Gidget – Not So Secret Obsession

Gidget is a fictional character created by author Frederick Kohner (based on his teenage daughter, Kathy) in his 1957 novel, Gidget, the Little Girl with Big Ideas. The novel follows the adventures of a teenage girl and her surfing friends on the beach at Malibu. The name Gidget is a portmanteau of “girl and midget”.[1] Following the novel’s publication, the character appeared in several films, television series and telemovies.

In 1965, the character was adapted for television in the sitcom series Gidget, starring Sally Field. The series reintroduced Larue, a timid, awkward girl who often accompanied Gidget on her zany escapades, and an older married sister Anne Cooper (“Ann Cooper” in the novels), both of whom appear in the original 1957 novel but are absent from the motion pictures. Gidget’s brother-in-law, who appeared in the novels as Larry Cooper, an intelligent but condescending child psychiatrist was reinvented in the TV series as John Cooper, an obtuse but lovable psychology student. In the TV series, Gidget regarded both her sister and brother-in-law as clueless squares. In one of the first episodes, the producers sent Gidget’s boyfriend Moondoggie east to Princeton University with the convenient understanding that both were free to date others while separated, thus opening plots to a variety of complications and guest stars. The sitcom essentially focused on the father-daughter relationship with Gidget receiving moral instruction from her father at episode’s end and growing a little wiser from it. The sitcom ran for only one season, but spawned a devoted cult following.

The 1959 Columbia Pictures‘ Gidget filmed on location at a real home in Santa Monica (at 267 18th Street) as seen in the film. The blueprint design of this home was later reversed and replicated as a house facade attached to an existing garage on the backlot of Columbia’s Ranch. The reversed Gidget house was primarily used on the Columbia/Screen Gems hit television show Bewitched which premiered in 1964. This facade (still standing) was built right next door to a much older house facade used as the home of Gidget in the TV series from 1965-66. The patio and living room interior sets seen in Columbia’s Gidget Goes to Rome (1963) were soon adapted for the permanent Bewitched interior house set for 1964. In the TV series from 1965–66, Gidget (played by Sally Field) is often shown with a “Samantha” doll in her bedroom (a merchandise cross promotion for the other Columbia TV show), and in 1986’s The New Gidget (produced by Columbia executive and producer Harry Ackerman) the facade used in shots for her home is the reversed Gidget house (better known by TV audiences from those subsequent decades of reruns as Samantha’s home on Bewitched).

There are other examples of Screen Gems reusing resources from different productions. For instance, the exterior and kitchen sets of the 1965 television series starring Sally Field had been previously employed in the Screen Gems’ sitcom Hazel starring Shirley Booth.

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