Michelle Kung
December 23, 2005 AT 05:00 AM EST

EW remembers Sandra Dee

APRIL 23, 1942-FEB. 20, 2005

A showbiz vet by the time she hit it big in Gidget — she’d been a child model and had her film debut at age 14 — the spritely ingenue always projected an aura of sunny naïveté. The original beach bunny, a.k.a. Mrs. Bobby Darin, sealed her reputation in melodramas like Imitation of Life and A Summer Place, but it was a lyric in Grease that immortalized her for later generations (”lousy with virginity,” Stockard Channing’s Rizzo quipped in the 1978 movie version). ”I will forever be grateful for her spirit and guidance,” said Kevin Spacey, who played Darin opposite Kate Bosworth’s Dee in his 2004 labor of love, Beyond the Sea. ”She was always such a lighthearted person on set,” adds Robert Goulet, her I’d Rather Be Rich costar. ”She was a sweet girl who went away too soon.” (Dee died of kidney disease in Thousand Oaks, Calif.)

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