Nationality: American. Born: Maria de Lourdes Villiers Farrow in Los Angeles, California, 9 February 1945; daughter of the film director John Farrow and the actress Maureen O'Sullivan. Education: Attended convent schools in Madrid, Spain, and in London; Marymount School, Los Angeles; Cygnet School, near London, through 1962. Family: Married 1) the singer Frank Sinatra, 1966 (divorced 1968); 2) the conductor André Previn, 1970 (divorced 1979), twin boys; two children with director Woody Allen; also six adopted children. Career: 1963—off-Broadway debut as Cecily in The Importance of Being Earnest ; performed with stock company in Warren, Ohio; 1964–66—in TV series Peyton Place ; 1968—breakthrough film performance in Roman Polanski's Rosemary's Baby as the young New Yorker raped by the devil; 1971—on London
John Paul Jones (Farrow) (bit role)
The Age of Curiosity (short)
Guns at Batasi (Guillermin) (as Karen Ericksson)
Johnny Belinda (Bogart—for TV) (title role)
A Dandy in Aspic (Anthony Mann) (as Caroline); Secret Ceremony (Losey) (as Cenci); Rosemary's Baby (Polanski) (as Rosemary)
John and Mary (Yates) (as Mary)
Goodbye Raggedy Ann (Cook—for TV); Blind Terror ( See No Evil ) (Fleischer) (as Sarah); Follow Me! ( The Public Eye ) (Reed) (as Belinda Sidley)
Docteur Popaul ( Scoundrel in White ; High Heels ) (Chabrol) (as Christine)
The Great Gatsby (Clayton) (as Daisy)
Peter Pan (Hemion—for TV); Full Circle (Loncraine)
Avalanche (Corey Allen) (as Caroline Brace); Death on the Nile (Guillermin) (as Jacqueline de Bellefort); A Wedding (Altman) (as Buffy)
Hurricane (Troell) (as Charlotte Bruckner)
The Haunting of Julia (Loncraine) (title role)
A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy (Woody Allen) (as Ariel); The Last Unicorn (Rankin Jr. and Bass—animation) (as voice of Last Unicorn/Lady Amalthea)
Zelig (Woody Allen) (as Dr. Eudora Fletcher)
Broadway Danny Rose (Woody Allen) (as Tina Vitale); Sarah and the Squirrel (part animation); Supergirl (Szwarc) (as Alura Zor-El)
The Purple Rose of Cairo (Woody Allen) (as Cecilia); Hannah and Her Sisters (Woody Allen) (as Hannah)
Radio Days (Woody Allen) (as Sally White)
September (Woody Allen) (as Lane)
Another Woman (Woody Allen) (as Hope)
"Oedipus Wrecks" ep. of New York Stories (Woody Allen) (as Lisa); Crimes and Misdemeanors (Woody Allen) (as Halley Reed)
Alice (Woody Allen) (as Alice)
Shadows and Fog (Woody Allen) (as Irmy); Husbands and Wives (Woody Allen) (as Judy Roth)
Widows' Peak (Irvin) (as Catherine O'Hare)
Miami Rhapsody (Frankel) (as Nina); Reckless (René) (as Rachel)
Angela Mooney (title role)
Redux Riding Hood (Moore) (as voice of Doris/Mrs. Wolf); Private Parts (Thomas) (as herself-uncredited)
Miracle at Midnight (Ken Cameron—for TV) (as Doris Koster)
Coming Soon (Burson) (Judy Hodsell); Forget Me Never (Yelin, Longstreet) (as Diane McGowin)
Farrow, Mia, What Falls Away: A Memoir , New York, 1997.
Interview in Films and Filming (London), June 1986.
Interview with Christine Haas, in Première (Paris), February 1990.
Interview in Time Out (London), 18 July 1990.
"Mia's Story," interview with Maureen Orth, in Vanity Fair (New York), November 1992.
Interview with Ingrid Sischy, in Interview (New York), April 1994.
Romero, J., Sinatra's Women , New York, 1976.
Rubin, Sam, and Richard Taylor, Mia Farrow: Flowerchild, Madonna, Muse , New York, 1989.
Epstein, Edward Z., and Joe Morella, Mia: The Life of Mia Farrow , New York, 1991.
Groteke, Kristi, and Marjorie Rosen, Mia and Woody: Love and Betrayal , New York, 1994.
"The Moonchild and the Fifth Beatle," in Time (New York), 7 February 1969.
Current Biography 1970 , New York, 1970.
Shipman, David, in The Great Movie Stars: The International Years , London, 1972.
"Mia Farrow," in Film Dope (London), September 1978.
Photoplay (London), September 1984.
Ciné Revue (Paris), 23 October 1986.
Brown, Georgia A., "Much Ado about Mia," in American Film (Washington, D.C.), March 1987.
