The Whirlwind Love of Bobby Darin and Sandra Dee

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Ahhh, Bobby Darin and Sandra Dee. Two such adorable people have never before or since graced the Hollywood scene as a couple.

How do you describe a man like Bobby Darin? His was a renowned musician/songwriter/performer and also acted in several movies during the 1960s. His musical style spanned several genres from rock n' roll to pop to jazz to country. 1958 was the year that he really took off with his hit recording of Splish Splash. This was followed by Dream Lover, Beyond the Sea, Mack the Knife and hundreds of other fun and flirty, serious and sad songs. He died in 1973, tragically young at only 37, having a weakened constitution from a severe bout of rheumatic fever when he was a child.

Sandra Dee is almost better known than Bobby Darin now, although not so much for herself as for that song in Grease that everybody seems to know. She made a "splash" in the 1959 release of Gidget, the story of a girl who thinks surfing and surfer Moondoggie are "the absolute ultimate!" She was only 14-years-old at the time of the filming (if you go by her birthday being 1944 instead of 1942 which I think is more likely since in a 1980s interview she said she was not yet 16 when she met Bobby Darin in 1960). The pristine and perfect young miss, Sandra Dee represented chastity and purity, a tragic contrast with her personal life of sexual abuse as a child. Her career peaked and ended in less than 10 years, but all of her 1960s films are a delight unto themselves.

If only Bobby and Sandy's happiness had been long-term, but alas, only about 4 years after their wedding in 1960, divorce proceedings took effect. Theirs was one of those flash-in-the-pan romances like Elvis and Priscilla Presley, where you just fervently wish it could have lasted. Although, Sandy herself admitted that they lived together for 3 years or so after the divorce soooooooooooo. . . make of that what you will.

Their love kindled during the filming of Come September, a film released in 1961 and filmed in 1960 and where both Bobby and Sandy were side-liners to the "big name" leads, Rock Hudson and the exotic Italian actress Gina Lollobrigida. Rumor has it that during the filming, Bobby simply would not leave Sandy alone. He followed her everywhere on set, which is actually in keeping with his somewhat obnoxious character of Tony who's determined to win the fair hand of the charming and virtuous Sandy. Sounds fitting, eh?

A photo apparently snapped on their honeymoon.

Honestly, if it wasn't for Bobby and Sandy, I wouldn't own Come September. They add a little bit of spark, a little bit of pizzazz, to an otherwise average romcom. And of course, knowing that Bobby was doing his hardest to woo Sandy while on the set is an additional charming flair thrown in for good measure.

In an interview Sandy gave, she described her introduction to Bobby where he whistled at her and she turned around to face him I guess she hadn't even noticed him until he made his presence known. He said, "My name's Bobby Darin, and I'm going to marry you." That was it, nothing more. She knew who he was, of course, but until that moment had no idea he was in Come September, so that was a shock. Sandy described him as "abrasive, insulting, and cocky" and it seems that her mother asked Bobby why he was treating Sandy so rudely and he said, "because she doesn't give me attention any other way." He loved to make her fight back which sounds so like him.

Her mom encouraged Sandy at first to be nice to Bobby, to spend time with him and get to know him because she had to work with him on the set. But as soon as Sandy started liking him romantically, her mom backed off, probably out of terror that the relationship had developed into something she hadn't planned on. She did not approve of their romantic relationship at all, and even left Sandy high and dry when she was barely 16-years-old, for the first time in her life, which actually spurred Sandy's marriage to Bobby because she was lonely and scared.

One of the rare times you would see pure Sandra Dee with a cigarette on camera.

Within a few weeks, Bobby and Sandy were married. Now if that isn't a whirlwind romance, I don't know what is! I thought my parents were pushing it with 6 months! The day of their marriage, Bobby and Sandy hadn't actually planned to get married at all. They were headed to his sister's birthday party and ended up in Camden, NJ to get married.

So there you have it, Bobby Darin and Sandra Dee are now married, but it seems that their marriage was kept highly secret by the studio for a few years, which strikes me as funny because, COME ON, what's the use in that?! Why even bother! Just like I wonder why they would even bother to snatch drinks and cigarettes out of her hand for publicity shots the way they did. It just strikes me as funny.
When did their marriage go on the rocks and why?

Some people say that Bobby was making sexual demands on her that made her uncomfortable, things I don't even want to describe. That's what their son, Dodd Darin, wrote in his book, Dream Lovers anyway. Sandy herself said their relationship started to slip after the birth of Dodd in December 1961 when she wanted to be a full-time mom as well as a full-time actress. It wasn't Dodd's birth so much as that she started taking pills prescribed from her doctor to pep her up and that led to other kinds of drug addiction and abuse. From her own lips, she admitted to having an addictive personality.

Bobby Darin placed a sword symbolically down the center of their bed on their official first wedding night to suggest he would honor her chastity until she was ready. It's possible this is just a rumor concocted by fervent fans, but if it's true, would that same man make undignified sexual demands on his new bride? Somehow, I doubt it.

