Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Mama Mia!

The other night Sally and I watched one of our favorite Woody Allen movies, Broadway Danny Rose. We've seen it three or four times since it came out in 1984, and it’s funny every time. Mia Farrow was outstanding in her portrayal of Tina Vitale, the tough Italian girl. It was something of a departure from her usual roles, and if Allen had not been her significant other at the time the part might have gone to someone else. Ultimately she was a great choice.

One of the first movies I saw when I got out of the Army in '68 was Rosemary's Baby. Farrow was something of an "It girl" at the time. She had been successful in the TV soap opera, Peyton Place, and had recently married Frank Sinatra, 30 years her senior. He had divorce papers served on her while she was on the set filming Rosemary's Baby. He wanted her to give up her career and just be Mrs. Frank Sinatra. That was another generation, wasn't it?

Mia had a waifish, boyish look, with an open face and innocence that made Rosemary so appealing. I saw the documentary, The Kid Stays In The Picture, about Paramount studio head Robert Evans, who said that he picked Roman Polanski to adapt and direct the film. Polanski wanted either Tuesday Weld or his wife, Sharon Tate, for Rosemary. Evans wisely prevailed on his choice of Farrow.

You could tell the movie was a phenomenon when Mad featured it on the cover. A Mad treatment meant the subject was very popular, well known to everyone.

Farrow's short hairstyle was a topic of conversation at the time.
Mia was still popular when the first issue of People magazine came out, featuring her on the cover in character as Daisy from The Great Gatsby. In the movie she starred with Robert Redford, who had been first choice to play her husband, Guy, in Rosemary's Baby.

In 1971 my wife and I went to a neighborhood theater on a Friday night to see a re-release of Rosemary's Baby. It was playing with the newest Farrow movie, See No Evil, a suspense film in which she played a blind girl, Sarah. The theater was full of teenagers, noisy and rowdy, but we could at least enjoy the movie until Sarah comes home, and walks through a house where everyone has been killed in a gruesome fashion. She can't see the victims as she makes her way to her bedroom. The girls in the audience set up a deafening series of shrieks. Imagine several hundred girls screaming as loud as they can. I attribute it to the suspenseful set-ups by director Richard Fleischer, but also to Farrow's winsome, vulnerable character. I believe every one of the hundreds of screaming girls in that theater was identifying with Mia as Sarah, the blind girl trying to outrun a killer.

Farrow was a principal in a big scandal in the early '90s, when she found out her partner, Woody Allen, was having an affair with her 17-year-old adopted daughter, Soon-Yi. She went on the warpath, publicly airing her outrage and grievances against Allen. Farrow had several children, either adopted or by former husband André Previn. She is an advocate for children, and also dedicates a lot of time and money to causes in which she strongly believes.

Even with her outstanding lifetime body of work, I believe Mia Farrow will be best remembered for Rosemary's Baby.

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