Tag Archives: James Darren

Happy National Classic Movie Day!

Once again I’ve fallen off the posting train.  I need to make it more of a habit, but I struggle to find time.  Then, I had trouble with my WordPress account and I couldn’t post.  I finally got that fixed.  I didn’t want to miss posting on National Classic Movie Day.  I also plan to post about the late, great Doris Day soon.

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For this year’s National Classic Movie Day, the Classic Film and TV Cafe are asking participants to post his or her top 5 favorite films from the 1950s.

Without further adieu, here are mine:

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The Long, Long Trailer (1954)

This is my absolute favorite movie of all time.  I have probably seen it a hundred times (no exaggeration). I’m a big fan of I Love Lucy and Lucille Ball.  The Long, Long Trailer is basically a 90-minute I Love Lucy episode.  Ball and Desi Arnaz’ (aka Lucy and Ricky Ricardo on I Love Lucy) character’s first names in ‘Trailer’ are very similar to those of their Ricardo counterparts– Tacy and Nicky, respectively.  This MGM comedy is hilarious and I never tire of it, even though I’m at the point where I can recite the dialogue.  Quotes from this film regularly make it into everyday conversations I have with friends and family (only those who have seen this film of course).  My favorite quote to use, while driving, is “Turn right here, left.”

The Long, Long Trailer tells the story of Tacy and Nicky Collini, newlyweds who are embarking on a road-trip for their honeymoon: Los Angeles to Colorado.  The Collinis decide to purchase a 40′ New Moon trailer for their journey.  The film depicts the Collinis trying to handle trailer life and all the trials and tribulations that come with it: noisy trailer parks, parking on uneven surfaces, getting stuck in the mud, spending the night on a noisy highway, weight limits, cooking, parking, backing in, and more.  Will the newlyweds’ marriage survive the trip?

My favorite part of the movie is when Tacy and Nicky decide to go off-roading and end up stuck in the mud.  The trailer is all whopperjawed. Tacy and Nicky get through dinner and go to bed.  Nicky is on the downhill side.  He has no issues getting into bed.  Tacy on the other hand, is on the uphill side and can’t stay in bed.  One may ask why she doesn’t make her husband move over and she can share his bed.  Well that would be the logical solution, but since this is Lucy, that isn’t going to happen.  After a couple of feeble attempts to get into bed, the jack holding the trailer up (kind of) collapses in the mud and Tacy goes flying out the door.  Nicky, awoken by his wife’s blood-curdling scream, comes to the door and says: “What’s the matter honey? Can’t you sleep?”  While sitting in a 5′ deep mud puddle, Tacy gives him a look that could only convey “[expletive] you.”

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Gidget (1959)

I’ve mentioned Gidget many times on this blog, but it’s worth mentioning again.  I love this movie.  I’ve seen it dozens of times and I never tire of it.  Sandra Dee is adorable.  James Darren is hunky.  The story is relatable. Gidget was the start of the 1950s-1960s teen surf movie craze and I’m all in for teen surf movies.  Of all the teen surf movies (the ‘Beach Party’ films, For Those Who Think Young, Gidget Goes Hawaiian, etc.) the original Gidget film is the best.

In this coming of age story, Sandra Dee plays the titular character, Frances “Gidget” Lawrence, a seventeen year old tomboy who is uneasy about her girlfriends’ new hobby: manhunting.  Frances is more interested in snorkeling than finding a boyfriend.  Her friends on the other hand, act like they’ll be old maids if they aren’t “pinned” by the end of the summer aka the beginning of their senior year of high school.  The girls (except Frances) try posturing and flaunting themselves in front of a group of male surfers, but fail to catch their attention.  Frances clumsily tries to play along, but gets frustrated and goes snorkeling instead.  Her friends ditch her.  Frances, swimming in the ocean, gets stuck in kelp.

In the first of a couple kelp episodes, Frances is saved by one of the surfer boys, “Moondoggie,” played by James Darren.  Frances is infatuated with him from the get-go.  And frankly, who wouldn’t be? Frances is nicknamed “Gidget” by the boys (a portmanteau of “girl” and “midget”).  She also takes an interest in surfing and is soon hanging out with the boys everyday.  Her surfing skills steadily improve and pretty soon, she’s good enough to really “hang” with the boys.  Throughout all the surfing scenes, Gidget and Moondoggie grow closer, culminating with a kiss at the luau.  However, Gidget’s awkwardness threatens to keep them apart.

