What was it about Sandra Dee that made her so special to moviegoers from 1957-1969? Many blonde starlings during that era were better actresses: (Hayley Mills, Shirley Knight, Julie Christy, Faye Dunaway, Sondra Locke, Goldie Hawn, Carol Lynley and Tuesday Weld, to name a few.) Yet, all these starlings, however, young they looked, appealed to both kids and grownups.
Sandra Dee, throughout her 62 years, always looked like a baby on the verge of a breakthrough. If she made out with an onscreen male as a teenager, it simply looked wrong, as in, you’re too young for that, kid: grow up fast. Since that image was so successful and so exploitable, was it any wonder that her evolution as an actress was stuck in first gear?
She married and had a baby before she was twenty, but she still talked and acted like a baby herself. Instead of rooting for her to “go for it, girl, whatever you want,” all you hoped was that she wouldn’t get hurt.
The era wasn’t particularly innocent, nor were its icons, but people seemed to want that pouty, pretty little girl to stay the same forever, even when she was old enough to play Norma Desmond in “Sunset Blvd!!” It was a sad trap for a girl who played that irrepressible water sprite Gidget once upon a time. May the free spirit we thought we saw rest in peace.
© 2005 - Monica Sullivan - Air Date: 2/23/05
1942 - 2005