Cinema: The Moonchild and the Fifth Beatle

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Hoffman's long ascent is, in its anti-way, heroic. But hardly atypical. For an actor, it is impossible to become a leading man until he has a face: that is his hardship. For an actress, it is possible to become a leading lady as soon as she has a body: that is her handicap. Mia Farrow's measurements are closely akin to a newel post's. "I look like an elephants' graveyard," she admits. Nevertheless, it is a body. The face is something else; the exquisite bone structure and the fine, flawless skin suggest an antique doll. But so do the faces of other girls. It is the immense, luminous eyes that make her unique, almost unearthly, like someone not born but drawn—perhaps by her old friend Salvador Dali, who calls her "a black moonchild, like Lilith. Her sex is not here," he insists, pointing to his groin, "but in the head, like a wound in the middle of the forehead." To Actress Shirley MacLaine she is "all turned in and vulnerable, a child with a highly energetic brain. From the neck up, she's 80." To Actor Roddy McDowall, "trying to describe Mia is like trying to describe dust in a shaft of sunlight. There are all those particles." Her conversation is clotted with such words as amulets, transcendentalism, Utopia—and then, unexpectedly but inevitably, a choice selection of four-letter expletives. Only when Mia uses them, her friends feel, somehow she makes them sound like an incantation.

In a series of interviews with TIME Reporter Jay Cocks, Farrow, speaking in her sotto voce that raises "Good morning" to the level of a state secret, took some of those particles and put them together in vaguely chronological order. In nearly every respect, Farrow began as Hoffman's polar opposite. He was outside show business with his nose pressed up against the window. In Hollywood, Mia was Old Money: her father was Director John Farrow, her mother Actress Maureen O'Sullivan. The third of seven children, Mia was always the vulnerable one. "I got all the diseases," she recalls, "including polio when I was nine. The whole family had to be evacuated, and all my things burned. Even my magic box, full of things that were magical to me."

"Before I could talk," she says, "I had a private name for myself. And that was part of my magic kingdom." The name was Mildred, a stand-in Doppelganger who took the blame when things went sour. "Sometimes, the kingdom would become very, very strong and I had to go away—it was a lot like I Never Promised You a Rose Garden."*

Mildred finally died an unnatural death one summer when Mia was six and the family was aboard a ship. Recalls her mother, "I said to Mia, 'I tell you what we're going to do. We're going to drown Mildred.' So we theoretically put Mildred overboard into the Irish Sea, and we drowned her. We never did see Mildred again." Not in that form, anyway.

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