My favorite part of this film is probably Moondoggie serenading Gidget at the luau and planting the kiss on her.  I also love the scene with the fight at Kahuna’s beach shack and the elderly neighbor’s witness statement to the police: “When I saw that other one (Moondoggie) run in there (the beach shack). I knew there’d be trouble. I can spot trouble through a crack in the blinds.”

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All About Eve (1950)

One of the best known classics in Hollywood, I never tire of this film.  The cast.  The dialogue.  The story.  Everything about this film is perfect–except Thelma Ritter’s abrupt exit during the first half of the film.  What happened to Birdie? She went to get the guest’s coat and never came back! This story is timeless, even in real life.  No matter how great and indispensable you think you may be, there’s always someone waiting in the wings who is better than you are.

All About Eve begins at the Sarah Siddons Award ceremony.  Rising star Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter) is slated to receive the prestigious Sarah Siddons award, the highest honor given to persons in the theater community.  As acerbic critic Addison DeWitt (George Sanders) introduces the cast of characters, us as the audience knows that there is a story behind Eve’s rise to stardom.  Huge star Margo Channing (Bette Davis) looks like she wants to shoot Eve.  The playwright Lloyd Richards (Hugh Marlowe) and director Bill Sampson (Gary Merrill) of Eve’s award-winning play do not look proud or happy in the slightest.  Lloyd’s wife, Karen (Celeste Holm) takes over the narration and lets the audience in on the true story about Eve Harrington.

On a rainy night, after another performance of Margo’s hit play, “Aged in Wood,” Karen comes across Eve, a young woman she’s repeatedly spotted waiting outside the backstage exit.  Thinking she’s doing the young woman a favor, Karen invites the young woman inside to meet her idol, Margo Channing.  Little does Karen know what lurks ahead.  As the story progresses, we see Eve slowly insinuate herself into Margo’s personal and professional life.  Perhaps this is why Birdie disappears! Eve’s goal is to star in Lloyd’s next play, Footsteps on the Ceiling.

What I love about this film is how slowly Eve’s scheme unfolds.  It is not obvious that Eve is taking over Margo’s life.  It’s only through the music, Birdie’s “I told you so” face, and Margo’s growing frustration that we figure out what Eve is doing.  As Eve gets away with more and more, the more brazen she becomes–such as calling Lloyd to her apartment in the middle of the night.  My favorite part of the film is Addison’s take-down of Eve and Eve’s comeuppance at the end when she meets #1 fan, Phoebe (Barbara Bates).

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Pillow Talk (1959)

Starring the recently departed Doris Day, this film is her first of three films with co-star Rock Hudson.  Of their three films together, the others being Lover Come Back (1961) and Send Me No Flowers (1964)Pillow Talk is my favorite.  I love the catchy theme song, Doris and Rock’s undeniable chemistry, Tony Randall, and Doris’ gorgeous wardrobe.  The film is funny, romantic and a little sexy.

In Pillow Talk, Doris stars as Jan Morrow, an interior decorator.  She’s a successful career woman who’s driven up the wall by the romantic escapades of her party line partner Brad Allen, played by Rock Hudson.  Tony Randall portrays Jonathan Forbes, a mutual friend of Jan and Brad’s.  Jan and Brad bicker constantly on the party line.  Jan tries to offer a compromise over the use of the line, but Brad is unwilling to participate.  Jan ends up (unsuccessfully) filing a complaint against Brad with the phone company.

One night, Brad and Jan just happen to be at the same nightclub.  Brad sees her and learns her name, figuring out that she’s the one who he bickers with on the party line.  He concocts the fake persona of “Rex Stetson” a Texas cattle rancher.  Using a Texas drawl, Rex successfully picks up Jan and takes her home.  Soon they are seeing each other regularly.  Jan finds herself falling for “Rex.”  Brad/Rex finds himself falling for Jan.

