Sandra Dee, who was such an icon of teen wholesomeness in movies of the late 1950s and early 1960s that she inspired a song in Grease, died Sunday morning of complications from kidney disease at the Los Robles Hospital in Thousand Oaks, Calif., her family said. She was 63.
Dee became a teen star in 1959 with the surfer saga Gidget and the romance A Summer Place. In 1960, after a one-month courtship, she married her Come September costar, Bobby Darin. (The two also costarred in 1962’s If a Man Answers and 1965’s That Funny Feeling.) She also took over the Tammy movies from Debbie Reynolds, starring in Tammy Tell Me True (1961) and Tammy and the Doctor (1963). But her mid-’60s divorce from Darin tarnished her squeaky-clean image, and her star quickly faded. Still, she was immortalized (albeit mockingly) in the song ”Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee” in 1978’s Grease. ”She always had a big laugh about it,” Steve Blauner, a family friend and the executor of the Darin estate, told the Associated Press. ”She had a great sense of humor.”
More recently, she was brought to life on the big screen in Kevin Spacey’s 2004 Darin biopic Beyond the Sea. Kate Bosworth, who played Dee in the movie, told AP, ”She had this image but she was so tragic and lost and naïve and she could have had such potential to tap into that, but nobody gave her the chance.”