Gidget the Movie

1959 Gidget on DVD
1959 was a big year for movies - among others, there was the blockbuster Ben Hur with Charlton Heston, the timeless comedy some Like it Hot, starring Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis and Marlyn Monroe, the Hitchcock thriller North by Northwest; Doris Day and Rock Hudson were doing there romantic 50s shtick in Pillow Talk and for the newly emerged teenage market there was  Gidget...a film based on a 1957 novel by Frederick Kohner about a teenage girl's love of the California surf culture and one young surfer in particular.  

Gidget the movie is seen as a precursor to the beach party genre and credited as a significant influence in bringing surf culture into the mainstream consciousness. The name Gidget is a merge of 'girl' and 'midget'...a pet name given to the vertically challenged main character Francis Lawrence (played by Sandra Dee) by the surfer boys who haunt the beach. Francis is new to the surfer scene but what she lacks in experience she makes up for in enthusiasm, persuading her parents to buy her a second-hand surfboard for her 17th birthday. Fun on the beach, adolescent woes and standard romantic conflict follows...

Surfer Culture and American Values
Although Sandra Dee's Gidget is very middle-class and sweetness and light triumph over gritty realism,  there is yet a note of subversion, both in the beach culture itself and in the character of Kahuna (played by Cliff Robertson), a Korean air force veteran who drops out of society to pursue a life as a surfing beach bum and in the process becomes a role model for the young surfer dudes. Gidget's love interest, Moondoggie (Bobby Darren) in particular, is struck by the freedom of Kahiuna's lifestyle and threatens to abandon the university route his wealthy father has planned for him. Gidget however, challenges her friend Kuhuna's aimless and jobless lifestyle,wondering just how fulfilling a life it can really be. Meanwhile Gidget's conservative parents plan a blind date for her with the son of a respectable businessman..a situation she recoils from but accepts out of a sense of duty.

Moondoggie (Bobby Darren), Gidget (Sandra Dee) and Kahuna (Cliff Roberston)
In a typical pat Hollywood plot twist, the blind date turns out to be none other than  hot surfer boy Moondoggie and overturning his subversive philosophy, Kahuna destroys his groovy beach hut, ultimately rejecting the laid-back surfer lifestyle to become an airline pilot - ah, thus  it turns out all's right with status quo after all! Despite the fairly predictable outcomes, Gidget the movie is very watchable and has a great deal of charm and energy - the film was a surprise hit in 1959 and ushered in a new era of formulaic beach+music+youth =fun movies, few of which were as good as the original Gidget.

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