My favorite part of this film is watching 6’5 Rock Hudson try to squeeze himself into a tiny sports car, Jan’s maid Alma (Thelma Ritter) drinking Hudson under the table, and every scene with Tony Randall.  He is hilarious.  Pillow Talk set the pace for the sexy 1960s sex comedies.  Watch 2003’s Down With Love (with Renee Zelwegger and Ewan McGregor) for a fun send-up of Pillow Talk and the other sex comedy tropes.

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Rear Window (1954)

This is my favorite Hitchock film.  Everything about this film is fantastic: the story, the dialogue, the cast, the sets, everything.  I absolutely love the set of this film.  Hitchcock’s courtyard set is amazing.  The attention to detail is fantastic.  I love how the other neighbors all have storylines, even though they never set foot in James Stewart’s apartment.  Miss Torso, Miss Lonelyhearts, The Songwriter, all the neighbors are fantastic.  The only fault in this film is the cheesy way the ending looks, but I’ll chalk that up to 1950s technology.

In Rear Window, James Stewart plays photographer LB “Jeff” Jeffries, who is homebound after breaking his leg.  He is bored and spends most of his days watching the goings on of his neighbors in the courtyard.  He devises names for the neighbors and keeps up on their lives.  One neighbor in particular, Lars Thorwald (Raymond Burr), catches his attention.  It seems that Thorwald had an invalid wife, until all of a sudden, he didn’t. Curious about what happened to Mrs. Thorwald, Jeff begins watching him more intently with a large telephoto lens.

Jeff sees Thorwald engaged in all kinds of suspicious activity and is determined that he was behind his wife’s disappearance.  Using his binoculars and camera lenses, Jeff basically engages in a stakeout.  Throughout all his investigation work, Jeff’s girlfriend, Lisa Fremont, played by Grace Kelly, and his nurse Stella, played by Thelma Ritter come and go.  At first the ladies are dismissive of Jeff’s interest in Thorwald and his determination to prove him a murderer.  However, after seeing Thorwald’s behavior first-hand, the ladies are hooked and soon join Jeff in his stakeout.  Lisa and Stella become further involved in Jeff’s independent investigation when they leave the apartment to gather evidence from Thorwald’s garden and home.

My favorite part of this film is the scene with Jeff, Lisa and Stella watching Thorwald scrub his walls.  “Must’ve splattered a lot,” Stella says matter of factly.  Lisa and Jeff look at her disgusted.  She then defends her position, saying “Come on. That’s what we’re all thinkin’. He killed her in there, now he has to clean up those stains before he leaves.” I also love Grace Kelly’s wardrobe.  If there was ever an actress who epitomized Hollywood glamor, it’s Grace Kelly.

 

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Favorite 50’s-60’s Teen Beach Movies

I love a good fluff film.  And you can’t get much fluffier than 1950s-1960s teen beach movies.  These films are never going to rank on the top of any “Greatest Movie of All Time” list (except for mine probably), but they’re a fun insight into a nicer, gentler time.  A time when teenagers weren’t grinding each other in clubs or at school dances, or doing stupid “challenges” like eating detergent (I’m sorry that’s NOT a challenge, that’s just dumb) but rather are doing “The swim” and goofy dances at beach luaus.  These are films where the biggest worry is whether the surf is good, or whether someone has a date to a luau.  There’s usually a romantic element.  These films have so much charm (and usually a little eye candy), I love them.  The music, the silliness, the dancing, everything that I want in a film.  Not everything needs to be Citizen Kane.

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Gidget and Moondoggie embrace on the beach in 1959’s “Gidget.”

My favorites:

Gidget (1959).  I covered this film earlier when I participated in the “Reel Infatuation” blogathon last summer.  I covered the object of Gidget’s affection–Moondoggie.  To give a short recap, Gidget is the coming of age story of 17-year old Frances “Gidget” Lawrence, portrayed by 50s-60s teen queen, Sandra Dee.  Gidget is at an age where her friends are boy-crazy and want to find boyfriends.  The beginning of the film finds Gidget being coerced into going to the beach to go “man-hunting.”  Gidget is self-conscious (she isn’t as well developed as her friends) and doesn’t feel that urge to partner off with a boy.  At the beach, she befriends a group of surfers and quickly discovers how much she loves surfing.  The surfers, all boys, quickly take Gidget under their wing.

