Sandra Dee: More Than Gidget And Tammy!

Feb 7, 2006

The Bottom Line I couldn't watch some of her movies. It's very frustrating!

I’ve wanted to pay tribute to actress Sandra Dee for quite a while, but have been hampered by the inexcusable fact that some of her best work (from many comments) remain only on TV and I do not have cable (if you’re going to get anything done in life, you can’t have unlimited access to cable!). I refer especially to four movies: The Wild and the Innocent in 1959 with Audie Murphy; Take Her, She’s Mine! in 1963 with James Stewart; A Man Could Get Killed in 1966 with James Garner; and Rosie! in 1967 with Rosalind Russell. Scores of fans are dying for a VHS or DVD release and I am one of them.

I also watched the recent movie Beyond The Sea that portrays a part of Bobby Darin‘s life with Sandra, but had mixed feelings about it. It ends with them together again, but we know they divorced, even though Sandra loved him until she died last February. I enjoyed the musical numbers the most, especially the finale.

So in order of how they were first released:

(1959) Gidget: Paul Wendkos director. Sandra is a cute, little teenager discovering boys on the beach and learning to surf. Kids flocked to this colorful and fun movie because the teen romance movie was just emerging and James Darren was such a hunk. Cliff Robertson and Arthur O’Connell also give endearing performances.

(1959) A Summer Place: Delmer Daves director. How can this not be on DVD yet? Dee shows more acting skills here as she and leading man/heartthrob Troy Donahue fall madly in love while on vacation with their parents who fight to keep them apart, although two are committing adultery! Percy Faith’s megahit instrumental and superb acting from Dee, Richard Egan, Dorothy McGuirre, Arthur Kennedy and Constance Ford.

(1959) Imitation Of Life: Douglas Sirk director. Lavish remake with Lana Turner as an aging actress raising a daughter (Dee) on her own and the problems her black maid has with her light-skinned daughter who wants to be white. John Gavin, Robert Alda, Susan Kohner and Juanita Moore star in a very moving drama.

(1961) Romanoff and Juliet: Peter Ustinov director, writer, star. I had to buy this from because it’s not on VHS or DVD. It’s got an unnecessary subplot, but the wonderful main story is that Dee plays an American Ambassador’s daughter in a fictional, little country whose President abstained at the U.N. because he couldn’t understand what the amendment to the amendment and etc. was about and so the Russians and the Americans try to buy his vote in vain. The daughter and the Russian Ambassador’s son fall in love, the President (Ustinov) tricks the Ambassadors while they get him drunk and all laugh uproariously at the end. Goofy and satirically clever too!

(1961) Come September: Robert Mulligan director. This movie filmed in luscious Italy was the first shown on transcontinental flights. A rich playboy (Rock Hudson) visits his Italian estate usually in September, but comes early this time to find his manager has turned it into a hotel. Dee and Bobby Darin make a cute couple falling in love while the older generation (Hudson and Gina Lollobrigida) are no wimps either and prove it!

(1962) If A Man Answers: Henry Levin director. Another Dee-Darin romantic comedy that has them getting married and she is advised by her mother to train him like a dog as she has her husband. Poor Darin, no wonder he likes Stefanie Powers here, but it becomes fun when he discovers her dog-training manual and he and his womanizing father (Cesar Romero) teach them a lesson!

(1963) Tammy and the Doctor: Harry Keller director. I don’t remember seeing Tammy Tell Me True (1961), but I’ve enjoyed this one a lot many times. Sandra is just as good as backwoods Tammy as Debbie Reynolds to me. Sandra goes to L.A. with her adopted mother for a heart operation, falls for an intern (nice Peter Fonda, not bad Adam West!), plays matchmaker and nurse’s assistant and puts the real nurse’s assistants in their place. Sure, it’s not for guys like most of her flicks, or probably anyone under 30, but it’s innocent, brainless fun for sappy romantics, heh. Loved the entire cast.

(1964) I’d Rather Be Rich: Jack Smight director. I also found this only at and I just adore it. It’s a smart remake of It Started With Eve (1941). Dee is the engaged daughter of a millionaire who might be dying so she hurries to his side without her fiance (Andy Williams), but the old man (Maurice Chevalier) asks to meet him as his dying wish, but Williams has problems getting a flight and she has a stranger (Robert Goulet) impersonate him. I can’t begin to describe the hilarity when the crafty old man keeps his recovery a secret to give Dee and Goulet time to fall in love. Perfect zaniness.

(1965) That Funny Feeling: Richard Thorpe director. Dee and Darin again fall in love, but this time she’s his maid he’s never met and when he leaves a message that he’ll be gone a week, then doesn’t leave, but meets her as a stranger, she lets him walk her home to his own place and moves in! He’s too smitten to protest and courtship ensues. Donald O’Connor and Nita Tabor add nicely to the tomfoolery.

(1970) The Dunwich Horror: Daniel Haller director. This creepy movie is based on H.P. Lovecraft’s story and guys, you’ll like this one. Sandra is a librarian who meets a guy with mesmerizing eyes (Dean Stockwell) who wants to look at an ancient Satanic book. He misses his bus and she drives him home far away to a very forboding mansion. Making sure her car won’t restart, he keeps her drugged overnight and proceeds to use her as sacrifice to an alien race. Funny how she’s supposedly a virgin. Her friends and a local doctor try to figure out what Stockwell is up to (the aliens need a way to return). Cheesy effects, but will give you the creeps.

I really like the beautiful Sandra Dee. She gave us so many entertaining movies in such a short career, a career brought short when she became a divorcee and her popularity plummeted. I guess she became an alcoholic and died last February from kidney disease. I’m sure such fame as she had at such a tender age was tremendously stressful (she was 17 when she played Gidget).

Netflix has six of the above movies and I passionately hope that the others will become available on DVD as soon as possible. With Valentine’s Day approaching, you might want to watch one of Sandra’s movies with your significant other. If you find any of her unreleased movies on cable, please let me know so I can have a friend tape it. Thanks!

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