Love and Betrayal: The Mia Farrow Story , for television, 1995.
* * *
Mia Farrow began her career in the successful television series Peyton Place playing Allison Mackenzie, a type of role that would become standard in her repertoire: the virginal and innocent waif—sensitive, vulnerable, and intelligent. Admired for her long, Alice-in-Wonderland hair, Farrow shocked Hollywood one day by cutting it all off, an independent act which, odd as it may seem now, made headlines across the country, and characterized Farrow as not just another pretty face content to follow the instructions of her male Hollywood bosses.
That Farrow's boyish charm was a significant part of her attractiveness is clear; her slightly enigmatic grin, those fetching and luminous eyes, the short hair that sets off her features, and the thin body, recalling Audrey Hepburn. "Victim" roles followed: in a television adaptation of Johnny Belinda , in which she played a deaf mute who is raped; and in Rosemary's Baby , in which she plays a contemporary New York City woman who is raped by the devil and subsequently gives birth to Satan's son. Directed by Roman Polanski, Rosemary's Baby was an incredible box-office and critical success. Farrow's slight physical presence and vulnerability made her a believable victim. It seems ironic that at a time of emerging women's liberation, an actress should appear whose persona was that of a woman apparently so in need of being taken care of.
Despite the popularity of Rosemary's Baby , Farrow has never been especially admired by the critics or popular at the box office; that she failed to win an Academy Award nomination for this or any other film seems to reflect her lack of general appeal. John and Mary , Farrow's first film after Rosemary's Baby , was widely ridiculed, although today, while still rarely screened, it seems to be among the earliest American films of the 1960s to deal with sexual relationships in a relatively honest way. Another underrated performance was as Daisy in The Great Gatsby , a multimillion dollar film which cast her opposite Robert Redford. Here director Jack Clayton revealed Farrow's innocence and beauty as a corrupt facade in a film that looks increasingly praiseworthy, as does her performance in it. Other Farrow roles seem either to perpetuate the waif/victim persona (such as See No Evil , in which she plays a blind woman who is terrorized by a killer, or in her theatrical and television performances as Peter Pan ), or to manipulate and subvert the waif/victim persona by countering audience expectations (as in the Agatha Christie adaptation Death on the Nile , Robert Altman's A Wedding , or Claude Chabrol's Docteur Popaul ). Yet if Farrow's persona is often vulnerable, her offscreen image has about it a considerable element of independence: one thinks of her interest in social issues, her adoption of Vietnamese children, her visits to the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in the 1960s, and her highly publicized relationships with a variety of famous and talented men such as Frank Sinatra, André Previn, and Woody Allen.
Certainly the period of Farrow's career with the highest profile comprises her numerous performances for director Woody Allen. While generally thought of as an instinctual, if mannered, actress, Farrow reveals herself in Allen's films to be an actress of substantial technical skill; and before its termination, their collaboration acquired the stature of a Chabrol and Audran, a Fellini and Masina, a Bergman and Ullmann. Farrow played a liberated freethinker in A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy , a psychiatrist in the pseudodocumentary Zelig , and—most surprisingly—a vulgar Italian woman in Broadway Danny Rose , a key Allen film in which Farrow played il bruto to Allen's Gelsomina in a contemporary comedy evoking Fellini's La Strada. Her excellent work for Woody Allen has been judged surprising particularly by those critics who had already tended to underrate or dismiss her. Her totally luminous and sensitive performance as the forlorn movie fan in the 1985 The Purple Rose of Cairo seems already to be a key performance in the American cinema: the performance and film both extraordinary achievements largely ignored at their release, pushed aside by the Spielberg-inspired, special-effects spectaculars of the Reagan era. As the daughter in September (based loosely on Lana Turner's relationship with her daughter in the aftermath of the Johnny Stompanato murder), Farrow shows the ability to eradicate her own charismatic personality within an intimate chamber drama in a way that recalls and rivals Liv Ullmann in Autumn Sonata , with which the film bears comparison: Farrow's sniffling, whiny protagonist is both terrifyingly vulnerable and pitiable, as well as the temperamental opposite to Farrow's spunky cigarette girl who becomes a star in Radio Days , in which Farrow offers a deft, comic turn.
