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Saturday, July 1, 2017

Gidget Goes to Rome

Last night I recorded the 1963 movie Gidget Goes to Rome on the TCM cable channel, but some incompetent jerk at TCM played the wrong movie (The Picasso Summer) at the scheduled time. Now my whole day has been spoiled!

Gidget Goes to Rome was the third in a series of movies about a teenage girl named Frances "Gidget" Lawrence. Notice that Gidget has the same first name as Frances "Baby" Houseman.


In the series' first movie, Gidget, which was released in 1959, Gidget is 16 years old, in the summer between her junior and senior years in high school. This movie was basically about Gidget learning to surf and getting her first boyfriend, Jeff "Moondoggy" Matthews. The nickname "Gidget" is given to her, because she is short, by surfers who combine the words "girl" and "midget".

Gidget was played by Sandra Dee, and Moondoggy was played by James Darren.

This movie takes place mostly at the beach near Gidget's home in Malibu, and her family is not involved much in the story.


The series second movie, Gidget Goes Hawaiian, was released in 1961. Moondoggie is played again by James Darren, but Gidget is played now by Deborah Walley.

Gidget now is 17 years old, a senior in high school. She wants to stay home during the two-week Christmas vacation because her college boyfriend Moondoggy will  be in town. However, Gidget's parents make her go along with them to Hawaii on a family vacation.

While the family is flying to Hawaii, Gidget meets a professional dancer named Eddie Horner and his girlfriend Abby Stewart. While in Hawaii, Gidget engages in a romance with Eddie. Gidget and Eddie dance the mambo together, and she wears exactly the same kind of pink chiffon dress that Baby Houseman wears in the final scene of Dirty Dancing. Gidget's parents watch from a table, and the dance ends with Eddie lifting Gidget high into the air.

Gidget dancing a mambo in a pink chiffon dress
in the 1961 movie "Gidget Goes Hawaiian"
Professional dancer Eddie Horner lifting Gidget at
the end of a mambo dance in "Gidget Goes Hawaiian"
Here is a video clip of the scene.

As a surprise, Gidget's rich father flies Moondoggy to Hawaii. Moondoggy sees Gidget and Eddie together and so gets even by having a romance with Abby. Gidget learns her lesson and leaves her professional-dancer boyfriend Eddie and returns to her surfer boyfriend Moondoggy.

I suspect that Eleanor Bergstein was influenced somewhat by the movie Gidget Goes Hawaiian.


The Gidget story was created by a German man named Frederick Kohner. The Wikipedia article about him includes these passages:
Friedrich Kohner (1905 – 1986) was an Austrian-born novelist and screenwriter ... He is best known for having created the Gidget novels, which inspired a series of movies, two television series, three telemovies and a feature-length animated film. He based the title character on his own daughter, Kathy Kohner-Zuckerman.
Frederick Kohner and his daughter Kathy
Having studied in Vienna and Paris, Kohner wrote his thesis titled Film ist Dichtung, meaning "Film is Poetry". Subsequently, he worked as a journalist in Prague and Berlin. For a short while in 1929-1930 he was employed as a movie correspondent for German newspapers in Hollywood. ...

Back in Berlin in 1930, Kohner began to work for the German film industry for real, starting with the comedy Seitenspr√ľnge -- a production a young Billy Wilder also happened to be working on as a screenwriter ....

Having been Jewish, he was pushed into isolation due to the ongoing worsening of the political climate. ... In July 1936, together with his wife Fritzi and their four-year-old daughter Ruth, Friedrich Kohner finally managed to emigrate to the US.

From the time he established himself in Hollywood (mostly uncredited work for developing screenplays and treatments), he went by the Americanized name of Frederick Kohner. For his contribution to the story for the 1938 Deanna Durbin comedy Mad About Music, Kohner received an Oscar nomination the following year.

Subsequently, from 1939 onward, he sporadically was given the odd offer to create regular screen plays for movies again ... The bulk of his work in the US however continued to be concentrated on developing stories for films. ...

The series' third movie, Gidget Goes to Rome, was released in 1963. Gidget is in her summer between high school and college -- just like Baby Houseman was in 1963. (That's why I'm so upset that TCM played the wrong movie last night.)

Gidget's rich father has paid expenses for Gidget and five of her friends to vacation in Rome. One of the five is Moondoggie. Gidget's father sends a female acquaintance to chaperon the group and also asks a Roman friend, Paolo, to watch over Gidget while she is there. For a while, Gidget becomes infatuated with Paolo (who is too old for her), but eventually she learns her lesson and stays true to her more age-appropriate boyfriend Moondoggy.

Moondoggie is played again by James Darren, but Gidget is played now by Cindy Carol.

This movie does not show young people having fun surfing. Gidget does wear a bikini during the story's beginning in California and later in a fashion show in Rome.

Rather, the movie shows young people having fun being tourists in Europe. (Since I was not able to watch the movie, I don't know whether it shows any dancing.)

YouTube has a few videoclips from Gidget Goes to Rome. One interesting aspect is that young Americans vacationing in Europe in 1963 dressed quite formally. The following video shows Gidget's group arriving at the hotel in Rome.

The following video shows Gidget and Moondoggy enjoying a happy afternoon with each other at the Tiber River in Rome.


The three Gidget movies show a progression of vacations:

1) Gidget in 1959 -- the family stays home; the kids play at the local beach.

2) Gidget Goes Hawaiian in 1961 -- the family vacations together in the USA (Hawaii).

3) Gidget Goes to Rome in 1963 -- the kids use their family's vacation money to travel in Europe.

In Dirty Dancing, which takes place in 1963, the Houseman family vacations together at a Catskills resort, but probably in 1964 the Houseman parents would pay for Baby and Lisa to travel with a group of friends in Europe.


James Darren was a handsome and talented young male singer, but his pop style went out of fashion at the beginning of the 1960s. Other such handsome, talented, young male pop singers included Frankie Avalon, Bobby Darin, Tory Donahue, Bobby Vinton, Pat Boone, and Fabian. In general, their singing careers peaked in the early 1960s.

James Darren's biggest hit song was Goodbye Cruel World, released in 1961. Darren sings about joining the Army in order to get over his girlfriend who has dumped him. The song reached #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

The following video shows Darren singing his 1965 song "Because You're Mine" to a bunch of girls wearing bikinis.

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