Tag Archives: Frank Sinatra

Mia Farrow: More Than The Sum of Her Parts

20 Oct

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For those of you who have never seen it, tis’ the season to rent Rosemary’s Baby (1968). The titular horror movie of the late 60’s holds up better than almost any horror movie of it’s time, aside from Psycho (1960) of course. And the biggest and best reason for this is the singular, star-making performance of Roman Polanski’s leading lady – the lovely doe-eyed Mia Farrow. Long before Woody Allen, Mia was Mrs. Frank Sinatra, a TV star of Peyton Place and a relative unknown to movie audiences. But that was all about to change in the blink of a devil-baby’s eye.

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I rented Rosemary’s Baby again after having not seen the movie in over ten years. Quaint by today’s extreme horror movie standards, the film has nonetheless retained its slow-boil tension up to the still terrifying reveal (I’m not going to spoil the ending but it’s pretty hard not to figure it out early on). But aside from the sheer craft of Polanski’s horror-show is the real reason to watch a movie that is over 47-years old: The beautiful Mia Farrow. This is an actress in a role that allows her to use every ounce of her formidable talent, spirit and energy. She is so compelling, so convincing and so apparently vulnerable that she draws the audience in with every fiber of her being.

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Mia’s greatest feature (in my humble opinion) are her eyes. She has these large, gumball-sized blue eyes that are made all the larger by her famous, fashion-statement on steroids Pixie cut. Ms. Farrow recent corrected the historians who attributed the iconic cut to Vidal Sassoon (Mia’s character even attributes the cut to him in the movie). However, it was Farrow herself that cut her own hair within-an-inch of its life and caught the attention of the world with its fashion-forward playfulness. Granted, Mia’s bone-structure and light features make her face glow to begin with but add the Pixie cut and her face and EYES are the main attraction in Rosemary’s Baby.

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The duality of Mia’s persona in the film is that a woman who looks so frail, so frightened can be so strong. She is all of 23 in the movie and her face literally glows (with youthfulness, and then illness as the movie progresses thanks to white make-up that Polanski had her wear to give her a sickly pallor). The young actress was famously married to Frank Sinatra at the time she took the role. He didn’t want her to do the movie and it’s a credit to Mia that she told her old man to go to hell. The subsequent divorce made the way for Mia to become a major star in her own right and no longer hidden in the shadow of the Chairman of the Board.

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Mia went on to become as big a fashion icon as she was a movie star. Like Audrey Hepburn in Wait Until Dark before her – the hidden strength of her character shown through in her movie persona – a perfect meld that stands the test of time even as most movies of the 60’s appear so dated because of the fashion, music and style of the times. Mia’s personality is of the 60’s but transcends the time period because of the allegory inherent in Rosemary’s Baby; that of a young mother fearing for the safety of her unborn child as well as her own – surrounded by evil in a world gone mad. Maybe that’s why it resonates so well today.

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This Halloween, treat yourself and the kids with this amazing, elevated horror movie. The thrills and chills are tame next to today’s average video-game let alone horror movie. And be warned, there is some nudity (albeit of a beautiful young woman in her absolute prime). But if you want to be spellbound by one of the most amazing screen performances ever captured, mesmerized by a woman who is more than the sum of her (movie) parts before or since – watch Mia Farrow in Rosemary’s Baby.

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Even before the climax at the end, you’ll know why the devil just couldn’t keep his claws off Mia with those deep, giant blue eyes of hers.

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Ava Gardner: I’m a Fool to Want You

8 May

Years ago I headed to the Santa Anita racetrack and found myself in a diner in Arcadia, California. Living in LA as long as I did, I never really saw that many movie stars – Matthew Modine checked out my beard one day at Farmer’s Market on Fairfax, but that’s another blog entirely. But sitting at the bar of the diner that morning was none other than Mickey Rooney. Mickey is a tiny, jovial guy and a Hollywood legend. But all I could think staring at him was, “That guy was married to one of the most beautiful women who ever lived.” Ava Gardner.

Ava was a knockout of the highest order. She was literally discovered in a store window, or a photograph of her at least, by an employee of Loews theaters who fancied himself a talent scout for his parent company – MGM. Ava was only nineteen when she screen tested for movie mogul Louis B. Mayer. He purportedly said that she couldn’t do anything, but the camera absolutely loved her. A star was born.

In my opinion, Ava’s most iconic role was her first along with Burt Lancaster’s in the 1946 thriller The Killers. She played a dangerous beauty in the black and white and what a showstopper she was. The two ascending stars were gorgeous together. Interesting how she went from loving Burt on screen to marrying Mickey off. Their marriage only lasted a year and later Mickey could never stop talking about the sex. Funny, Ava said there was nothing to talk about.

No, Ava’s true love would end up being ole’ blue eyes, The Chairman himself – Frank Sinatra. Sinatra left his wife Nancy for Ava and was crucified in the press and in Hollywood for being such a louse. But then again, he left his wife for Ava Gardner and the two would end up loving each other for the rest of their lives. And they were good for each other. Ava was especially good for Sinatra. She would use her considerable star power to get the crooner an important role in From Here To Eternity – which would earn him an Oscar. And Frank confessed later that Ava taught him how to really sing a torch song. By his own account, he wrote I’m a Fool to Want You for Ava. And what fool wouldn’t want a woman so undeniably beautiful.

Dear Ava would die of emphysema at the age of 67 after a life in front of the screen. She never one an Oscar, but her mark on film will forever be The Barefoot Contessa with Humphrey Bogart. Ava was said to love to run around in her bare feet on and off the silver screen. She was earth angel after all. And I can’t help smiling every time I see her on camera. The girl whose picture was in a store window became one of Hollywood’s biggest stars. The story is so improbable it’s probably true. No matter. Ava was destined for fame. One look at her and you know she’s the kind of woman who gets what she wants. And in return, we get to stare at this rare beauty decades later and wonder how Mickey Rooney – the tiny guy at the bar – got so damn lucky.