Perhaps unfortunately, one cannot comprehensively discuss Farrow in the mid-1990s without some consideration of the extraordinary scandal that gripped tabloid America for over a year. The Allen-Farrow breakup, which included dismissed charges against Allen of child sexual abuse and revelations of an acknowledged affair between Allen and Farrow's then-teenaged adopted daughter, Soon-Yi, put the Farrow-Allen collaboration under a microscope. A reevaluation of Allen's use of Farrow reveals, perhaps surprisingly to some, that Farrow's persona in Allen's films (with the exception, perhaps, of Alice , which emphasizes the Roman Catholic, giving component of Farrow's identity) was by no means a heroic or valorized one. In Hannah and Her Sisters , one of Allen's most sustained works, shot largely in Farrow's Manhattan apartment, Farrow played a role patterned upon her own life, allowing the spectator a kind of voyeuristic entrance into Farrow's life with Allen. And yet, if barely commented upon at the time of the film's release, Farrow's Hannah—only apparently the stable, expressive center in Allen's world—is relatively smug, and it is clear that the filmmaker expends much more narrative time and interest on her sisters, as Allen's surrogate (Hannah's husband, played by Michael Caine) falls in love with a sister-inlaw—an incestual precursor to Allen's later disenchantment. In Crimes and Misdemeanors (arguably Woody Allen's finest work), Farrow plays an archetype for our time: the amoral smiler—smart, attractive, talented, and sensitive, yet ultimately ambitious and pragmatic in ways which are all too recognizable. In retrospect it is clearer that in The Purple Rose of Cairo , September , and Another Woman (in which a very pregnant Farrow spends most of the film in therapy nd tears), there is a profound element of masochism implicit in Farrow's suffering, and sadism on the part of the director and/or the narrative.
Husbands and Wives , the Allen masterwork representing the last of their collaboration, in production while the scandal was unfolding, has Farrow and Allen playing a married couple whose marriage traumatically unravels, with Farrow presented as a woman who subtly uses her charm and passivity to manipulate those around her. In this film of vertiginous style and emotion, Farrow's heartrending performance, for many, was so persuasive that the film was greeted (though to disappointing box office) as psychodrama in the Cassavetes style, too painful to watch. Even in the "Oedipus Wrecks" segment of New York Stories , the character played by Woody Allen ultimately rejects as his perfect match the fantasy of Mia Farrow in favor of the reality of Julie Kavner. Is any more evidence necessary that Allen has been no Sternberg elevating his Dietrich? As a last curious footnote to the scandal, one notes that even in non-Allen films, major roles in Rosemary's Baby , Death on the Nile , Docteur Popaul , and The Great Gatsby (among others) put Farrow in a sexual triangle that ends in tragic sensation.
Since the breakup with Allen, Farrow has managed to acquit herself professionally in some interesting, idiosyncratic work. Returning to Ireland and her roots in Widows' Peak , a gentle and surprising comedy, Farrow again played a victim more apparent than real and turned in a luminous, subtle performance, complete with Irish accent. Especially interesting is Miami Rhapsody , a comedy directed by David Frankel explicitly in the style of Woody Allen, in which Farrow plays a woman whose daughter is given the opportunity to sleep with her mother's lover, but refuses out of moral principle—a sly, cinematic rebuke to Allen, if ever there was one. Unfortunately, too much of Farrow's subsequent work has been less satisfactorily distributed or conceived. Reckless , a black comedy made in 1995, was too weird for mainstream audiences. Angela Mooney Dies Again , another film made in Ireland, allows Farrow the opportunity to give an intense performance in a flawed film as a woman who repeatedly threatens suicide. Coming Soon , which went straight to video as a result of the MPAA initially giving the film an NC-17 rating, boasted Farrow, Ryan O'Neal, and Spalding Gray in supporting roles in a feminist comedy centered on women's orgasm. More successful for Farrow, certainly, were two movies made directly for TV. In Miracle at Midnight , a TV movie produced for The Wonderful World of Disney , Farrow plays a heroine from real life: Doris Koster, who together with her husband saved thousands of Jews in Nazi-occupied Denmark during World War II. Forget Me Never , broadcast in 1999, was even more successful—garnering Farrow a Golden Globe nomination for her poignant performance as a married fortysomething attorney who is diagnosed with Alzheimer's. Despite these reent successes, one suspects that Mia Farrow's continuing performance work will continue to be too fine, subtle, and marginal for significant contemporary acclaim. And unlike other of her acting contemporaries (like Streisand or Nicholson), Mia Farrow—even in the midst of her biggest successes with Rosemary's Baby and Hannah and Her Sisters —never particularly worked at capitalizing her potential as a movie star or as a Hollywood power player.
Ironically, Farrow's most overwhelming public success has come not through her acting, but through her writing. Her extraordinary memoir, What Falls Away , which was published in 1997, joins that very rare company of actress memoirs (including Liv Ullmann's Changing and Hildegard Kneff's The Gift Horse ) that rise to a literary quality. Dealing courageously with her own childhood polio, her complicated relationships, her unusual inter-racial family of fourteen children (many adopted, with multiple handicaps), and of course, the scandal involving Woody Allen, What Falls Away became a national best-seller as well as an elegant and poetic self-portrait of one of our most sensitive and unique film artists.