tek's rating: ¼

Gidget (not rated)
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Caution: spoilers.

This came out in 1959, but I didn't see it until 2022, during my summer of beach movies. Before I watched it I thought I'd put my review under "classics", but then I decided to start a new category for surf & beach movies, instead. It falls within the range of years for which I might call movies "classic", but it didn't end up feeling very classic, to me. I just liked it a little bit, I'm afraid. It's got some pretty outdated ideas about dating, plus it bothered me that all the guys "Gidget" hangs out with on the beach are like college age, while she was 16 (later 17). Anyway, the movie spawned a couple of theatrical sequels, and a couple of TV series, and a few TV movies. In each of these things, Gidget was played by a different actress. In this one, it's Sandra Dee, and I always wanted to see some of her movies, at least partly because of a song from Grease.

Well, Dee actually plays a character named Francie Lawrence. Some of her friends take her to the beach with them for a "man hunt", but that doesn't go so well for any of them. The guys take very little notice of them, apparently because they were too young for them (though aside from Francie, her friends didn't look as young as they were, I thought). But anyway, Francie decides to go for a swim, and gets tangled in some kelp. A surfer named Moondoggie (James Darren) rescues her, but after that wants nothing to do with her. Eventually Francie meets an older surfer called the Big Kahuna (which reminded me of Back to the Beach, though the movies are unrelated). He's more friendly toward Francie, and convinces the other surfers to give her a chance. They nickname her "Gidget", which is a portmanteau of "girl midget". At first I don't think she cared for this nickname, but she went along with it, and later came to like it. (She's really not very short, I thought, but whatever. I didn't care for the nickname, but I guess I have no choice but to go along with it, too. I just wish it would have been her real name.) Gidget begs her father, Russell, for money to buy a surf board, and he eventually relents. (Throughout the film he acts like a very protective, easily flustered father who still thinks of Francie as a little girl, but he usually ends up going along with whatever she wants.)

Let's see, what else? Gidget learns to surf. We don't see her girl friends again until the end of the film, at least most of them, as I guess they went to a different beach to continue their man hunt. Although there is one girl we never see at the beach, just at Gidget's house a couple of times. I didn't catch her name, but she looked very much like a tomboy (or maybe even "butch"), which I found odd because Francie's other friends described Francie herself as a tomboy, which never seemed particularly accurate to me. In one scene between Francie and her mother, Dorothy, it seems like it has to do with Francie never having liked boys romantically, and it's impossible to watch the scene now without wondering if she might actually be gay. But this was a relatively family-friendly movie in 1959, so of course she eventually develops feelings for Moondoggie, who also eventually develops feelings for her, though it's a long time before anything comes of that. (Another possible reason for her to be considered a tomboy was her having a flatter chest than her friends, which I found a bit of a risqué plot point for the time.) There's also an upcoming beach party that Gidget wants to go to, though none of the guys wanted her there. (It's referred to as a luau, but it's also said that it wasn't really one; the guys said it was an orgy, though that also seems like a bit of a stretch.) So she got Kahuna to convince them it would be okay. She also wants to make Moondoggie jealous, but a complication arises with that plan that I don't want to spoil. However, it leads to her claiming she was actually interested in Kahuna. It's pointed out that he's much too old for her, which I found a bit weird because I still think Moondoggie and all the guys were also too old for her. Though I admit, it's definitely truer of Kahuna. It also leads to Kahuna pretending to be sexually interested in Gidget, when they're alone in a shack. I found that rather creepy, even though I was sure he was just trying to dissuade Gidget from her own pretense.

And... I don't really know what else to say. I'm trying to leave out some plot points. There's one twist near the end of the movie that I liked, even though I saw it coming right before it was revealed. Other than that, the movie is basically just kind of silly. I couldn't take any of it very seriously, either as a comedy or a romantic story. But at least I vaguely liked Gidget as a character, at least some of the time. But she was very teenagery, when she wasn't pretending to be more mature than she actually was. I mean, very peppy, in a 1950s way. And there's a happy- even giddy- ending. Anyway, I will watch the two sequels, since I got all three movies in a set. But I don't expect to ever see any of the TV stuff.

Followed by Gidget Goes Hawaiian

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