Sandra Dee

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Sandra Dee
Sandra Dee publicity.JPG
Dee in the early 1960s
Born Alexandra Zuck
(1942-04-23)April 23, 1942
Bayonne, New Jersey, U.S.
Died February 20, 2005(2005-02-20) (aged 62)
Thousand Oaks, California, U.S.
Cause of death Kidney disease
Resting place Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Hollywood Hills, California
Other names Sandra Douvan
Occupation Actress, model
Years active 1957–1983
Spouse(s) Bobby Darin (m. 1960–67); divorced; 1 child

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 (m. 1960–1967) ended in divorce.

She rarely acted after this time, and her final years were marred by illness. She died of complications from kidney disease in 2005 at the age of 62.

Birth and background[edit]

Dee was born Alexandra Zuck in Bayonne, New Jersey in 1942, the only child of Mary (née Cymboliak) and John Zuck, who met as teenagers at a Russian Orthodox church dance, and married shortly afterward, but divorced before Sandra was 5 years old.[1][2] She was of Carpatho-Rusyn ancestry,[3] and raised in the Russian Orthodox faith.

Her son, Dodd Darin, wrote in his biographical book about his parents, Dream Lovers, that Dee's mother, Mary, and her sister Olga "were first generation daughters of a working class Russian Orthodox couple."[3] Dee recalled, "we belonged to a Russian Orthodox Church, and there was dancing at the social events."[3] Alexandra would soon take the name Sandra Dee. She became a professional model by the age of 4 and subsequently progressed to television commercials.

There has been some dispute as to Dee's actual birth year, with evidence pointing to both 1942 and 1944. Legal records, including her California divorce record from Bobby Darin, as well as the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) and her own gravestone[4] all give her year of birth as 1942. In a 1967 interview with the Oxnard Press-Courier, she acknowledged being 18 in 1960 when she first met Bobby Darin, and the couple wed three months later.[5] According to her son's book, Dee was born in 1944, but, having begun modelling and acting at a very young age, she and her mother falsely inflated her age by two years so she could find more work. According to this version, this explains why 1942 was listed as her birth year in official studio press releases. It does not explain why her gravestone, which had to have been commissioned by her son, her only child and sole immediate survivor, gives 1942 as her year of birth, however.[3][4][4]

After studying at the Hollywood Professional School, she graduated from University High School in Los Angeles in June 1958. In a 1959 interview, Dee recalled that she "grew up fast", surrounded mostly by older people, and was "never held back in anything [she] wanted to do".[6] During her modeling career, Dee attempted to lose weight to "be as skinny as the high-fashion models", though an improper diet "ruined [her] skin, hair, nails—everything". Having slimmed down, her body was unable to digest any food she ate, and it took the help of a doctor to regain her health. According to the actress, she "could have killed [herself]" and "had to learn to eat all over again".[6]


Ending her modeling career, Dee moved from New York to Hollywood in 1957. There, she made her first film, Until They Sail, in 1957. The following year, she won a Golden Globe Award for New Star of the Year – Actress, along with Carolyn Jones and Diane Varsi.[citation needed]

In Imitation of Life trailer (1959)

She became known for her wholesome ingenue roles in such films as The Reluctant Debutante (as Rex Harrison's daughter), Gidget, Imitation of Life, and A Summer Place. She later played Tammy in two Universal sequels to Tammy and the Bachelor, in the role created by Debbie Reynolds. After 1970, Dee appeared in relatively few roles; those were mostly in television.

Personal life[edit]

Dee's marriage to Bobby Darin in 1960 kept her in the public eye for much of the decade. They met while filming Come September, which was released in 1961. 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. On 16 December 1961, they had one son, Dodd Mitchell Darin (also known as Morgan Mitchell Darin).[7] She and Darin divorced in 1967. Bobby Darin died at age 37 in 1973.[8] She never remarried.

