With an innate passion for film and impressive artistic talent passed down by genes, American actress Mia Farrow is best known for her appearances in several critically-acclaimed horror and thriller movies of the 1960s and 1970s as well as for being Woody Allen’s muse and star of all of his films made during the time when the filmmaker was her romantic partner (1979-1982).
Film debut at the age 14
Her personal life has made headlines on multiple occasions, starting with her surprising and short-lived marriage to Frank Sinatra, who was 30 years her senior and with whom she remained friends until his death in 1998, her second marriage to Academy and Grammy Awards-winning composer and conductor Andre Previn and culminating with her bittersweet affair ( and its infamous ending) with one of the world’s most prolific and accomplished filmmakers. Throughout her artistically rich, five-decade long acting career, Mia Farrow has starred in more than 50 films, earning several awards and nominations and in 1977 she became the first American actress to join the prestigious Royal Shakespeare Company.
Her personal life has made headlines on multiple occasions, starting with her surprising and short-lived marriage to Frank Sinatra, who was 30 years her senior
Born Maria de Lourdes Villiers Farrow on February 9th, 1945, she made her film debut at the early age of 14 with an uncredited appearance in her father’s 1959 epic film John Paul Jones, produced by Samuel Bronston. Five years later (she worked as a fashion model during this time), Farrow was cast as ”Karen Eriksson” in the 1964 drama Guns at Batasi, when Swedish actress Britt Ekland renounced the role during filming, because her then-husband Peter Sellers was afraid she might fall for another member of the cast, the charming actor and singer John Leyton.
After portraying the character of Allison MacKenzie in the prime-time ABC soap opera Peyton Place (1964-1969) for two years, Mia Farrow returned to the big screen. Her successful TV role coupled with her overly publicized marriage to Frank Sinatra made Farrow a household name. Mia Farrow’s breakthrough role and, at the same time, her first leading role was Rosemary Woodhouse in the 1968 psychological horror/supernatural thriller Rosemary’s Baby, directed and written by Polish-born and French-naturalized film personality Roman Polanski. Along with critical praise for her wildly convincing and intense, exemplary performance came the extensive notoriety she had longed for since 1965, when she bluntly stated ”I could not stand being anonymous”.
Rosemary’s Baby was Polanski’s first Hollywood feature film and it is based on Ira Levin’s best-selling and best-known novel of the same name, published in 1967. The script is a faithful adaptation of the novel, to which it stays true right to the smallest detail (allegedly Polanski was unaware at that time that he had the freedom to make changes). Rosemary and her husband, Guy, an aspiring actor (played by John Cassavetes) move into an apartment in The Bramford (the building in the movie is actually the Dakota in Manhattan, outside of which John Lennon was shot dead). The strange interest of their new neighbors, an eccentric and noisy older couple, Minnie (played by Ruth Gordon, which won the Academy Award for best supporting actress for her performance) and Roman (played by Sidney Blackmer) in Rosemary and especially her unborn baby gradually develops into pure evil.
Rosemary’s Baby is considered by film experts one of the ten best horror movies of all time, owing much to Polanski’s masterful subtlety and to Farrow’s emotion-laden, brilliantly inspired performance, with an ”electrifying impact” (S. Farber), which strongly connect with audiences. The cleverly composed interplay between the strategically selected score, brimming with lullabies and Rosemary’s whirlwind of neurotic feelings, strange dreams and hallucinations, increasingly confusing emotions and overwhelming fears for her unborn baby lends the exceedingly disturbing movie an intoxicating feel, in an eerie kind of way.This iconic movie is an intelligent and modern take on theistic Satanism, in which worshippers hide their veneration of Satan, seen as a patriarch, under a mask of sophistication and affability.
Universally acclaimed by film critics worldwide and regarded as a cult classic of the horror genre, focusing on the occult, the low-budget movie Rosemary’s Baby was also an unexpected box office hit. The challenging role of Rosemary (Farrow even had to walk into real traffic in NY) earned her a Golden Globe award for the next star of the year, but it cost the actress her marriage to Sinatra, who had asked her to renounce her acting career when they got married; she was served with the divorce papers during filming. In the second part of the movie, Mia Farrow sports the now-iconic pixie cut, which was arranged by the legendary Vidal Sassoon himself.
