Actress, model. Born Alexandra Zuck, on April 23, 1942 (some sources say 1944), in Bayonne New Jersey. She was the only child of John and Mary Zuck, who divorced when Sandra was a toddler. She was raised solely by her mother until she re-married in 1950. Eugene Douvan, a New York real-estate entrepreneur, became Sandra’s stepfather. The young girl endured years of sexual abuse from her stepfather while she also suffered from anorexia. Both the abuse and her eating disorder would continue to haunt Sandra for the rest of her life.
Sandra took her stepfather’s name and the Douvan’s relocated from Long Island to Manhattan in 1952. She was enrolled in The Professional Children’s School, a school whose flexible curriculum was conducive to child performers. Sandra’s first modeling job was for Girl Scouts Magazine, which enabled her to eventually sign with a modeling agency. At the age of 12, the actress was discovered by producer Ross Hunter. Hunter launched her movie career and persuaded Universal Studios to sign the young actress to a seven-year contract. It was during this time that Sandra Douvan adopted the stage name Sandra Dee.
After the death of her stepfather, Dee and her mother moved to California to further pursue Dee’s acting career. Dee landed the role as the original Gidget (1959) and replaced Debbie Reynolds in Tammy Tell Me True (1961). She also starred in a series of dramas: Imitation of Life (1959), A Summer Place (1959), and Portrait in Black (1960).
In 1960, while filming Come September (released in 1961), 18-year-old Dee co-starred and fell in love with teen icon Bobby Darin. The two were married in December of 1960 and had a son, Dodd, the following year. The couple would also star together in If a Man Answers (1962) and That Funny Feeling (1965). The marriage lasted seven years and abruptly ended in 1967 concurrent with the end of Dee’s film career. Darin died at the early age of 37 from congestive heart failure and his death took quite a toll on Dee. She went into a state of severe depression, began to drink heavily and abused drugs.
In the 1970s, Dee made a few unsuccessful appearances in TV movies. Ironically, the 1978 movie Grease, with it’s song “Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee,” poked fun at Dee’s wholesome personality but also renewed her popularity among a new generation of moviegoers. At the age of 41, Dee completed her last motion picture, Lost (1983), which received little notoriety from critics and audiences. Dee currently lives in Beverly Hills and continues to battle her addictions with the support of her son Dodd.
© 2000 A&E Television Networks. All rights reserved.
BACK TO SANDRA DEE