|Subject: ARCHIVE: May 10, 2001 ~Deborah Walley, actress noted for playing the title role in "Gidget Goes Hawaiian" (1961) and in several Beach Party films, died of esophageal cancer, at her home in Sedona, Arizona, at age 59.
Bio & PHOTO
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Date Posted: Thursday, May 10, 05:11:32pm
American actress noted for playing the title role in
"Gidget Goes Hawaiian" (1961) and in several Beach Party films. ...
[ Deborah Edith Walley ]
(August 12, 1941 – May 10, 2001)
Early years ...
She was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, to Ice Capades skating stars and choreographers, Nathan and Edith Walley. When she was three
years old, she made her first public appearance at Madison Square Garden. In her teens, however, she decided to pursue a career in acting.
She attended Central High School in Bridgeport. At 14, she debuted on stage in a summer stock production of Charley's Aunt.
During her sophomore year, she attended Rosarian Academy in West Palm Beach, Florida, where she was cast as Cinderella in the Academy's annual musical production at the Royal Poinciana Playhouse in Palm Beach, Florida. She studied acting at New York City's American Academy of Dramatic Arts. She began working on stage in the city.
Walley appeared on TV in episodes of Naked City ("To Walk in Silence "), and Route 66 ("Ten Drops of Water").
Gidget Goes Hawaiian ...
Walley was discovered by agent Joyce Selznick in a performance in a production of Anton Chekov's Three Sisters. This led her to make her
Hollywood film debut as Gidget in 1961's Gidget Goes Hawaiian. The film was popular and established Walley as a name among teenage fans.
Disney hired Walley to play an ingenue in two comedies, Bon Voyage! (1962) and Summer Magic (1963); she sang in the latter.
Walley guest starred on Burke's Law ("Who Killed Andy Zygmunt?"), The Greatest Show on Earth ("This Train Don't Stop
Till It Gets There") and Wagon Train ("The Nancy Styles Story"). She did The Young Lovers (1964) at MGM.
Walley signed a contract with AIP who cast her as a female lead in some comedies, all with Frankie Avalon and her then-husband John Ashley: Beach Blanket Bingo (1965), one of the Beach Party series; Ski Party (1965), set in the snow; Sergeant Dead Head (1965), a service comedy, which was a big flop. Walley sang in some of these.
She had a cameo in Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine (1966) and was the female lead in the last AIP beach party movie, Ghost in the Invisible Bikini (1966), opposite Tommy Kirk. She and Kirk were reunited in a beach party movie made by Stephanie Rothman, It's a Bikini World (made in 1965, released in 1967).
Walley guest starred on Gomer Pyle: USMC ("Lies, Lies, Lies") and co-starred in the Elvis Presley film Spinout where she and Elvis bonded over a shared interest in spiritual matters. She had the lead in a science fiction film from Arch Oboler, The Bubble (1966).
Walley was credited as an art director in "The Double-O-Nothing Affair", an episode of The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. and had a role ion Off to See the Wizard ("Rhino").
The Mothers-in-Law ...
In 1967, with her movie career starting to decline, Walley portrayed Suzie Hubbard Buell in the comedy series The Mothers-in-Law, comedian Eve Arden playing her mother and singer-comedian Kaye Ballard playing her mother-in-law. Actress Kay Cole had played Suzie in the original pilot but was replaced by Walley, who played her through the series' two seasons on the air.
After the show ended Walley worked as art director on The Courtship of Eddie's Father. She guest starred on The Virginian ("With Love, Bullets and Valentines"), and Love, American Style.
Later Career ...
Walley's later films included Drag Racer (1971), The Severed Arm (1973) and Benji (1974), the latter an unexpected huge hit.
She continued to guest star on shows such as The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries ("Mystery on the Avalanche Express"), and Simon & Simon ("The Last Big Break", with Edd Byrnes). She wrote and produced a short film Legend of 'Seeks-To-Hunt-Great' (1989) and provided voices for Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers.
In the 1980s she focused on raising her family and writing and producing. She co-founded Pied Piper Prods., a nonprofit theater company for children. As a writer, Walley worked for Disney Animation, Animation Camera, Rick Kear Prods., Sea World, Lasting Endearments, the Aesop Co. and her own company, Swiftwind Prods.
In 1991, she moved to Sedona, Arizonza, where she turned to writing books. She published her first book, "Grandfather's Good Medicine" in 1993. She also wrote scripts and taught acting and production techniques to American Indians through Swiftwind, and produced and appeared in plays.
Walley returned to Hollywood in 1999, where she pursued acting as a "hobby." She appeared on Baywatch and the daytime soap Passions. She continued to work with children via her "Imagination Playshops," acting workshops for children in the United States and Australia. She also worked with the Educational Theater Co., a multiethnic company based in Los Angeles.
Personal life ...
From 1962-66, Walley was married to actor John Ashley, a co-star of ABC's Straightaway series about auto racing from 1961–1962 and one of the main actors in the "Beach Party" films. The couple had a son, Anthony Brooks Ashley. John Ashley preceded his former wife in death by four years. On his gravestone, the inscription says that he was a "loving husband and father".
...Walley died of esophageal cancer on May 10, 2001, at her home in Sedona, Arizona, aged 59. She was survived by her two sons: Anthony
Brooks Ashley, a director, editor, and producer in Hollywood; and Justin Ashley Reynolds, an internet entrepreneur in Phoenix, Arizona.
Walley's work in Gidget Goes Hawaiian brought her the Photoplay Gold Medal Award for
Favorite Female Newcomer. She was named Photoplay magazine's 'Most Popular Actress of 1961'.
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