Despite the fact that her career spanned nearly thirty years, Dee appeared in but twenty-three films, lending her talents to an additional dozen television movies and guest appearances in the 1970's and 80's. Though most recall her as the sexually-stifled teenager in the weepy (but very dated) A Summer's Place, Dee shines in light comedies like Take Her, She's Mine opposite Jimmy Stewart and plays solidly in heavier fare - her performance in 1959's Imitation of Life shows impressive range for a seventeen-year-old. In terms of my childhood, she is warmly remembered as boy-crazy, surf-happy Gidget, before Sally Field's spunk re-ignited the Gidge character on television nearly a decade later, and as a young woman I relish her in roles opposite her real-life husband (Come September is definitely a giddy, guilty pleasure). Dee worked sporadically after wrapping her final films in the late 1960's, choosing instead to tend to her young son, particularly after ex-husband Darin died suddenly in 1973. Aside from two tiny television appearances in the 1990's, Dee, who never remarried, lived outside of the limelight for the second half of her life; she died of kidney disease in February of 2005.
For a woman whose career seems barely a whisper in the shadow of such legends as Greta Garbo and Bette Davis, it seems unthinkable that young Sandra Dee created a sensation and earned a legion of devoted fans with her wholesome beauty and scandal-free public life. Today, though, she remains a star, and, come September, she'll still have her place in the cinema firmament.
Check out the Sandra Dee Fans website for beautiful photographs, vintage magazine articles, and wonderful fan tributes to the incomparable Miss Dee.