Deborah Walley (Deborah Walley)

Deborah Walley

She was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut to Ice Capades skating stars and choreographers, Nathan and Edith Walley. She attended Central High School in Bridgeport. At fourteen, she was playing summer-stock theatre. 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. She 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. From then until 1974 she appeared in fifteen feature-length films, including several of the “Beach Party” films produced by American International Pictures. She also co-starred in the Elvis Presley film Spinout where she and Elvis bonded over a shared interest in spiritual matters. In 1967, with her movie career starting to decline, Walley portrayed Suzie Hubbard Buell in the comedy series The Mothers-in-Law, Comedienne Eve Arden playing her mother and singer-comedienne 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 moving to Sedona, Arizona to bring up her children, Walley co-founded two children’s theater companies, Pied Piper Productions and the Sedona Children’s Theatre. From 1962-66, Walley was married to actor John Ashley, a costar of ABC’s Straightaway series about auto racing from 1961–1962. 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, in Sedona, 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.

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  • August, 12, 1941
  • USA
  • Bridgeport, Connecticut


  • May, 10, 2001
  • USA
  • Sedona, Arizona

Cause of Death

  • esophageal cancer


  • Cremated

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