Gidget began its life as a novel by Frederick Kohner. It was inspired by his surfer daughter, Kathy, and presented a fictionalized version of her adventures on the beach with her surfer friends. In 1959, Kohner’s novel was adapted into a popular film of the same title, starring Sandra Dee. Two sequels followed, and the popularity of the character led to a half-hour series on ABC. Though it had a short network run, Gidget was a notable television show for introducing the world to a new star: Sally Field.
Field starred as Francine ‘Gidget’ Lawrence, the fifteen-year-old surfer daughter of widower Professor Russ Lawrence. She was a boy-crazy teen who yearned for fun in the sun and did everything should could to find it with her best friend Larue. Frequent obstacles to this quest were created by Anne, Gidget’s over-protective sister, and John, Anne’s over-analytical psychologist husband. However, Gidget usually triumphed over the adult’s objections and found plenty of time for boys and surfing.
The show ran for one season, ending its run in September of 1966. Field would go on to greater success with another sitcom, The Flying Nun, and gain a reputation as a dramatic actress with films like Sybil and Norma Rae. Gidget still pops up periodically via syndication and remains memorable to sitcom fans for Field’s ebullient, star-making performance.
USA / ABC – Columbia – Screen Gems Television / 32×25 minute episode / Broadcast 15 September 1965 – 1 September 1966
Sally Field as Frances ‘Gidget’ Lawrence
Don Porter as Professor Russ Lawrence
Betty Conner as Anne Cooper
Pete Duel as John Cooper
Lynette Winter as Larue
Michael Nader as Peter Stone (“Siddo”)