Alexandra Cymboliak Darin (Zuck) (1942 - 2005)

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Nicknames: "Sandra Dee"
Birthplace: Bayonne, NJ, USA
Death: Died in Thousand Oaks, CA, USA
Occupation: Actress, model
Managed by: Tina
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Alexandra Cymboliak Darin (Zuck)

Sandra Dee (born Alexandra Zuck) was an American actress best known as the star of Gidget, the 1959 film that inspired a flurry of sun-and-fun surfing movies in the early 1960s. 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 ended in divorce.

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 died on February 20, 2005 from kidney disease in Thousand Oaks, California. She was 62. -------------------- Sandra Dee was born Alexandra Zuck in Bayonne, New Jersey. Her parents divorced before she was five. Her mother was of Carpatho-Rusyn ancestry and raised her in the Russian Orthodox Church. Her mother remarried Eugene Douvan, Sr. who adopted Aleksandra. Changing her name to "Sandra Dee," (Dee comes from "D" as from Douvan) she became a professional model by the age of four and subsequently progressed to television commercials.

There was some confusion as to her actual birth year, with evidence pointing to both 1942 and 1944. According to her son Dodd Darin in his book Dream Lovers she was born in 1944, she and her mother having lied to everyone about her age so she could work. If true, the bride would have been 16 years old in 1960 when Dee was married to Bobby Darin.

Sandra Dee made her first film, Until They Sail, in 1957, and the following year, she won a Golden Globe Award for New Star Of The Year - Actress, along with Carolyn Jones and Diane Varsi.

She became known for her wholesome ingenue roles in such films as Imitation of Life, Gidget and A Summer Place, all in 1959. She later played "Tammy" in two Universal sequels to Tammy and the Bachelor in the role created by Debbie Reynolds.

During the 1970s she took very few acting jobs, but did make occasional television appearances.

Her marriage to Bobby Darin in 1960 kept her in the public eye for much of the decade. They met while making the 1961 film Come September together. 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. They had one son, Dodd Mitchell Darin (also known as Morgan Mitchell Darin). She and Darin divorced in 1967.

Dee's adult years were marked by ill health. She admitted that for most of her life she battled anorexia nervosa, depression and alcoholism. In 2000, it was reported that she had been diagnosed with several ailments, including throat cancer and kidney disease. Complications from kidney disease led to her death on February 20, 2005, at the Los Robles Hospital & Medical Center in Thousand Oaks, California.

Sandra Dee is interred in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Hollywood Hills, not far from her mother, Mary C. Douvan, who died on December 27, 1987. She is survived by her son, her daughter-in-law and two granddaughters.

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Sandra Dee's Timeline

1942
April 23, 1942
Bayonne, NJ, USA
1960
1960
Age 17
Elizabeth, NJ, USA
1967
March 7, 1967
Age 24
2005
February 20, 2005
Age 62
Thousand Oaks, CA, USA