Tribute By Monica Sullivan
There was little fanfare when actress Deborah Walley lost her fight against cancer in May, forty years after her much ballyhooed screen debut in "Gidget Goes Hawaiian." Not many of her 1961 fans realized that Sandra Dee's successor as Gidget had been discovered in an off-Broadway production of Chekhov's "Three Sisters," but that's where Columbia's legendary talent scout Joyce Selznick first saw her & asked her to audition for the television show "Route 66." She was just seventeen-years-old. The publicity for "Gidget" the following year was enormous, as was the two-picture deal she struck with Walt Disney to make 1962's "Bon Voyage!" and 1963's "Summer Magic." In 1964, she found herself at MGM for "The Young Lovers" & by 1965, she was part of the AIP gang. Her credits there included "Sergeant Deadhead," "Ski Party," "Ghost In The Invisible Bikini" & the legendary "Beach Blanket Bingo."
Like many starlets of the 1960's, she co-starred with Elvis Presley (in MGM's "Spinout") & she even worked with Arch Oboler in "The Bubble" before accepting a part opposite Eve Arden & Kaye Ballard in "The Mothers-In-Law" series. Her big screen swan song as an actress was 1974's "Benji," but Walley did continue to work as a writer & producer & it was during a trip to San Francisco that I had a chance to talk with her about a project she was working on with actor Michael Horse. Deborah Walley looked happy, healthy & busy, which is the way she always looked in her movies &, thus, is how she'll always be remembered by her fans. Her presence helped to brighten up the already dazzling decade of the 1960's & it's nice to know that her career had such a fulfilling Act Two.
© 2001 - Monica Sullivan - Air Date: 6/7/01
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