So you're left up to your own interpretations. In the end, their marriage just wasn't working, for whatever reason.

They divorced probably in 1964 or 1965, after making 3 movies together, which I'll describe down below, which means that she officially left him sometime in 1967 although they remained close according to popular belief and Dodd Darin. Bobby Darin died in 1973 after developing sepsis from oral surgery (he'd failed to take his antibiotics).

Just like Bobby's life, his love with Sandra Dee was one of those bright, passionate things that blazed and then flickered out. Endearingly, Sandra Dee never said the marriage was a mistake and she consistently proclaimed her love for Bobby Darin, saying that he was the only man she had truly loved up until her death in 2005.

Come September (1961)

Come September is one of those quirky romcoms that you're not entirely sure whether you like it or not.

Rock Hudson and Gina Lollobrigida play a couple who get together every September for a month of romance in his Italian villa. No other strings are attached. But this time, he's decided to come in July.
Turns out the villa's butler has been running the house as a hotel the other 11 months out of the year!
So as much as Robert Talbot wants to toss all of the guests out on their ear, circumstances are against him. His lover, Lisa Helena Fellini, shows up on queue, even though she had to rearrange her schedule on his whims, but they can barely snatch one moment alone because of the guests, who happen to be a group of teenage girls and their chaperone.

When a rowdy group of young men decide to park outside the hotel because they've seen the girls, Talbot suddenly has a major issue on his hands. All of a sudden the footloose and fancy free bachelor is fighting to protect the honor and chastity of these young girls from the wolves outside the door, which of course includes Bobby Darin.

The scene where Bobby sings Multiplication in a nightclub while Rock Hudson is trying to herd the girls and tell them to "wait for a man who'll respect them" is HILARIOUS. An all-time golden moment of juxtaposition of values!

 If a Man Answers (1962)

Now this one is much more fun simply because Bobby and Sandra have the leading roles.

Sandra plays a lovely half-French girl named Chantal Stacy who bumps into Bobby's character Eugene Wright on the street one day. He's a photographer and she agrees to pose for him. One thing leads to another and they end up in a whirlwind marriage (rather like their own). But things cool off quickly, leaving Chantal to pout about what in the world has happened to her perfect life. Until her mother gives her a book that she used to save her own marriage, entitled How to Train Man's Best Friend. Apparently, training a husband isn't any different than training a dog!

If a Man Answers is a hilarious comedy of errors and in case you didn't know, the title is an old infidelity gimmick meaning that "if you call me and a man answers, hang up!" Chantal uses this gimmick on her husband, of course it's her mother doing the calling, and drives him crazy.

Of the three films Bobby and Sandra made together, this one is my favorite. It's fun and frivolous, and Stephanie Powers from Hart to Hart plays a bit role as an old school chum of Chantal's. It's an early 1960s romcom made delightfully memorable by Sandra Dee and Bobby Darin.

That Funny Feeling (1965)

I've got to give this one credit for originality and overall zaniness.

Would-be actress working as a maid, Joan Howell (Dee) doesn't want to share her real address with a man she bumped into on the street, a most insistent man. I'll give you three guesses as to who he is and you would be right if you said Bobby Darin! So she pretends that she lives in the building where she is actually employed to clean one of the apartments. In fact, she pretends to live in that very same apartment! Of course the apartment belongs to Darin's character, Tom Milford, who by now is absolutely befuddled and rapidly falling in love with the little minx who's stolen and redecorated his apartment (he's supposed to be out of town on a business meeting that was canceled at the last moment).

Okay, so this one has some pros and cons. Pros, it's fun because it's Bobby and Sandra together and it's their final movie so is kind of a must. Cons because I don't like playboys with little black books and there's a scene where most of the gals in that book are all together and that IS A LOT OF WOMEN. His comments about them in the book aren't that chaste either. In the end, if it had been any other actor, I'd have hated Tom Milford. But because it's Bobby Darin I almost forgive him.

Plus, he comes thiiiiiiiiiss close to taking advantage of her, but he can't do it. So she's obviously different from his usual pick-ups. And I do believe that people can change. Still, that black book would be BURNED, baby!

If you want a complete look at their filmography, you can't skip this one. And it does have its entertaining moments, usually with Joan's roommate played by Nita Talbot who popped up a lot in 1960s films.

Final Tidbits

For that interview with Sandra Dee that I mentioned earlier, you can go HERE for part 1 and then it should have links to parts 2 and 3. James Darren (not to be confused with Bobby Darin) who played Moondoggie in Gidget and was a 1960s teen idol himself showed up for a visit halfway through the interview and it was ADORABLE seeing them reunited. That man just got better looking as he got older. The term for such a man is Silver Fox and BOY did he wear it well!

Just be aware that in the interview Sandra Dee does share some intimate details about herself and her private life that are a little distressing, but hey, it's a part of who she was. They weren't the cookie cutter people we see in the movies, they were simply Bobby Darin and Sandra Dee.

