“Gidget Goes to Rome” isn’t the best of the three Gidget feature films, but it isn’t the worst.
While Sandra Dee is the best actress who plays Gidget, Cindy Carol is a distance second.
In this film, we join Gidget and her friends for a third summer. Gidget (Carol) is about to go off to college and is planning a trip to Rome, Italy with her friends—Lucy (Noreen Corcoran) and Libby (Trudi Ames). She’s trying to convince her boyfriend Moondoggie/Jeff (James Darren) and his buddies—Judge (Joby Baker) and Clay (Peter Brooks)—to come along. But before they can head abroad, Gidget’s parents need some convincing. They will only let Gidget go if she has a chaperon. Judge enlists his rich, eccentric Aunt Albertina (Jessie Royce Landis). Without her knowledge, Gidget’s father (Don Porter) writes to an old friend he met in Italy during World War II, Paolo Cellini (Cesare Danova).
When the group arrives in Italy, Gidget is ready to have a romantic trip with Jeff while they explore the Eternal City. But Jeff abandons her and falls for their pretty tour guide, Daniela (Danielle De Metz). While Gidget is hurt, Paolo enters the picture to stealthily watch after Gidget; saying he wants to write a magazine article about a young American exploring Italy. She develops a crush and leaves her friends to explore the people of Rome with Paolo.
If you are looking for a beach film, “Gidget Goes to Rome” isn’t for you. The film starts with an obligatory scene of Gidget on the beach carrying a surf board. That maybe lasts five minutes before launching into an Italian adventure. Shot on location in Rome, the Technicolor scenery is gorgeous, colorful and travelogue-esque.
Cindy Carol as Gidget is no Sandra Dee, but she is better than most of the actresses that tried their hand at the role. Carol is admittedly syrupy sweet and squealy, but she has more of a Gidget personality than Deborah Walley had in “Gidget Goes Hawaiian.” In the 1959 film, Gidget is painted as a straight-A, intelligent, Tom boy who finally finds her place on the beach. Walley’s Gidget was written as man crazy and impulsive, which wasn’t accurate. But Carol brings back the intelligence of Gidget, as she spouts off facts about Italy and quotes authors.
Gidget even says to her friends, “We are not here for the sole purpose of looking at men,” which seems more along the lines of the 1959 Gidget who wasn’t interested in man-hunts.
Cindy Carol was cast because Walley was pregnant. The film’s credits say “introducing Cindy Carol” but this was actually one of her last film roles; with her career ending in 1965. Prior to this film she had acted on the “New Loretta Young Show,” “Leave It To Beaver” and a bit part in “Cape Fear (1962).”
James Darren and Joby Baker are the only two actors who appeared in all three of the feature-film. Jessie Royce Landis is my favorite actor in the film whose role had the wittiest lines in the funniest scenes.
When Landis first meets Gidget, she immediately says, “Oh God, you’ll be the sweet one.”
While “Gidget Goes to Rome” ranks second for me in the three Gidget feature films, the plot still bugs me. I hate the kind of plot where a couple goes on a trip together, one of the partners immediately falls in love with new person and then the couple is together again by the end of the film. That irks me to no end.
Another silly aspect of this film is Gidget’s daydreams. If you remember in “Gidget Goes Hawaiian,” Gidget has odd daydreams about being a loose woman and then of being a stripper. In “Gidget Goes to Rome,” Gidget imagines that she’s Cleopatra and another daydream as a Christian martyr in the gladiator ring as Daniela, Judge and Jeff watched.
The Sept. 12, 1963, New York Times Bosely Crowther review was brief and neither praised nor criticized “Gidget Goes to Rome.” Crowther noted, Carol played Gidget with “proper pout and correct ingenuousness.”
“As one of Gidget’s friends explains, it’s part of her ‘growing up.’ Gidget falls out of love in time…and all ends happily. Jeff sums up the entire experience in two immortal sentences: ‘I guess everybody falls in love in Rome in the summer time. It’s that old devil Italian moon.’”
“Gidget Goes to Rome” sums the whole experience as “part of growing up.” While the feature film portion of the Gidget series ends with this movie, the television aspect began two year later and continued for 20 years.
To read our reviews of the other two films: