Sandra Dee, best known for as a teen idol in a string of popular 1960s movies including Gidget and Tammy and the Doctor, died of kidney disease, the Associated Press reports. She was 62. The actress died of complications Sunday morning at the Los Robles Hospital & Medical Center in Thousand Oaks, Calif., her family said.
Steve Blauner, a longtime family friend who represents Dee's former husband Bobby Darin's estate, said Dee had been hospitalized for nearly two weeks. She had been on dialysis for about four years, Blauner told AP.
"She didn't have a bad bone in her body," he told AP on Sunday. "When she was a big star in the pictures and a top five at the box office, she treated the grip the exact same way she treated the head of the studio. She meant it. She wasn't phony."
"She was Gidget, and she was Tammy, and for a time she was young America's ideal," film historian Leonard Maltin once said of her. With her innocent all-American, girl-next-door charm, Universal Studios cast Dee mostly in teen movies such as The Reluctant Debutante, The Restless Years, Tammy Tell Me True and Take Her, She's Mine. But she also got to show some acting chops in more serious films such as Imitation of Life and A Portrait In Black.
In 1960, Dee married Darin in Elizabeth, N.J., following a one-month courtship. A son, Dodd Mitchell, was born the following year.
Blauner told AP her favorite films were the ones she made with Darin, adding that the singer remained the love of her life despite their divorce. Darin, who had rheumatic fever as a child, died following heart surgery in 1973. He was 37.
Dee and Darin's turbulent marriage was highlighted in last year's Bobby Darin biopic Beyond the Sea, starring Kevin Spacey as Darin. Actress Kate Bosworth, who played Dee in the film, said at the time: "She had this image but she was so tragic and lost and naive and she could have had such potential to tap into that, but nobody gave her the chance."
With a diverse range extending from bubblegum early rock 'n' roll hits like "Splish Splash" to American pop standards like "Mack the Knife" to Vegas show-stoppers like "Hello Young Lovers" to self-penned war-protesting folk tunes like "Simple Song of Freedom " Darin certainly has a compelling story arc chasing fame and fortune from a young age because of a serious heart condition that makes an early demise inevitable. Darin manages to defy the fatal odds against him and emerges as a top-selling singing sensation and even an Oscar-nominated actor while his hard-driving never-say-die odyssey through celebrity includes romance with the gorgeous young matinee idol Sandra Dee (Kate Bosworth) and surprising revelations about his past. Yet like the title of one of his hits "More " nothing ever seems to be enough for the singer who must learn how to truly live in the midst of his seemingly packed life until he finally succumbs to his heart disease at the age of 37.
We know what you're thinking: didn't Bobby Darin hit it big in his early 20s? How the heck in his mid-forties is even Mr. Two-Time-Oscar-Winner going to pull that off? Well Spacey does and he doesn't. Sure he's too old to be literally believed as the early Darin but the film's clever framing sequence and fourth-wall-breaking techniques tell the story as though Darin is looking back at his life and "plugging in" the more mature version of Spacey-as-Darin throughout--and it helps that Darin is not as recognizable an icon to today's audiences as say Elvis or Sinatra. With that nifty feat accomplished Spacey is more than up to the task of capturing the singer's "I want it all yesterday" temperament as well as his distinctive vocals. Darin purists may have preferred that the film used the singer's actual tracks but given that Spacey insisted on singing the songs himself his vocal mimicry is as convincing as can be imagined. Bosworth (Win a Date With Tad
Hamilton) is as poodle-skirt-cute as Sandra Dee should be and adds a nice touch of Hollywood actress insecurity as well. However the vast age difference between Bosworth and Spacey is a tad creepy and their chemistry as both lovers and fighters doesn't really combust on screen. Supporting players Caroline Aaron and Bob Hoskins come close to stealing scenes even from the likes of Spacey--and that's as high a compliment as can be bestowed.
Even if you are a fan of Spacey or not his cinematic execution while not entirely razzle-dazzle in the non-musical sequences is quite competent making the most of the era's settings--especially old Hollywood and the lush lounge environs Darin prowled. Nods also go to the film conventions of the time. His deft direction combined with his always-engrossing performance manages to overcome and liven up the screenplay's often considerably lame dialogue. And those musical sequences! Whenever the story starts to meander Spacey cleverly slides in a 50s-style song-and-dance number or swinging lounge lizard set to goose up the proceedings.