Well, I certainly imprinted on Gidget (Deborah Walley) Goes Hawaiian (1961). But that's because its overall girls-just-want-to-have-fun achievements strike so close to home for most women. True, it's a sequel to the Sandra Dee vehicle 2 yrs earlier, but it has a new feel due to a different female writer (Ruth Brooks Flippen) who wrote an original story based on the Gidget character. This second installment in the franchise is the best: its screenplay is the most agile and showcasing - they really had to cast a triple threat actress this time who could mambo (OK, badly), sing, as well as be an ingenue! The video slick contains an exhortation to "Collect all the Gidget movies". Well, don't bother.
Just buy this one.
Gidget (an instant classic spoonerism of 'girl midget') is the only child of a happy married couple, who are here played very satisfyingly by the younger and friskier Carl Reiner and Miss Jeff Donnell (strange name). In the first movie Gidge's father was played as a stodgy old man by Arthur O'Connell. Her mother here is also of a younger mindset, and she's supposed to be a college graduate herself. This is significant not only for Abby's foolish commiseration about that on the plane, but also because in the first movie we found out that Gidget is a straight-A student who plays the cello. Gidget and her parents are all supposed to be squares, but you wouldn't know it from 'Hawaiian. So the sequel is a very, very different script from the first one, thank goodness.
Remember Moondoggie? 'Hawaiian opens as Gidget's surfer boyfriend from the original movie, who's also a secret square (he's a law student back at an East Coast college), has just recently "pinned" her. So she is totally absorbed in him while he's still in California, but to her chagrin, her well-meaning father springs a family vacation to Hawaii on her. Since Moondoggie isn't too bummed out when Gidget has to leave him, the poor girl takes this as a sure sign that her boyfriend doesn't love her. She does a very impressive road runner act as soon as she's flung his pin back at him. Devastated, she agrees to go to Hawaii "to forget".
On the plane over, she meets a snooty raven-haired girl called Abby Stewart, who is also flying to Hawaii with her "weirdy" parents, an ex-showbiz couple. Both sets of parents are a hit, but I like Gidge's understanding 1960s dad best because that's the beloved Carl Reiner, Mel Brooks' straight man during 1961, who recorded the 2,000-Year-Old-Man comedy albums with Mel. Our easy confidence about this movie is due in large part to the ensemble of older generation actors, all of whom get some terrific lines. But really it's Abby's parents who walk away with this movie: Mitzi (stage comedienne Peggy Cass, d.1999), who "was next in line to be a Copa girl" and Monty (Eddie Foy Jr, d.1983), the ex-hoofer, are both hilarious with all their snide bickering.
Anyway, Gidget's "pretty torchy" (maudlin) on the plane over, and for some time afterwards, which sends her very sensitive and therefore guilty dad into a tailspin. His conscience gnaws at him so much that he telegrams(!) Moondoggie back home and begs(!) the young man to join them in Hawaii. But he should have remembered that timing is everything. By the time the suave bugger (Moondoggie) turns up in Hawaii, Gidget has dragged her bod out to the beach and is unknowingly setting dancer Eddie Horner's (Michael Callan) heart aflutter. So two wrong couples start to shape up the second Abby sets eyes on Moondoggie in Hawaii ...there are piranhas that are slower than her.
But Abby is out of her half-inch depth in Hawaii, where there is some real surf, and a surfer chick. Soon Gidget is the star attraction in their newly formed little group in which girls are in short supply. The boys start singing glee club odes to Gidget (now this is a bit much), and she mambos and surfs her way to amazing popularity. Of course she is still burning for Moondoggie, although now mostly in fury. So she pulls out her old schtick from the first movie, making the guy she loves jealous by flirting with others. Unfortunately she's prolific and not very subtle, so pretty soon people are willing to believe that where there is smoke, there is fire. The stage is set for a pyrrhic confrontation between the girls. For once the boys stay cool. Moondoggie even decides to leave. But when Abby tries to fix Gidget's wagon and start a rumour about Gidget having "an unfortunate experience", Gidget goes missing.
This is one of the best-developed segues into a subplot I've ever seen. Both sets of parents have a row over the rumour and break their routines, and everyone starts jumping to conclusions. We end up with a lot of 1990s issues: one of the girls proffers that if they find Gidget in time, they can always have her stomach pumped, since she knows from personal experience from having attempted suicide so often. While Gidget is daydreaming about her supposed pregnancy, she imagines her dad as being humorously forgiving and caring about her baby; but the thing that offends Gidge the most about her parents' inability to reject the rumours, is that they could think her so stupid. And finally, Mrs Stewart complains that mothers can't tell their children anything anymore because kids know everything already.
I love the family and gender politics in 'Hawaiian. The screenplay doesn't talk down to the audience, and the whole cast is just sensational. Very satisfying to watch both guys see through Abby when it counts, although that might not happen in reality.
[Sigh] If only real life could be tied up as neatly. Or if I could just get
Carl Reiner for my dad.
Alright, it's a chick flick. But a GREAT chick flick.