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Director Paul Wendkos, whose career spanned 50 years and covered some 100 films and television shows, including the 1959 surf movie “Gidget,” has died due to a lung infection that followed a stroke. He was 84.
Family representative C. Christie Craig said Wendkos died Thursday in Malibu, Calif.
Despite the comedic tone of “Gidget,” about a girl played by Sandra Dee who falls for a surfer under the California sun, and later “Gidget Goes Hawaiian,” Wendkos’ work more often focused on dark and edgy subjects.
His other films included 1969’s “Guns of the Magnificent Seven,” and on television, he helmed movies and miniseries such as “The Legend of Lizzie Borden,” starring Elizabeth Montgomery, and “A Woman Called Moses” with Cicely Tyson.
Wendkos was born Sept. 20, 1925 in Philadelphia and served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. He attended Columbia University in New York and later studied film history and aesthetics at the New School for Social Research.
Wendkos’ first movie was the documentary “Dark Interlude” that looked at rehabilitating the blind, and his first narrative movie was the 1957 drama “The Burglar,” starring Jayne Mansfield, who was a little known actress at the time.
Shot on the streets of Philadelphia and New York, “Burglar” captured the attention of Columbia Pictures chief Harry Cohen, and the legendary studio boss brought Wendkos to Hollywood.
Wendkos married Ruth Burnat in 1953, and the couple had one son, Jordan Elkan Wendkos. Ruth died in 1978. Wendkos’s second marriage was to former NBC television producer Lin Bolen. He is survived by Bolen, his son Jordan, a granddaughter, niece and nephews.
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