While surfing with the boys, Gidget meets super-hot college student Moondoggie, played by teen idol James Darren.  At first, Moondoggie is indifferent to Gidget and gives her the cold shoulder.  Moondoggie it seems is determined to strike out on his own and get out from under his father’s thumb (and wallet), and decides that he wants to shirk the responsibility of college and take up the occupation of beach bum.  Under the tutelage of older friend Kahuna aka Burt Vail, played by Cliff Robertson, Moondoggie is determined to live life on his own terms.  To him, Gidget seems like some kid who is perpetually in the way.

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James Darren (Moondoggie) and Sandra Dee (Gidget) in “Gidget” (1959).

However, it soon becomes apparent that Moondoggie is putting up a big facade.  He doesn’t really want to be a beach bum (neither does Kahuna either, it turns out).  He also displays a protectiveness toward Gidget (as evidenced by him intervening in Gidget’s “surf lesson” with the handsy surfer “Loverboy”).  Later, he finds himself enamored of her and they have their first kiss at the luau.  At the end of the film, “the Gidg” and “Moondoggie” are going steady, he’s given her his pin!  As Gidget would say, “this [film] is the ultimate!”

Where the Boys Are (1960) This film, while it takes place at the beach and features teenagers, has a different vibe and feel than the typical teen beach movies of the era.  While it has some silly scenes and characters, the film overall has a more serious tone.  Where the Boys Are is the coming of age story for four teenage girls, Merritt (Dolores Hart), Tuttle (Paula Prentiss), Melanie (Yvette Mimieux) and Angie (Connie Francis).

The four girls decide to escape their snowy college campus in the midwest (don’t blame them there) and head to spring break in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  While in Florida, each girl meets a man who indirectly teaches them something about themselves.  Merritt puts up a facade as being sexually progressive, an attitude which she expresses in her relationships class (much to the chagrin of the prudish teacher).  Melanie, inspired by her best friend’s attitude towards sex decides to jump headfirst into dating boys when she gets to Florida.  Tuggle is more traditional and wants marriage and children, in that order.  She’s looking for a man who not only shares her values, but is also taller than her.  She’s 5’10.5″ tall.  Angie is the “plain one” of the group (every teen movie seems to have one) and she’d just be happy to have someone be interested in her.  She is the most down to earth member of the group.

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The ladies in “Where the Boys Are” (1960) from left to right: Dolores Hart (Merritt), Connie Francis (Angie), Yvette Mimieux (Melanie) and Paula Prentiss (Tuggle)

Merritt ends up meeting Ryder Smith (George Hamilton), an older, rich college student who is experienced.  He tries to ply her with alcohol and tries to get her to spend the night, but she refuses.  Ryder soon discovers that Merritt talks a good game, but she’s really a virgin who isn’t ready for sex.  Tuggle meets tall “TV” Thompson (Jim Hutton).  He is goofy, but Tuggle finds that she likes him.  He doesn’t drop her instantly when she tells him that she won’t have sex before marriage.  However, he seems to have a roving eye which casts doubt on him being a suitable, long term partner.  Angie meets the goofy musician, Basil (Frank Gorshin), who she loves.  She’s able to show off her singing abilities in his “dialectic jazz” band.  Finally, Melanie has the worst wake-up call when she meets some Ivy leaguers, namely Franklin and Dill.  She genuinely feels something for Franklin but is taken advantage of by Dill after Franklin gives him the scoop that Melanie will be an easy score.

This film has a great theme song (sung by Connie Francis) and features a great cast.  I love the more realistic storylines and the vibe of the film.  Melanie’s storyline is a bummer, but I think it was needed to balance out the other characters’ storylines.  Unfortunately, Melanie’s situation is all too relatable.  Each girl features a different facet of relationships and I felt that all were portrayed very realistically.

Gidget Goes Hawaiian (1961).  I’m not going to lie, this film isn’t nearly as good as Gidget (1959).  In this film, Gidget is portrayed by Deborah Walley.  Sandra Dee unfortunately was under contract to Universal and they wouldn’t release her to reprise her role in this Columbia film.  Gidget’s parents are recast as well.  Carl Reiner and Jeff Donnell portray Gidget’s parents Russell and Dorothy Lawrence.  James Darren, thankfully, reprises his role as Jeffrey “Moondoggie” Matthews.