And because I can't not mention it, Kevin Spacey played Bobby Darin in a biopic called Beyond the Sea released in 2004. I wasn't all that keen on it, in fact I only saw it the one time, but it's not terrible. I might watch it again someday. So if you want a behind the scenes look, Beyond the Sea isn't a bad place to start without being overwhelmed with too much information.

Funny thing how Spacey was nominated for a Golden Globe and didn't win, but Bobby Darin won his Golden Globe as Most Promising Newcomer in 1962 for Come September.

I'm not sure I'd recommend reading Dream Lovers by Dodd Darin. I found out plenty just by some of the reviews written for it so reading the actual book was never necessary. I'd rather have vague impressions than visuals seared across my synapses.

And I have to tout this one song of Bobby's. Okay, so those of you who know Bobby Darin know most of his music. But how many of you have heard him sing Sweet Caroline? I know, it's Neil Diamond's song, but I LOVE Bobby's rendition of it. It always makes me want to cry. *sniffle*

If you made it this far in my post, CONGRATULATIONS!

In case you're wondering, yes I genuinely love Bobby Darin. A friend of mine introduced me to Bobby's work about 10 years ago and I've loved him ever since. I own countless albums, as many of them as I can find with songs that I haven't heard, and LOVE him on the silver screen. His energy, his essence was so striking and memorable. He really lived all of his 37 years with the must gusto that he could manage, that any human being could manage. Was he perfect? No. But who is? His imperfections don't make me hate him, but rather make me view him a bit like Elvis Presley (who I also love), imperfect and glorious.

I love Sandra too, don't get me wrong, but music is what moves me the most, more than anything else I think. It's why I also love James Darren, who is my Silver Fox that I mentioned earlier. His music moves my soul, just like Bobby's music. Bobby Darin left a radiant legacy that, I hope will never be forgotten. Not so long as people like myself have signed posters hanging in their bedrooms! I love that poster!

Anyway, thanks for reading this far and I hope you'll forgive me if I got any little details wrong. I don't go out of my way to learn about the lives of movie stars so I did all of this research within the last couple of days. I mean, I knew snippets and what I remembered from Beyond the Sea, but I needed to do a lot of research.

Written in participation of the following blogathon!


  1. Great exploration of Bobby and Sandra's relationship! The way Bobby pursued her and the fact that they just got married on a random drive is so interesting. Enjoyed your post!

    1. Thanks so much! Theirs was an interesting courtship, to be sure.

  2. Goodness, this must have taken you hours to compose! Nicely done. :)

    1. It did end up being a lot longer than I thought it would, but I'm happy with it.

  3. I enjoyed your post. I love both of them. I enjoy his music and her movies :) One of my favorite movies, besides If a Man Answers, is Doctor, You've Got to Be Kidding.

    1. I just looked up Doctor, you've Gotta Be Kidding and it looks like fun. I'll see if my library has it, thanks for the recommendation.

  4. I really enjoyed reading this as I did not know much about their relationship prior to this. I've always been a fan of Bobby Darin's music as well! I also really liked that you gave reviews of their films together. There's a couple I still need to see!

    1. Thanks! I feel a little sad that they didn't really have a happily-every-after but a lot of Hollywood romances really didn't, although there were a few exceptions, I'm sure. Still, researching them was so interesting and gave me a lot of food for thought. It made me smile to find that Sandra always proclaimed her love for him, long after his passing. That's so beautiful.

      And yes, all 3 of their films together are worth seeing. Then again, I generally like 1960s romcoms and they did them so well together. :)

  5. Thanks for this great post!! I agree that I don't like to know all the details of someone's life. Some things should be left unknown!

    I had no idea Darin died so young!! My favorite songs of his are Beyond the Sea and Dream Lover.

    I LOVE Sandra Dee as Gidget!! It's my pick-me-up movie :)

    The only movie of theirs that I've seen is "If a Man Answers" which I really enjoyed. I loved Dee's hairstyle in that one :)

    1. Yah, I'd much rather not know 90% of the time when it comes to actors and their personal lives.

      And yes, Dee's hairstyle in If a Man Answers is extremely cute. She was just cute in general. I wish her acting career had lasted longer than a decade. She had so many more great movies in her.

  6. ::Raises hand:: ME! I've heard Bobby's version of "Sweet Caroline" a zillion times. Okay, maybe only 50 or 60. But still, it's delicious.

    Actually, of their 3 films together, I like That Funny Feeling best, mostly because I get sooooooooooooo frustrated by both characters in If a Man Answers. It's just a little too screwball for my taste, I guess.

    Finally... do you mean to say that you own an autographed poster of Bobby Darin???. Oh, what a dream! If that's true, then I am in awe.

    1. Somehow I just knew you would have heard his Sweet Caroline. ;)

      I do own That Funny Feeling, and like it every time I watch it until I remember his little black book and then get irked all over again. Otherwise it's very entertaining.

      And yes, I do own an autographed poster of Bobby Darin. A friend gave it to me when I got my BA and it proudly graces my bedroom wall. I love it. :)

      When I get a chance I'll take a photo of it and post it for you to see.


Thank you for your kind comments, which I adore!