrence household!
  • Francie is easy for squares like me to relate to. She’s an A student, loves books, has good relationships with both of her parents and is just generally a sweet, smart lil’ lady.
  • Need a date for the luau? Bribe ’em with cheesecake!

    Things get a little strange at the beach shack with Kahuna.

  • Super dramatic bird death. RIP Fly Boy
  • Want boards? Ask Stinky.
  • Kahuna’s “private party” is so uncomfortable. Cliff Robertson (and, let’s be honest, the dialogue itself) makes his character look like the biggest cheese-ball on Earth. It’s hilarious.
  • A super cute, super cheesy ending leaves the viewer feelin’ the warm and fuzzies.
  • Quotes:
    • “Although she’s not king size, her finger is ring size!”
    • “The kid’s studied up on about everything but seeeeex!”
    • “After all, it is her first man hunt.”
    • Mrs. Lawrence: “Who did you expect? Kim Novak?”
    • Kahuna: “The beard means he digs existentialism.”
    • Gidget: “Why don’t I like dates?”
    • Gidget: “You can learn anything from books, you know.”
    • Mr. Lawrence: “Saturday night! Concert time!”
    • Mr. Lawrence: “What kind of insanity has taken hold of this family? Cold cash! Legs of lamb!”
    • Gidget: “Don’t underestimate your performance back there, Barrymore.”
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7 thoughts on “Summer in ‘cember: Favorite things about… Gidget

    • If you’ve seen that scene you’ll know how completely fitting it is though, haha! Kahuna’s pick up lines are just not up to par… but this is probably the only time I’ll ever feel the need to describe Cliff as a cheese-ball.

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    • Yes, not a lot of people have heard of or seen it! Admittedly, I haven’t watched a single episode — it doesn’t seem to be available on DVD anywhere. I love the Sally Field series, though, and it is a part of my DVD collection along with the films.

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