Old School Americana & Nostalgia

People

‘Gidget’: How Old Was Sally Field When She Starred as the SoCal Surfer?

‘Gidget’: How Old Was Sally Field When She Starred as the SoCal Surfer?

Give it up for Sally Field, who made playing Gidget on the TV show of the same name look like a whole lot of fun.

Gidget featured Field in the title role, a teenager who loved both surfing and boys. Veteran actor Don Porter played her father, Russ Lawrence, who was a widower. There’s a lot of back-and-forth between young Sally Field as Gidget and old fuddy-duddy dad Russ. Still, Gidget would usually go her own way and end up in trouble.

Sally Field does an amazing job on Gidget in playing a 15 1/2-year-old teenager. How old, though, was Field actually when Gidget was filming? She was 18 years old and did a pretty solid job playing a much younger character.

The public had been introduced to the Gidget character back in 1957. But similarities between the movie starring Sandra Dee and Field’s series kind of end at the name. Screen Gems, which was behind the production of Gidget, never strove to connect the two. The TV series pretty much stands on its own merit. It only aired for one season between 1965 and 1966. The show ended up ranking 68th among 108 shows appearing on television.

Do you want to know why? ABC put it up against CBS powerhouse The Beverly Hillbillies and NBC’s The Virginian starring James Drury. Those two shows ate up a lot of television viewers. It’s also worth pointing out that these were the days of just three channels, ABC, CBS, and NBC.

‘Gidget’ Was Not Hit Even With Sally Field

ABC even moved Gidget opposite CBS’ Gilligan’s Island and had red-hot Batman starring Adam West and Burt Ward as its lead-in show. Still, Gidget didn’t pick up viewership.

While that didn’t earn Gidget and star Sally Field another season, this show picked up steam through summer reruns. People who didn’t catch Gidget in its first-time run found the cast to be quite likable. It should be pointed out that Gidget was Field’s first television series.

Sally Field has been quite complimentary about her time on Gidget. That show, despite its just one-season livelihood in primetime television, sent Field on her way. There also have been reports that Field was living in a house filled with abuse from her stepfather, according to MeTV. Acting provided an exit ramp for Field to head out on for her life.

Looking back at other Gidget show appearances, Martin Milner, Daniel J. Travanti, and Richard Dreyfuss popped up on the show. Milner already had some TV cred thanks to his turn on Route 66. He brought some star power playing Kahuna. Travanti, who years later starred as Frank Furillo in Hill Street Blues, pops up as Tom Brighton in one episode. Dreyfuss, who made his television debut on Bewitched opposite Elizabeth Montgomery and Dick York, played Durf the Drag in another episode.

Teenage Life Put In Spotlight on Sitcom

Gidget also presents teenage life with its ups and downs. But it does come off as a really fun time for a teen living in sunny Southern California. Beach time, surfing, and hanging out with your friends don’t sound too bad at all.

Another pretty cool tweak this sitcom provides is Sally Field on Gidget breaking through the “fourth wall.” That’s when she looks directly at the camera and talks to us. It’s like we, as viewers, get a special sneak peek into what’s going on inside Gidget’s head. Not many shows did this a lot. One has to look deep within the classic TV archives to find comedian Jackie Gleason doing this in his “Joe the Bartender” sketches. Gleason did this dating back to his variety show on the late DuMont network in the early 1950s.

After Gidget, Field went on to star in another Screen Gems production, The Flying Nun. This series, starring Field as Sister Bertrille who could “fly” at certain times, lasted three seasons. Field’s experience on this show’s set was quite different. She reportedly was given a lot of trouble by the show’s different directors. It also didn’t help that Field was a target of jokes and put-downs. The Flying Nun, though, was given a pretty cushy space alongside ABC’s Bewitched and That Girl starring Marlo Thomas.

These days, Gidget reruns are available on some streaming services. You can also find some, if not all, of them on YouTube, too.