Deborah Walley

Deborah Walley (August 12, 1941 – May 10, 2001) was an American actress noted for playing the title role in Gidget Goes Hawaiian (1961) and in several Beach Party films.

Deborah Walley
Deborah Walley.JPG
Walley, late 1960s
Born(1941-08-12)August 12, 1941
DiedMay 10, 2001(2001-05-10) (aged 59)
Years active1960–1999
Spouse(s)John Reynolds (m. 19??; div. 19??)
(m. 1962; div. 1966)

Chet McCracken
(m. 1968; div. 1975)

Early yearsEdit

She was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, to Ice Capades skating stars and choreographers, Nathan and Edith Walley.[1] 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.[2]

She attended Central High School in Bridgeport. At 14, she debuted on stage in a summer stock production of Charley's Aunt.[3]

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.[2] She began working on stage in the city.[citation needed]


Walley appeared on TV in episodes of Naked City ("To Walk in Silence "), and Route 66 ("Ten Drops of Water").

Gidget Goes HawaiianEdit

Walley was discovered by agent Joyce Selznick in a performance in a production of Anton Chekhov's Three Sisters. This led her to make her Hollywood film debut as Gidget in 1961's Gidget Goes Hawaiian.[4] The film was popular and established Walley as a name among teenage fans.[5]

Disney hired Walley to play an ingenue in two comedies, Bon Voyage! (1962) and Summer Magic (1963); she sang in the latter.[6]

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.[7] 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-LawEdit

In 1967, with her movie career starting to decline, Walley portrayed Suzie Hubbard Buell in the comedy series The Mothers-in-Law,[8] 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.[9]

After the show ended Walley worked as art director on The Courtship of Eddie's Father. She guest starred on "The Men From Shiloh", the rebranded name for The Virginian ("With Love, Bullets and Valentines"), and Love, American Style.[citation needed]

Later careerEdit

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 most notably as the character Foxglove the Bat in the episode, Good Times, Bat Times."

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.[10]

In 1991, she moved to Sedona, Arizona, 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.[11][3]

Walley in 1999 returned to Hollywood, 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.[12]

Personal life and deathEdit

From 1962 to 1966,[note 1][2] Walley was married to actor John Ashley. The couple had a son, Anthony Brooks Ashley.[note 2][2] Two years after divorcing Ashley, she married Chet McCracken. They remained together until their divorce in 1975.

Walley in May 2001, at age 59, died of esophageal cancer at her home in Sedona, Arizona.[13][14]


Walley's work in Gidget Goes Hawaiian brought her the Photoplay Gold Medal Award for Favorite Female Newcomer.[4] She was named Photoplay magazine's "Most Popular Actress of 1961".[5]



Year Title Role Notes
1961 Gidget Goes Hawaiian Gidget
1962 Bon Voyage! Amy Willard
1963 Summer Magic Julia Carey
1964 The Young Lovers Debbie
1965 Beach Blanket Bingo Bonnie Graham
1965 Ski Party Linda Hughes
1965 Sergeant Deadhead Airman Lucy Turner
1965 Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine Craig's Cafeteria Date
1966 The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini Lili Morton
1966 Spinout Les
1966 The Bubble Catherine
1967 It's a Bikini World Delilah Dawes
1971 Drag Racer Chris
1973 The Severed Arm Teddy Rogers
1974 Benji Linda


Year Title Role Notes
1960 Naked City Heather Weston "To Walk in Silence"
1960 Route 66 Helen Paige "Ten Drops of Water"
1964 Burke's Law Gwenny Trent "Who Killed Andy Zygmunt?"
1964 The Greatest Show on Earth Anne "This Train Don't Stop Till It Gets There"
1964 Wagon Train Nancy Styles "The Nancy Styles Story"
1966 Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. Tina Tracy "Lies, Lies, Lies"
1967 Off to See the Wizard Elizabeth "Rhino"
1967–1969 The Mothers-in-Law Suzie Hubbard Buell Main role
1970 The Virginian Corey Ann Skeet "With Love, Bullets and Valentines"
1971 Love, American Style Helen "Love and the Guilty Conscience"
1972 Love, American Style Nina "Love and the Anxious Mama"
1978 The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries Gina Bartelli "Mystery on the Avalanche Express"
1986 Simon & Simon Gigi Dolores "The Last Big Break"
1989–1990 Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers Foxglove / Lahwhinie / Buffy Ratskiwatski voice, Recurring role
1999 Baywatch Ethel "Baywatch Grand Prix"


  1. ^ Walley's obituary in The Telegraph says, "She married John Ashley in 1961."
  2. ^ Walley's obituary in The Telegraph says, "They had three sons."


  1. ^ "Diminutive Actress to Make Debut in Hawaiian Movie". The Salt Lake Tribune. Utah, Salt Lake City. May 9, 1961. p. 7. Retrieved May 15, 2016 – via CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)  
  2. ^ a b c d "Deborah Walley". The Telegraph. May 17, 2001. Archived from the original on July 8, 2017. Retrieved July 8, 2017. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  3. ^ a b "Deborah Walley, 57". Chicago Tribune. Los Angeles Times. May 15, 2001. Archived from the original on July 8, 2017. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  4. ^ a b Lisanti, Tom (2010). Fantasy Femmes of Sixties Cinema: Interviews with 20 Actresses from Biker, Beach, and Elvis Movies. McFarland. p. 294. ISBN 9781476601168. Retrieved July 8, 2017. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  5. ^ a b "Deborah Walley at Central High School, Bridgeport CT". Archived from the original on July 16, 2011. Retrieved June 26, 2008.
  6. ^ Scheuer, Philip K. (August 10, 1961). "'Gidgets' Deborah Signed by Disney: Oboler Adding Two to Five; 'World by Night' Fascinating". Los Angeles Times. p. B13.
  7. ^ Eleanor Quin. "Spinout (1966)". Turner Classic Movies.
  8. ^ Terrace, Vincent (2011). Encyclopedia of Television Shows, 1925 through 2010 (2nd ed.). Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. p. 718. ISBN 978-0-7864-6477-7.
  9. ^ Deborah Walley at IMDb
  10. ^ "Deborah walley; actress, 57". New York Times. May 15, 2001. ProQuest 431755157.
  11. ^ Oliver, M. (May 14, 2001). "Obituaries; deborah walley; actress starred in 'gidget,' beach films". Los Angeles Times. ProQuest 421801648.
  12. ^ "Obituary: Deborah walley". Variety (383). May 2001. p. 64. ProQuest 236347152.
  13. ^ Lentz, Harris M. III (2002). Obituaries in the Performing Arts, 2001: Film, Television, Radio, Theatre, Dance, Music, Cartoons and Pop Culture. McFarland. p. 307. ISBN 9780786452064. Retrieved July 8, 2017. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  14. ^ "Deborah Walley; Actress, 59 (obituary)". New York Times. May 15, 2001.

External linksEdit