Cinema: The Moonchild and the Fifth Beatle

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Hoffman's education was entirely public; Farrow's completely parochial. She "had the screaming meemies" the first time she saw a nun—at the age of four. But at ten she decided to become one. "They told me they wouldn't have me. Incompatible and everything, you know. I really wasn't their type." Actually she wasn't anybody's type. Underdeveloped, undernourished, she found that only her family and her fantasies could tune in on her.

Plots of Soil

Even in Mia's childhood, moviemaking was a global business. The nine Farrows trooped from Los Angeles to Spain, then on to London, where a series of tragedies began. "You can't be Irish without knowing the world is going to break your heart before you're 40," goes the Gaelic lament. For Mia the time was halved. Although the Farrow family life was chaotic and neurotic, there were still close alliances within its framework. In London at '13, she learned that her brother Michael, with whom she had been closest, had been killed in a private-plane crash in California. "It quite simply destroyed the family," she says. "He had been my confidant, my idol. When my brother died, the rest of us just sort of fell into our own plots of soil and grew."

More pain was to come. At 17 she visited her mother—then playing on Broadway in Never Too Late. "It was while I was-there that my father died. That was a very big blow." John Farrow's reputation as a roistering, reckless womanizer conflicted sharply with the strict, militant Catholicism he displayed at home. But Mia accepted what confounded his colleagues. "He was priest and lover, powerful and incompetent, strong and weak, a poet and a sailor. He was a very complicated man and I loved him very much." And her mother? "Well . . . like . . . my father was strict, and she was his wife."

"It was immediately after John's death," recalls Maureen O'Sullivan, "that Mia found herself a role in an off-Broadway production of The Importance of Being Earnest, which led to a part in a television show that we thought was dreadful. We all sat around and said, 'Now who's going to tell her?' We didn't tell her because she thought she was pretty horrible herself."

On-screen she may have been flatfooted; offstage she could have used some lead weights on her shoes. When she first met Dali, he gave her a bit of rock he called "a tiny piece of the moon." Shortly thereafter, the painter invited the young actress for tea. "That afternoon," he remembers, "I had received a beautiful box of butterflies, and I had them on the table when she came in. We had English muffins with honey, and as she talked she took one butterfly out of the box, put it on top of the honey and ate it. She finished all twelve butterflies by the end of tea."

Mythical Suicide

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