I’ll admit that when I first saw this film, I didn’t like it.  Deborah Walley got on my nerves.  However, I rewatched it, and now it has kind of grown on me.  While Walley’s Gidget is different than Dee’s, I find her entertaining and it’s a fun take on the Gidget character.  I did like Reiner and Donnell’s portrayal of Gidget’s parents more than Arthur O’Connell and Mary LaRoche’s in the original film.  My criticism with this film is that I wish the costume designers had done service to Walley’s figure.  While Dee was very petite (not necessarily short though, she seems to be of average height), her costumes were flattering and chic.  Walley, while a little more curvy than Dee, but not fat by any means, was outfitted in some very twee looking costumes.  Assuming that the Gidget character is supposed to be at least 18, she’s dressed like she’s 12.  Unfortunately, these costumes gave Walley a short, squatty appearance.

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James Darren (Moondoggie) and Deborah Walley (Gidget) dancing in “Gidget Goes Hawaiian” (1961).

Gidget Goes Hawaiian is meant to be a sequel to the original Gidget.  We’ll forget about the fact that every character is portrayed by a different actor except for Moondoggie.  The film even goes as far as to present “flashbacks” from the original film with Walley outfitted in Dee’s costumes and re-creating scenes from the original film.  One error I found however, is that Moondoggie gives Gidget his pin at the beginning of the film.  He gave his pin to Gidget at the end of the first film.  In the second film however, Gidget treats him giving her his pin as an engagement ring, or an “engaged to be engaged” type symbol.

In this film, Moondoggie is home from college for summer vacation. Continuing with the timeline established in the first film, we can assume that Moondoggie has probably just completed his sophomore (maybe junior) year of college and Gidget has graduated high school.  He and Gidget are inseparable.  Their love for one another is continuing to grow, we see a montage of them at the beach, on a date, and dancing closely.  There is a funny scene toward the end of the film where Gidget basically hints at sex, or at least asking Moondoggie if he’s experienced, to which he refuses to supply an answer.  I will presume that Moondoggie has some experience with the ladies prior to Gidget, and why wouldn’t he? He’s a fox!

Russell surprises his wife and daughter with a two week trip to Hawaii.  Dorothy is overjoyed (of course) and Gidget is less so.  Moondoggie will be home from school for only two more weeks.  Gidget refuses to go because she doesn’t want to lose their last two weeks together.  At first Russell is upset, but then he and Dorothy make peace with the idea of a two week romantic Hawaiian vacation sans Gidget.  Gidget tells Moondoggie of this injustice of having to go to Hawaii and he tells her to go, saying that it’s a great opportunity (because duh! it is).  Gidget ridiculously assumes that Moondoggie doesn’t love her anymore.

The remainder of this film involves the Lawrence’s trip to Hawaii, friends that Gidget meets along the way, including a new boy, and a misunderstanding between Gidget and her parents.  It’s ridiculous, dumb at times and doesn’t make any sense.  But I really enjoy this film.  I think it deserves its own post.

For Those Who Think Young (1964).  This film (based on a 1960s Pepsi ad campaign slogan) also features James “Moondoggie” Darren.  In this film, he plays Gardner “Ding” Pruitt III, a rich college boy who is constantly on the prowl for a new flavor of the week.  He keeps a fancy rolodex of his dates with comments about each.  His car has two (!) phones in it.  Bob Denver plays his sidekick, “Kelp.”  Another thing to love about these surfer movies, the absurd nicknames! Anyway, Ding has his sights set on Sandy Palmer, played by Pamela Tiffin. Sandy is the niece of Woody Woodbury, a comic who works at the dive bar, the Silver Palms.  The Silver Palms is located next to the college campus and is well known as an establishment that serves alcohol to minors.  This club also features a burlesque dancer named Topaz McQueen (Tina Louise).

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Pamela Tiffin (Sandy) and James Darren (Ding) in the 1964 COLOR film, “For Those Who Think Young.”

One day, Woody and his comic partner, Sid Hoyt (Paul Lynde) find themselves out of work.  It seems that their act at the Silver Palms is not that great.  Woody, performing the last show, decides to just perform a stand-up routine instead of the usual song.  His stand-up act is a massive success and soon the Silver Palms is rebranded into “Surf’s Up,” a brand-new college hangout that actually cards the patrons and brands them with a black-light stamp that says “No booze for youse” if you’re under 21.

