Deborah Walley

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Deborah Walley
Deborah Walley.JPG
Walley in the late 1960s
Born (1943-08-12)August 12, 1943
Bridgeport, Connecticut, U.S.
Died May 10, 2001(2001-05-10) (aged 57)
Sedona, Arizona, U.S.
Cause of death Esophageal cancer
Occupation Actress
Years active 1960 – 1999
Spouse(s) John Reynolds (divorced); 1 child
John Ashley (1962-1966; divorced); 1 child
Chet McCracken (1968-1975; divorced)

Deborah Walley (August 12, 1943 – May 10, 2001) was an American actress noted for playing the title role in Gidget Goes Hawaiian (1961) and in several Beach Party films.

Life and career[edit]

She was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, to Ice Capades skating stars and choreographers, Nathan and Edith Walley.[1] She attended Central High School in Bridgeport. At fourteen, she was playing summer-stock theatre. During her sophomore year, she attended Rosarian Academy in West Palm Beach, Florida, where she was cast as Cinderella in the Academy's annual musical production at the Royal Poinciana Playhouse in Palm Beach, Florida. She studied acting at New York City's American Academy of Dramatic Arts. She began working on stage in the city.[citation needed]

She was discovered by agent Joyce Selznick in a performance in a production of Anton Chekov's Three Sisters. This led her to make her Hollywood film debut as Gidget[2] in 1961's Gidget Goes Hawaiian. From then until 1974 she appeared in fifteen feature-length films, including several of the "Beach Party" films produced by American International Pictures.[3] She also co-starred in the Elvis Presley film Spinout where she and Elvis bonded over a shared interest in spiritual matters.[4]

In 1967, with her movie career starting to decline, Walley portrayed Suzie Hubbard Buell in the comedy series The Mothers-in-Law, comedian Eve Arden playing her mother and singer-comedian Kaye Ballard playing her mother-in-law. Actress Kay Cole had played Suzie in the original pilot but was replaced by Walley, who played her through the series' two seasons on the air.[5]

After moving to Sedona, Arizona, to bring up her children, Walley co-founded two children's theater companies, Pied Piper Productions and the Sedona Children's Theatre.[citation needed]

Personal life[edit]

From 1962-66, Walley was married to actor John Ashley, a costar of ABC's Straightaway series about auto racing from 1961–1962 and one of the main actors in the "Beach Party" films. The couple had a son, Anthony Brooks Ashley. John Ashley preceded his former wife in death by four years. On his gravestone, the inscription says that he was a "loving husband and father".[citation needed]


Walley died of esophageal cancer on May 10, 2001, in Sedona, aged 57.[6] She was survived by her two sons: Anthony Brooks Ashley, a director, editor, and producer in Hollywood; and Justin Ashley Reynolds, an internet entrepreneur in Phoenix, Arizona.


Film and Television
Year Title Role Notes
1960 Naked City Heather Weston Episode: "To Walk in Silence"
1960 Route 66 Helen Page Episode: "Ten Drops of Water"
1961 Gidget Goes Hawaiian Gidget (Frances Lawrence)
1962 Bon Voyage! Amy Willard
1963 Summer Magic Julia Carey
1964 Burke's Law Gwenny Trent Episode: "Who Killed Andy Zygmunt?"
1964 Greatest Show on Earth, TheThe Greatest Show on Earth Anne Episode: "This Train Don't Stop Till It Gets There"
1964 The Young Lovers Debbie
1964 Wagon Train Nancy Styles Episode: "The Nancy Styles Story"
1965 Beach Blanket Bingo Bonnie Graham
1965 Ski Party Linda Hughes
1965 Sergeant Deadhead Airman Lucy Turner
1965 Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine Craig's Cafeteria Date
1966 Ghost in the Invisible Bikini, TheThe Ghost in the Invisible Bikini Lili Morton
1966 Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. Tina Tracy Episode: "Lies, Lies, Lies"
1966 Spinout Les
1966 Bubble, TheThe Bubble Katherine
1967 It's a Bikini World Delilah Dawes
1967-1969 Mothers-in-Law, TheThe Mothers-in-Law Suzie Hubbard Buell 56 episodes
1970 Virginian, TheThe Virginian Corey Ann Skeet Episode: "With Love, Bullets and Valentines"
1971 Drag Racer Chris
1972 Love, American Style Nina Episode: "Love and the Anxious Mama"
1973 Severed Arm, TheThe Severed Arm Teddy Rogers
1974 Benji Linda
1978 Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries, TheThe Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries Gina Bartelli Episode: "Mystery on the Avalanch Express"
1986 Simon & Simon Gigi Dolores Episode: "The Last Big Break"
1989 Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers Lahwhinie (voice) Episode: "Gadget Goes Hawaiian"
1990 Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers Buffy Ratskiwatski / Foxglove (voice) Episode: "Out of Scale"
Episode: "Good Times, Bat Times"
1999 Baywatch Ethel Episode: "Baywatch Grand Prix"


Walley was named Photoplay magazine's 'Most Popular Actress of 1961'.[3]


  1. ^ "Diminutive Actress to Make Debut in Hawaiian Movie". The Salt Lake Tribune. Utah, Salt Lake City. May 9, 1961. p. 7. Retrieved May 15, 2016 – via  open access publication – free to read
  2. ^ Lisanti, Tom (2000). Fantasy Femmes of Sixties Cinema: Interviews with 20 Actresses from Biker, Beach, and Elvis Movies. McFarland. p. 294. 
  3. ^ a b Deborah Walley at Central High School, Bridgeport CT
  4. ^ Eleanor Quin. "Spinout (1966)". Turner Classic Movies. 
  5. ^ Deborah Walley at the Internet Movie Database
  6. ^ "Deborah Walley; Actress, 57" (obituary), New York Times, May 15, 2001.

External links[edit]