Sixteen-year-old Frances Lawrence (pert blonde, blue-eyed screen newcomer Sandra Dee at her most innocent) is the film’s title character, christened ‘Gidget’ by her friends at the beach (girl + midget = Gidget).
Gidget and her more mature and boy-hungry friends (including future Batgirl Yvonne Craig) start their summer vacation by heading to the beach for excitement.
She is introduced to the surf culture by “Moondoggie” (James Darren) and his gorgeous college-boy friends and is both attracted and repelled by the hedonist freedom and the inherent hypocrisy of the culture’s preoccupation with money.
There is a pervasive sexual undertone to the film, with the possible loss of Gidget’s virginity a unifying theme. But she is essentially a child, and the three main male characters are each protective of her in their own way.
Along with Moondoggie are her clueless father (Arthur O’Connell) and The Big Kahuna (Cliff Robertson).
Ultimately some irony is introduced as Moondoggie turns out to be Jeffrey Matthews, the clean-cut boy Mr Lawrence has been trying all summer to persuade his daughter to date.
James Darren became a huge teen idol and repeated the Moondoggie role in Gidget Goes Hawaiian (1961), and Gidget Goes to Rome (1963) with two other Gidgets: Deborah Walley and Cindy Carol.
Sandra Dee died on 20 February 2005 at the Los Robles Hospital & Medical Center in Thousand Oaks of complications from kidney disease after nearly two weeks in the hospital. She was just 63.
Frances ‘Gidget’ Lawrence
Jeffrey ‘Moondoggie’ Matthews
Burt Vail (The Big Kahuna)
Mrs Dorothy Lawrence
Betty ‘B.L.’ Louise
The Four Preps