American actress Sandra Dee began her career as a model at age 12, and later moved on to TV commercials. Her film break came when producer Ross Hunter balked at Natalie Wood's lofty salary demands and decided to use a newcomer to play Lana Turner's daughter in Imitation of Life (1959). The result for Dee was a long-term contract at Universal, although one of her biggest moneymakers was the 1959 Warner Bros. film A Summer Place. In 1961, Dee married singer/actor Bobby Darin, with whom she appeared in three lightweight but money-making comedies. After her divorce from Darin in 1967, Dee could no longer convey her patented perky-teen charm, and her career began a downhill slide, although the decline was occasionally slowed a bit by such curious highlights as the pseudo-hip sex comedy Doctor, You've Got to Be Kidding (1967) and the nail-biting psychological scare film The Dunwich Horror (1970). Out of movies completely by 1971, Dee retreated to private life, occasionally popping up on TV and granting interviews with nostalgia-happy young film buffs. Much of the actress' latter-day fame rested upon a single song in the Broadway smash Grease: the satiric, 1950s-style, rock ballad titled "Look at Me, I'm Sandra Dee."
Biography by Hal Erickson
- Began modeling at the age of 4, and had her first screen test at 14.
- Struggled with anorexia throughout her life, beginning at the age of 9.
- Attended her first movie audition in tears, following the death of her stepfather a few days earlier, and was still ultimately offered a contract.
- Was raised in the Russian Orthodox church.
- Eloped with husband Bobby Darin at 4 A.M., at the New Jersey home of music publisher Don Kirshner.
- Gave extensive interviews to her son, Dodd Darin, for his 1994 book about his parents, Dream Lovers: The Magnificent Shattered Lives of Bobby Darin and Sandra Dee.