In 1994, Dodd Darin published 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 claim that she had been sexually abused as a child by her stepfather, Eugene Douvan.[8]

Illness and death[edit]

Grave of Sandra Dee, at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills

Dee's adult years were marked by poor health. She battled anorexia nervosa, depression, and alcoholism for many years. Complications from kidney disease led to her death on February 20, 2005, at the Los Robles Hospital & Medical Center in Thousand Oaks, California at the age of 62.[9][10] Her remains are interred in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Hollywood Hills.[4] Dee was survived by her son, her daughter-in-law and two granddaughters.

In popular culture[edit]

Selected filmography[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1957 The Snow Queen Gerda Voice: English version
1957 Until They Sail Evelyn Leslie
1958 The Reluctant Debutante Jane Broadbent
1958 The Restless Years Melinda Grant Alternative title: The Wonderful Years
1959 A Stranger in My Arms Pat Beasley Alternative title: And Ride a Tiger
1959 Gidget Gidget (Frances Lawrence)
1959 Imitation of Life Susie (at age 16)
1959 The Wild and the Innocent Rosalie Stocker
1959 A Summer Place Molly Jorgenson
1960 Portrait in Black Cathy Cabot
1961 Romanoff and Juliet Juliet Moulsworth Alternative title: Dig That Juliet
1961 Tammy Tell Me True Tambrey "Tammy" Tyree
1961 Come September Sandy Stevens
1962 If a Man Answers Chantal Stacy
1963 Tammy and the Doctor Tambrey "Tammy" Tyree
1963 Take Her, She's Mine Mollie Michaelson
1964 I'd Rather Be Rich Cynthia Dulaine
1965 That Funny Feeling Joan Howell
1966 A Man Could Get Killed Amy Franklin Alternative title: Welcome, Mr. Beddoes
1967 Doctor, You've Got to Be Kidding! Heather Halloran
1967 Rosie! Daphne Shaw
1970 The Dunwich Horror Nancy Wagner
1971–72 Night Gallery Ann Bolt
Millicent/Marion Hardy
2 episodes
1972 The Manhunter Mara Bocock Television movie
1972 The Daughters of Joshua Cabe Ada Television movie
1972 Love, American Style Bonnie Galloway Segment "Love and the Sensuous Twin"
1972 The Sixth Sense Alice Martin Episode: "Through a Flame Darkly"
1974 Houston, We've Got a Problem Angie Cordell Television movie
1977–83 Fantasy Island Francesca Hamilton Television movie

Margaret Winslow Episode: "Eternal Flame/A Date with Burt"

1978 Police Woman Marie Quinn Episode: "Blind Terror"
1983 Lost Penny
1994 Frasier Connie (voice only) Episode: "The Botched Language of Cranes"

Box office rating[edit]

For a number of years, exhibitors voted Dee one of the most popular box office stars in the United States:[11]

  • 1959—16th
  • 1960—7th
  • 1961—6th
  • 1962—9th
  • 1963—8th


  1. ^ Biography of Sandra Dee,; accessed August 14, 2014.
  2. ^ Dee, Sandra (1991-03-18). "Learning to Live Again". People. Retrieved 2009-09-02. 
  3. ^ a b c d Darin, Dodd (1994). Dream Lovers: The Magnificent Shattered Lives of Bobby Darin and Sandra Dee, Warner Books, pp. 27-30.
  4. ^ a b c d Sandra Dee at Find a Grave; accessed July 4, 2015.
  5. ^ Oxnard Press-Courier interview,; accessed May 9, 2014.
  6. ^ a b "Sandra Dee, Teen-age Beauty" by Lydia Lane, The Palm Beach Post. p. 42.
  7. ^ Biography: Dodd Darin,; accessed August 14, 2014.
  8. ^ a b Son's book takes new look at Darin, Dee,, December 14, 1997.
  9. ^ Kehr, Dave (2005-02-20). "Sandra Dee, 'Gidget' Star and Teenage Idol, Dies at 62". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-09-02. 
  10. ^ Marla, Lehner (2005-02-20). "Screen Star Sandra Dee Dies". Retrieved 2009-09-02. 
  11. ^ Quigley's Annual List of Box-Office Champions, 1932-1970 October 23, 2003 accessed July 9, 2012

External links[edit]