Of course, the neighboring university thinks that nothing but debauchery happens at this club and want it shut down.  The main ringleader behind this movement is Burford Cronin (Robert Middleton) who just happens to be Ding’s grandfather.  The university even goes as far as to send their Professor of Sociology (Ellen Burstyn, billed in this film as “Ellen McRae”) to observe.  She gets drunk on two spiked “fruit juices” but ends up giving her seal of approval to the establishment anyway.

Aside from Surf’s Up, the main conflict in this film is the relationship between Ding and Sandy.  Ding actually finds himself genuinely liking Sandy and Sandy feels the same for him.  However, Ding’s grandfather, Burford, thinks that Sandy is too “low class” for his family.  It seems that his daughter, Ding’s mother, married a man whom Burford thought brought some “bad blood” into the family.  To further anger him, Ding announces that he and Sandy intend to marry when they graduate college.  Of course, Grandpa Cronin is upset, but like how these movies always turn out, his viewpoint does a 180 in 5 minutes and he’s welcoming Sandy into his family and embracing Surf’s Up, the club he wanted to close down 10 minutes ago.

Nancy Sinatra (Frank’s daughter) and Claudia Martin (Dean’s daughter) provide additional support in this film.  There is a bizarre musical number in this film that features Bob Denver’s chin.

Beach Party (1963). I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention at least one of the Frankie and Annette “Beach Party” films.  I’ll admit that I haven’t seen all of them, but I do own the box set.  I’m going to go with the first film in the series.  What I love about these films is that they have the most random co-stars.  Aside from Frankie and Annette, these films often have old Hollywood stars like Robert Cummings, Dorothy Malone, Keenan Wynn, Boris Karloff, Buster Keaton, Mickey Rooney or people like Paul Lynde, Don Rickles, and Stevie Wonder, everyone whom you wouldn’t expect to pop-up in a teen beach movie. These movies usually have a common theme, the main one being that Annette is mad at Frankie and Frankie being too clueless to know what he did.  In Frankie’s defense, sometimes Annette is being ridiculous.

In Beach Party, Robert Cummings stars as an anthropologist who, along with his secretary Dorothy Malone, is studying the sex habits of teenagers.  He comes across a clan of surfer kids, led by Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello. Frankie and Annette aren’t “Frankie and Annette” in this movie, they’re “Frankie and Dolores.”  In most of the films, Frankie is “Frankie.”  Annette usually plays “Dee Dee,” but in Beach Party, she’s Dolores.  In the Beach Party series, Frankie always seems to be frustrated by Annette’s tendency towards being a cold fish.  This film is no different.  Frankie invites Annette aka Dolores, to a beach house for some alone time.  Annette, not trusting herself (or Frankie) with Frankie, has invited everyone to the beach house to chaperone.  Because this is a “Beach Party” movie, Frankie is mad at Annette and she’s mad at him.

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Annette Funicello (Dolores) and Frankie Avalon (Frankie) in “Beach Party” (1963).

In true Frankie and Annette fashion, they spend a bulk of the film jealous of one another.  Annette decides to flirt with Cummings, who is too dense to see what’s going on.  His secretary, Malone, who is in love with him (and closer to his own age), sees exactly what is happening.  Frankie hooks up with some floozy that he meets in an effort to retaliate against Annette.  There’s also a motorcycle gang, led by Eric Von Zipper who terrorizes the gang.

I enjoy these movies because, while they’re pretty dumb at times, the teenagers are cool.  They sing fun songs, wear cool bathing suits and hang out in some pretty neat looking clubs.

Reel Infatuations Blogathon–James Darren, “Moondoggie” from Gidget (1959)

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When I heard about the “Reel Infatuation” Blogathon by Font and Frock and Silver Screenings , I knew that I needed to join.  How can I resist writing about some of my favorite movie crushes? I’ll never turn down an opportunity to post some beefcake photos!  For my entry, I decided to write about one of my favorite teen idols, James Darren, aka “Moondoggie” from the first three Gidget films: Gidget (1959), Gidget Goes Hawaiian (1961) and Gidget Goes to Rome (1963).  He is so cute and for me, he makes the film–even though I also love Sandra Dee too.  For all intents and purposes, I am going to focus on his first Gidget film co-starring Sandra Dee.  But don’t think you won’t be treated later to an entry about Gidget Goes Hawaiian co-starring Darren with Deborah Walley as the spunky surfer girl.  I can’t help it, I love the 1950s/1960s teen beach movies.

