Sun and Surf and the Story of a Teen-Age Girl

doug-mcclure-gidget

GIDGET” is enough to make anybody leave one of the neighborhood theatres, where it opened yesterday, and light out for Long Island Sound. Pictorially, this mild little Columbia frolic, about a teen-age girl with boy trouble, seems an ideal way to usher in the beach season. Most of the story spills along a balmy California shore, with the young folk soaking up sun and endlessly skimming the waves on surfboards. Howard Thompson, April 23, 1959, New York Times review.

Screen: Sun and Surf; ‘ Gidget,’ the Story of a Teen-Age Girl, Opens
HOWARD THOMPSON.
Published: April 23, 1959

“GIDGET” is enough to make anybody leave one of the neighborhood theatres, where it opened yesterday, and light out for Long Island Sound. Pictorially, this mild little Columbia frolic, about a teen-age girl with boy trouble, seems an ideal way to usher in the beach season. Most of the story spills along a balmy California shore, with the young folk soaking up sun and endlessly skimming the waves on surfboards.

As a surf portrait of adolescent America, the film has a relaxed air befitting its nice young people and some random, knowing observations about growing up.

Frederick Kohner’s novel, as adapted by Gabrielle Upton, just might rate idle reading this summer, and certainly on a beach. However, as a portrait of a sweet, honest-minded child who won’t force herself to chase boys, the film can’t touch Jeanne Grain’s “Margie” of thirteen years ago.

“Gidget” is the affectionate nickname given to the tomboy heroine by a group of self-appointed “beach bums” —reasonably sturdy lads, all —after she turns to them protectively, and with the expected complications. It means “girl-midget.”

Sandra Dee manages to be an appealing little hard-head, as she becomes smitten with James Darren and Cliff Robertson, who does especially well as the group’s leader. As her parents, Arthur O’Connell and Mary La Roche, are also appealing, especially the latter. Three tunes are tossed in at random. The direction of Paul Wendkos is also random, excluding a few bright scenes. Parental trust is fine, but Mr. O’Connell and Miss La Roche, in a late frenzy, might have thought twice about unleashing their sprouting 16-year-old before sensible but red-blooded beach athletes.

Even so, as for all that surf and sun and “Gidget” herself—no harm done.

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