"The World Apart of Sandra Dee"
This article, by Liza Wilson, appeared in the November 1959 issue of The American Weekly Magazine
There's a certain star at Universal-International who gets
more fan mail than Rock Hudson. Her name is Sandra Dee; she's one of Hollywood's most exciting new faces and most valuable properties--and she's only 17 years old.
Since her arrival three years ago, she has appeared in eight movies. Her next movie will be Portrait in Black with Lana Turner, for Ross Hunter, the producer who discovered her.
Unlike Tuesday Weld, Hollywood's other famous teenager, Sandra is no rebel. She is always freshly scrubbed and handsomely shod. She moves with quiet grace and good manners, and has become the sweetheart of the Hollywood press.
But not even the most zealous press agent can pin the "girl next door" label on Sandra. "How can you call her the girl next door," one of them said sadly, "when she had a mink stole at 15, an expensive sports car at 16, and a string of pearls at 17?"
We've established that Sandra Dee is not a beatnik, and she isn't the girl next door. What, then, is she?
She's a budding movie queen, a lovely throwback to the days when movie stars were regal, glamourous, beautiful, and feminine, when they dressed elegantly and spent money with gay abandon.
"If you're going to be a movie star," says Sandra, "you must live in a world apart."
When her business manager refused to give her more money, she said "I'm sorry, but you're fired." One of her close friends recently said, "Not since Gloria Swanson has anyone ever got a bigger kick out of being a movie star."
No one could have a better excuse for being a spoiled brat than Sandra Dee. She has been petted and pampered since she was a baby--first by her young, adoring mother; then her rich, adoring stepfather, and now her big adoring studio. But there is nothing of the spoiled brat in her.
"I think it's because she's never had to worry," her mother says. "It's as though she loves the world because it's been so kind to her."
Sandra was born in Bayonne, New Jersey, on April 23, 1942
the daughter of two handsome teenagers, Mary and John Zuck. When Sandra--her name was then Alexandra--was still a baby, Mary divorced her husband and moved in with her parents. There the child was fussed over by doting relatives who treated her like a fragile doll.
In 1946 Mary met Eugene Douvan, a wealthy real estate operator, in Bayonne. She became his secretary and, later, his wife. "I married you just to get Sandy," Douvan used to tease his young bride. Says Sandra, who worshiped her stepfather: "I always said, 'When we married Daddy . . .'"
Eugene Douvan, who loved lavish living, took Sandra everywhere that he and Mary went--even on their honeymoon. While still a child, Sandra became familiar with the best restaurants, the best theaters, the best night clubs.
When she was 12, she was seen by Harry Conover at a fashion show given by a Girl Scout troop (although she was no Girl Scout). She signed as a Conover model and was soon making $40,000 a year as Sandra Dee.
"The money?" says Sandra cheerfully. "I spent it all."
The only tragedy in her charmed life occurred when Eugene Douvan died on September 11, 1956. Two days later, she had an appointment with Ross Hunter, who had come from Hollywood to New York to make tests for his upcoming motion picture The Restless Years.
"Sandy looked like a sophisticated baby," Hunter remembers---but he gave her the starring role.
In Hollywood, Sandra lives with her mother in her new house on a hilltop overlooking Beverly Hills. "Mother's like a friend," says Sandra. I adore her and I listen to her--sometimes. We are both stubborn and we like to outsmart each other. We have a wonderful time together."
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