Gidget | 1959
95 min. | color | Columbia | released: april 10, 1959
Tomboy Francie Lawrence (Sandra Dee) is going to be a high school senior. Her three girlfriends just want to chase boys with the hopes of hooking one before summer ends. Francie wants no part of the dating scene and falls in with a pack of surfers after one of them, Moondoggie (James Darren), saves her from drowning. The surfers worship The Great Kahuna (Cliff Robertson) who flew a plane in the Korean War and became a beach bum after it was over. On the outside, Kahuna likes to impress people with his worldliness and carefree attitude, but on the inside he’s a lonely guy hanging around with guys half his age. Kahuna adopts Francie as the gang’s new mascot after she coughs up $25 to buy a used surfboard from them. Moondoggie wants to be a beach bum like Kahuna and resents kids like Francie hanging around, cramping his style. He angrily gives Francie the nickname Gidget, arrived at by combining the words girl and midget.
Gidget finds Moondoggie’s animosity toward her attractive, and develops a crush on him. She tries to impress him by learning to surf. When that doesn’t work, she pays one of the other surfers to be her date to a big luau in hopes of making Moondoggie jealous. Her date, unaware of her plan, gets stuck working late and passes her off to Moondoggie. A frustrated Gidget tells Moondoggie she’s in love with Kahuna, which sparks some jealousy in him.
After the party, Gidget gives Kahuna a ride to the beach house where he’s going to spend the night. When Moondoggie finds out, he gets the wrong idea and rushes to Gidget’s “rescue.” By the time Moondoggie gets to the house, Gidget has already left but Kahuna pretends she’s still inside to make Moondoggie think he’s a cad, and hopefully discourage him from following in his lonely footsteps. The two fight until the cops show up. As the cops leave, they encounter Gidget pulled over to the side of the road with a flat tire. They bring her down to the police station and call her parents, because I guess it was illegal to have a flat tire in the late 50s. Her parents forbid her from hanging around those beach bums anymore. Gidget’s father (Arthur O’Connell) fixes her up with the son of an old friend… and get ready for a surprise twist that’ll knock you on your ass. Actually, you probably won’t care that much and if you were paying attention, it won’t be that big of a twist.
“Gidget” was based on Frederick Kohner’s 1957 book of the same name and presented an imaginary account of his daughter, Kathy, hanging out with the surfers in Malibu. “Gidget” was the first beach movie, and although it spawned two sequels, two TV series, and three TV-movies, the beach movie craze didn’t really get rolling until AIP produced “Beach Party”. Followed by “Gidget Goes Hawaiian”
Also along for the ride are:
- The Four Preps provide some of the squarest, whitest music you’ll ever hear in your life… but what do you except from a band called The Four Preps?
- Joby Baker plays Stinky, who makes and sells surfboards on the beach.
- Jo Morrow, Yvonne Craig, and Patti Kane play Gidget’s man-hunting friends.
- A very young Doug McClure plays Waikiki, one of the wannabe surf bums.
- Surf legend Mickey Dora is the stunt double for James Darren during the surfing scenes.