Movie Stars: Dee, Sandra: America’s Sweetheart, Teenage Star (Gidget, Summer Place, Imitation of Life)

Sandra Dee was popular with young viewers, as most of her films were teen-oriented.

In “Gidget” (1959), the film that catapulted her to major stardom, she plays a tomboy.

Viewers were impressed with her character’s perseverance in learning to be a surfer, despite mockery and setbacks.

The sociologist Orin Klapp had suggested that she functioned as a transcendental heroine, because she offers a springboard from what was then the cultural definition of femininity into a role that’s usually reserved for the boys.

Many girls saw Dee as their ideal representative, their role model, and parents liked her too, because she basically played sensitive, good-hearted obedient daughters

In her “Tammy” films, the first of which was originated by Debbie Reynolds, she also played a backwood tomboy—she was good sports, fun to be with for the boys

In “Tammy Tell Me True” (1961), Dee gets a college education and charms all comers.

In “Tammy and the Doctor” (1963), she leaves her riverboat to accompany an old lady who needs an operation in the big city.

In “Take Her She’s Mine” (1962), Dee plays the daughter of Jimmy Stewart, a lawyer. The film was a light comedy about a father’s need to adjust to his daughter’s growing up.  A father of the old school, Stewart is constantly perplexed by his pretty lively daughter and her fleeting involvements in social fads and far-out politics.

When she goes to an art school in Paris and poses for weird paintings, he follows her to check on her and manages to get himself in a house of ill-repute and a fancy costume ball (the picture’s center piece).

Based on a play by Phoebe Ephron and Henry Ephron (Nora’s parents), Take Her She’s Mine” was an old-fashioned generation gap comedy, lacking the wit and irony of “The Graduate,” which was produced several years later.