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Gabrielle Upton, ‘Gidget’ Screenwriter, Dies at 101



Gabrielle Upton, who wrote the screenplay for the classic California surfing movie Gidget, starring Sandra Dee, Cliff Robertson and James Darren, has died. She was 101.

Upton died Sept. 13 in Santa Rosa, California, her daughter, Greer Upton, told The News84Media. News of her death had not been reported until now.

A three-time WGA Award nominee, Upton wrote for such network shows as The Alfred Hitchcock Hour/Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Ben Casey, Convoy, One Step Beyond, The Bold Ones: The New Doctors, The Virginian, The Big Valley and The High Chaparral.

She also worked on several daytime soap operas during her career, including Guiding Light, As the World Turns, Edge of Night, Search for Tomorrow, The Secret Storm and Love of Life.

After Frederick Kohner took a crack at adapting his best-selling 1957 novel Gidget, the Little Girl With Big Ideas for Columbia Pictures’ Gidget (1959), Upton came on and received sole screenplay credit.

Directed by Paul Wendkos, the coming-of-age movie spawned several others Gidget movies and a 1965-66 ABC/Screen Gems comedy starring Sally Field.

Upton also provided the story for Robert Siodmak’s Escape From East Berlin (1962), based on a true story and starring Don Murray, Christine Kaufmann and Werner Klemperer. She lived in Germany while that film was in production.

Born in British Columbia in 1921, Upton acted and wrote radio plays for the CBC. She and her husband, actor and sound man Julian Upton, then moved to Los Angeles and worked at what is now known as Theater of Arts on Hollywood Boulevard.

Upton served as head writer on CBS’ Guiding Light for many years starting in 1952 and held a similar position at many other soaps.

In 1953, she wrote and starred on an episode of the CBS anthology series Schlitz Playhousethen wrote for The Loretta Young Show, Ford Television Theatre and the drama Wire Service early in her career as well.

Upton also co-wrote the screenplay for the German-French thriller Tender Sharks (1967), starring Anna Karina, and came up with the story and script for Brown Eye, Evil Eye (1968), starring Hugh Griffith.

She often wrote under the pseudonym Gillian Houghton and specialized in medical, legal and suspense shows.

Survivors also include her son-in-law, John. Her husband died in 2016 at age 94.

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