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James Darren as Moondoggie

Gidget is a coming of age story about 17-year old Frances “Gidget” Lawrence, portrayed by 50s/60s teen queen Sandra Dee.  The film takes place during Frances’ summer vacation between her junior and senior years of high school.  Her friends: Nan, Patti and Mary Lou are pressuring Frances to go with them on a “manhunt” to attract a boyfriend.  Apparently, if a girl hasn’t found a man before senior year of high school, she might as well become a nun.  The girls all go down to the beach and try to flaunt their stuff in front of the group of surfer boys, one of which is superhunk James Darren, aka Moondoggie.  Moondoggie is about 1-2 years older than Frances, he is starting college at the end of the summer.

The girls are trying too hard to attract the boys’ attention, except for Frances.  She’s a bit of a tomboy and ends up shunning the manhunt in favor of snorkeling.  Her friends think she’s hopeless.  Frances, in the first of multiple incidents, ends up getting tangled in some kelp.  Moondoggie sees her, grabs his surfboard, and fishes her out of the water.  From that moment on, we as the audience know that Moondoggie and Frances are going to end up together.  Moondoggie, though acting standoffish and too cool for school towards Frances, actually has a crush on her though he won’t admit it until the luau later in the film.

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Left to right: Sandra Dee (Gidget), Yvonne Craig (Nan) and Jo Morrow (Mary Lou). Craig’s bathing suit is hideous. I love Dee and Morrow’s bathing suits. I also love that Gidget couldn’t care less about impressing the boys–she’s going snorkeling.

Moondoggie’s crush on Frances is obvious.  He is the one who nicknames her “Gidget.”  Gidget is a portmanteau of “girl” and “midget.”  Basing her nickname on “midget,” might not be seen as being very endearing, but this action shows that Moondoggie is accepting Gidget into the group.  Earlier in the film, while talking to the group leader, Kahuna, Moondoggie vents about Gidget’s presence in their group.  Kahuna, at least a decade older than the other boys in the group, knows that Moondoggie has a crush on Gidget and easily accepts her into the group and suggests that the others do the same.  Kahuna, I think, also doesn’t take the surf group as seriously as the other boys, and doesn’t really care if Gidget’s there.  He just wants to surf.

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Moondoggie has fun teaching Gidget how to surf. As an aside, I love Gidget’s orange bathing suit.

Moondoggie’s infatuation with Gidget is also apparent when he sees Lover Boy (another boy in the surf group) giving Gidget surf lessons.  Lover Boy is getting very “handsy” with Gidget and it is very visibly making her uncomfortable.  It is obvious that Lover Boy has some other goals in mind besides teaching Gidget how to surf.  Moondoggie looks on at the lesson, and is very visibly irritated and jealous.  He intervenes when Lover Boy really gets carried away with the lesson.  Moondoggie not only wants to protect Gidget, he also doesn’t want other the other boys getting that up close and personal with her. He later takes Gidget surfing himself and gives her lessons on his board.  Moondoggie places his hands on her waist to help her stay up right on the board.

When Gidget gets tangled up in the kelp (again.  Come on Gidget!) and nearly drowns, Moondoggie saves her (again) and nurses her back to health in Kahuna’s tent.  As Nurse Moondoggie croons the movie’s theme song, “Gidget,” Gidget looks up at him adoringly and smiles.  She can’t keep her eyes off of him.  Moondoggie also smiles at her as he prepares a hot water bottle to warm her up.