Thirty years after the publication of Rosemary’s Baby and ten years before his death, Ira Levin wrote a sequel entitled Son of Rosemary, with a special dedication to Mia Farrow (Rosemary’s son was born in June 1966 – 6/66). The anagram ”roast mules” is mentioned throughout the novel, but the author never gives the solution.
After the incredible success with Rosemary’s Baby, Mia Farrow was cast as Cenci in the 1968 drama Secret Ceremony, co-starring Elizabeth Taylor and Robert Mitchum. The critical reception of the movie was mixed, but her performance was applauded and earned her a BAFTA award for best actress nomination. Her next film, the 1969 romantic drama John and Mary, directed by Peter Yates and co-starring Dustin Hoffman won her yet another BAFTA nomination.
In 1971, Mia Farrow starred in the British thriller See No Evil, in which she played the character Sarah, a blind young woman, and although the movie received mixed reviews, she was praised for her outstanding performance. A year later, Miss Farrow portrayed Belinda, a clever businessman’s wife in the drama Follow Me! ( released as The Public Eye in the US), the film adaptation of Peter Schaffer’s play ( adapted by Schaffer himself) and the last completed film of Academy Award-winning British director Sir Carol Reed; her co-star was Israeli performer Topol. This role won her the best actress award at the 1972 San Sebastian International Film Festival ( Topol won the best actor award).
Mia Farrow’s next project was the leading female part in Jack Clayton’s 1974 glorious film adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald 's 1925 literary masterpiece The Great Gatsby. The movie was celebrated by Tennessee Williams (in his ”Memoirs”) who considered it ”a film that even surpassed the novel”. The screenplay was written by Francis Ford Coppola. Mia Farrow’s searing portrayal of the beautiful and seemingly enigmatic, two-faced Daisy Buchanan, Gatsby’s lifelong romantic obsession was unanimously acclaimed by film critics. The critical reception of the film was mixed, the negative reviews criticizing the film’s lack of emotion in its depiction of the Roaring Twenties. Because she was pregnant during shooting of the film, John Clayton filmed the actress in tight close-ups, while wearing white drapey dresses with floral motifs.
Woody Allen collaborations
In 1978 Miss Farrow joined the all-star cast of ”Death on the Nile”, based on Agatha Christie’s novel A Wedding, a delectable comedy directed by the legendary Robert Altman. From 1982 until 1992 Mia Farrow appeared almost exclusively in Woody Allen’s films. A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy was the first movie of a series of thirteen made by Allen and starring his younger romantic partner; this 1982 movie is also notable for introducing Allen as an ensemble performer in his films and for being the only Allen movie ever to be nominated for a Razzie Award, ironically for worst actress – Mia Farrow. The plot of this film is inspired by the iconic Swedish film director Ingmar Bergman’s first internationally successful comedy Smiles of a Summer Night (1955).
The best Allen movies starring Farrow include the 1983 mockumentary Zelig, the 1984 critically-acclaimed black-and-white comedy Broadway Danny Rose (Farrow’s memorable performance as Tina Vitale, considered by film critic Roger Ebert ”the real treasure” earned her a Golden Globe nomination), the 1985 romantic comedy-fantasy The Purple Rose of Cairo ( Farrow received yet another Golden Globe nomination for her remarkable portrayal of Cecilia), the 1986 comedy-drama Hannah and Her Sisters and the 1990 romantic fantasy Alice.
Mia Farrow’s generosity of spirit in her relation with the audience transcends the screen into real life. She relentlessly devotes her time and energy to humanitarian activities, mostly in African countries, as a human rights activist and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. She is the mother of 15 children, 11 adopted and 4 biological ( 3 with her second husband Andre Previn and Ronan Farrow, born in 1987 with either Woody Allen or Frank Sinatra, with whom she has ”never really split up”, according to a 2013 interview); two of her children are deceased. Professionally, the actress is still active, appearing mostly in Broadway productions.