Sandra Dee (April 23, 1942 – February 20, 2005) was an American actress. Dee began her career as a model and progressed to film. Best known for her portrayal of ingenues, Dee won a Golden Globe Award in 1959 as one of the year's most promising newcomers, and over several years her films were popular. By the late 1960s her career had started to decline, and a highly publicized marriage to Bobby Darin ended in divorce.
She rarely acted after this time, and her final years were marred by illness; she died as a result of kidney failure.
Birth and background
Dee was born Alexandra Zuck in Bayonne, New Jersey. Her parents divorced before she was five. Her mother was of Carpatho-Rusyn ancestry and raised her in the Russian Orthodox Church. Changing her name to "Sandra Dee," she became a professional model by the age of four and subsequently progressed to television commercials.
There was some confusion as to her actual birth year, with evidence pointing to both 1942 and 1944. According to her son Dodd Darin in his book Dream Lovers she was born in 1944, she and her mother having lied to everyone about her age so she could work. If true, the bride would have been 16 years old in 1960 when Dee was married to Bobby Darin.
Sandra Dee made her first film, Until They Sail, in 1957, and the following year, she won a Golden Globe Award for New Star Of The Year - Actress, along with Carolyn Jones and Diane Varsi.
She became known for her wholesome ingenue roles in such films as Imitation of Life, Gidget and A Summer Place, all in 1959. She later played "Tammy" in two Universal sequels to Tammy and the Bachelor in the role created by Debbie Reynolds.
During the 1970s she took very few acting jobs, but did make occasional television appearances.
Her marriage to Bobby Darin in 1960 kept her in the public eye for much of the decade. They met while making the 1961 film Come September together. She was under contract to Universal Studios, which tried to develop Dee into a mature actress, and the films she made as an adult - including a few with Darin - were moderately successful. They had one son, Dodd Mitchell Darin (also known as Morgan Mitchell Darin). She and Darin divorced in 1967.
Illness and death
Dee's adult years were marked by ill health. She admitted that for most of her life she battled anorexia nervosa, depression and alcoholism. In 2000, it was reported that she had been diagnosed with several ailments, including throat cancer and kidney disease. Complications from kidney disease led to her death on February 20, 2005, at the Los Robles Hospital & Medical Center in Thousand Oaks, California.
Sandra Dee is interred in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Hollywood Hills, not far from her mother, Mary C. Douvan, who died on December 27, 1987. She is survived by her son Dodd, her daughter-in-law and two granddaughters, Alexa and Olivia.
In popular culture
In 1994, Dodd wrote a book about his parents, Dream Lovers: The Magnificent Shattered Lives of Bobby Darin and Sandra Dee, in which he chronicled his mother's anorexia, drug and alcohol problems and her disclosure that she had been sexually abused as a child by her stepfather, Eugene Douvan.
One of the popular songs of the Broadway musical and 1978 movie Grease is called, "Look at Me, I'm Sandra Dee."
Dee's life with Bobby Darin was dramatized in the 2004 film Beyond the Sea, in which Kevin Spacey played Darin and Dee was played by Kate Bosworth.
1.^ Kehr, Dave (2005-02-20). "Sandra Dee, 'Gidget' Star and Teenage Idol, Dies at 62". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2005/02/20/movies/20cnd-dee.html?ex=1266728400&en=a2d4c4eedf02d972&ei=5090. Retrieved 2009-09-02.
2.^ Dee, Sandra (1991-03-18). "Learning to Live Again". People. http://www.people.com/people/archive/article/0,,20114698,00.html. Retrieved 2009-09-02.
3.^ Marla, Lehner (2005-02-20). "Screen Star Sandra Dee Dies at 62". people.com. http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,1029880,00.html. Retrieved 2009-09-02.