“A regular tomboy, but dressed for a prom
Boy, how cute can one girl be?
Although she’s not king-size, her finger is ring-size
Gidget is the one for me…”

Later, Gidget finds out about the upcoming luau and convinces Kahuna to let her come.  It seems that the surfer boys think she’s too innocent to attend their annual shindig.  Gidget has an ulterior motive for attending the luau: she wants to get together with Moondoggie.  Because Gidget is awkward and can’t just tell Moondoggie, she puts together a scheme to make Moondoggie jealous.  She’s going to attend the luau with another one of the surfer boys and pay him to act friendly with her within sight of Moondoggie.  However, her plans are messed up when the surfer boy she hired ends up bailing and giving the job to Moondoggie!

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Gidget makes cow eyes at Moondoggie as he sings to her.

Moondoggie shows up to earn his money and also out of amusement after being told of Gidget’s scheme.  Now instead of doing the smart thing and admitting to Moondoggie that he was the boy she wanted to make jealous, Gidget pretends that she’s in love with Kahuna, despite him being twice her age.  Gidget has Moondoggie hold her tight while they sway to the music.  Entranced and in love, Gidget is soaking up every moment in Moondoggie’s arms.  One can’t help but notice that Moondoggie has the same facial expression as Gidget.  Both are holding each other, swaying to the music, eyes closed.

Moondoggie then brings out the big guns and serenades Gidget with “The Next Best Thing to Love.”  As Moondoggie sings, Gidget looks at him with big cow eyes.  Moondoggie is holding Gidget close and is just as smitten with her as she is with him.  He goes in for the big kiss and Gidget accepts it willingly… because, duh! Then of course, one of the surfers has to come over to remind Moondoggie that its past midnight and he no longer has to pretend with Gidget anymore.  Embarrassed, Gidget runs off.

Seeing that Gidget is leaving, Kahuna approaches Gidget for a ride to a friend’s beach shack.  Wanting to keep up the facade that she’s in love with Kahuna, Gidget agrees to give him a ride home and follows him into the beach shack for “one of his private parties.”  It is apparent that Gidget is hoping to get together with Kahuna, intimately.  Kahuna plays along and almost falls under her spell until he comes to his senses and tells her to go home.  Moondoggie, not trusting Kahuna and wanting to protect Gidget, shows up at the beach shack and has it out with Kahuna.

jeff
Gidget’s dad plays matchmaker and inadvertently sets his daughter up on a blind date with Moondoggie, despite warning her to “never again go near those beach hoodlums.”  Don’t look so upset Gidget! He’s gorgeous! Your dad could have done a lot worse!

Gidget ends up being picked up by the police when her car breaks down.  She’s picked up by her parents and is grounded for the rest of the summer.  Had she just told Moondoggie about her scheme to make him jealous, she could have just avoided the whole Kahuna/beach shack debacle.  Fortunately for Gidget, the young man whom her father has been trying to fix her up with throughout the entire film turns out to be Moondoggie! Of course, to Gidget’s parents, he’s Jeffrey Matthews, the son of one of Gidget’s dad’s colleagues.

Gidget and Moondoggie on their “blind” date, end up going back to the beach.  They manage to get to the beach just as Kahuna is dismantling his shack.  They find out that Kahuna aka Burt Vail, has accepted a job as a pilot and is giving up the beach bum lifestyle.  Kahuna, knowing the whole time about Gidget and Moondoggie’s infatuation with one another, gives Moondoggie a reminder:

“Just remember, [Gidget] might be pint-sized, but she’s quite a woman.”

Gidget and Moondoggie embrace and Moondoggie asks Gidget to wear his pin:

GIDGET: “Oh boy, would I? Just wait until the girls get a load of this! Honest to goodness, it’s the absolute ultimate!”
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The Gidg has got her man!

I don’t blame Gidget for being such a nerd when Moondoggie “pins” her.  This is the ultimate symbol of “going steady.”  Moondoggie has essentially asked Gidget to be his girlfriend and she wholeheartedly accepts.  Her friends, the ones who were flaunting themselves trying to attract a boyfriend, are still single at the end of the film.  Gidget, who didn’t try hard at all, and was just herself, has managed to not only snag a boyfriend, but a super hot one to boot! You go girl.

Moondoggie shows up two-years later in Gidget Goes Hawaiian.  The story is presented as a continuation of the first film, despite having a different Gidget.  Moondoggie and Gidget are a year or two older, but are still madly in love.  Moondoggie is hands down, the best part about Gidget Goes Hawaiian.

darren
He’s so dreamy!