Every Actor Who Has Played Gidget Over the Years
Frederick Kohner penned a novel about his young daughter, who was emersed in the growing surfing community as a teen in the 1950s. Her summer experiences of hers inspired the book. Kohner likely never imagined that his book would spawn a cultural phenomenon. It did just that. The book eventually spawned a franchise of films and television projects that brought viewers on Francie ‘Gidget’ Lawrence’s summer adventures of her. Over the years, several actors have taken on the role of Gidget. Do you remember them all?
Sandra Dee was the first actor to portray the famed character
Sandra Dee was the first actor to take on the role of Gidget. She appeared in the first film adaptation of the bestselling book. By the time Dee landed the role in gidget, she was a veteran in the entertainment industry. According to The Bad and the Beautiful: Hollywood in the Fifties, Dee earned the equivalent of nearly $1 million as a child model in the early 1950s. Her modeling de ella was more lucrative than her acting career de ella became, according to the book.
Dee was still a teen when she portrayed the female surfer. The film, along with Imitation of Life, were both released in 1959 when Dee was just 17 years old. Both roles made her a household name. While Gidget became a franchisee, Dee would not reprise the role. Several other actors would eventually fill her shoes from her.
Deborah Walley took on the part in the second ‘Gidget’ movie
Deborah Walley was the second actor to become Gidget. She took on the title role in the follow-up movie, Gidget Goes to Hawaii. It was the actor’s breakout role at just 20 years old. While Walley considered the film her big break from her, she also realized that taking on the part of Gidget changed everything for her, and it was not all positive.
In a 1999 interview, Walley revealed that after landing the part, she sat on a bus across New York City and cried. She told the Memphis Commercial Appeal, “I rode on a 6th Avenue bus from one end of Manhattan to another, crying my eyes out.” She went on to explain, “gidget It was so huge, I guess I knew on that bus that day that part of my dream of being a serious actress was kind of destroyed.”
Walley came to terms with the role and what it did for her career later in life. The famous actor appeared in a myriad of other films and TV shows, with her last credited part of her coming in 1999 in Baywatch. Walley died in 2001.
Walley did not return for the follow-up movie, Gidget Goes To Rome. Instead, Cindy Carol portrayed the surfer in Rome. Carol had previously appeared in Leave It to Beaver.
Sally Field starred in the television adaptation
Sally Field is now known for her movie roles, but her breakout role came in the 1960s TV series gidget. Field portrayed the title character for all 32 episodes of the show’s single season.
Field had just a single, uncredited acting role before starring in the show. Considering the success of the movies, the TV series should have been an instant success. It was not. The series had middling viewership during its only season and was canceled before a second season aired. It became a hit in reruns.
Several more actors eventually took on the role
Despite the belated success of gidget, Field did not return to reprise the role in subsequent TV movies and other projects. Karen Valentine was the next actor to portray gidget. Valentine appeared as an adult version of the title character in Gidget Grows Up, the 1969 TV movie. Monie Elis took on the part in Gidget Gets Married in 1972.
The most recent screen project was released in 1986. Caryn Richman appeared as Gidget in the TV Movie Gidget’s Summer Reunion in 1985 and returned to reprise the role in the TV series, The New Gidget. The series found Richman’s character looking after her teenage niece, Dani. The series ran for two seasons. It’s final episode aired in 1988.