Friday, November 14

Yvette Mimieux

I suppose no one who recalls her will go out of their way to laud her as one of the screen's great actresses.  Hepburn, Davis and Stanwyck likely went to their graves knowing their positions were secure.  And there are still others who would find it easier to pigeon-hole her as a mere starlet, a blonde apparition who floated in a gauze-like manner through colorful scenes of glossy MGM productions.  But I fall somewhere in the middle of these revelations.  I always enjoyed her and thought she brought a refreshing honesty to her roles that left me eager to see her next film.

I wish she would write an autobiography and give us that same honesty on what acting and the Hollywood scene meant to her.  And those are clearly two different things.  When she was called upon to deliver the goods, I think she did.  A number of her films are fluff pieces and it is chiefly for this reason that she may be dismissed by some.  But she also knocked it out of the park in a couple more.  The part on the Hollywood scene is something that I suspect never appealed to her and playing the game didn't come as easily or seem as natural as it did for some others.  We won't be so naive to think that decision didn't have an effect on her standing within the film community.

Yvette Mimieux was born in Los Angeles in 1942 to a Mexican mother and a French father.  She seems to have spent a great deal of her teenage years in beauty contests, several of which she won.  At 15 she was in another one, with three other contestants, which involved Elvis Presley picking one of them for a small role in Jailhouse Rock.  The King did not choose her.  It did, however, whet her appetite for an acting career. 

A bit later she was horseback riding in the L.A. hills when a helicopter having engine trouble set down in front of her.  Out popped a Hollywood press agent, Jim Byron, who asked her if she'd like to be in the movies.  Only in Hollywood...

She is a perfect candidate for my 1960s segment because any real success she had in films came in that decade.  In 1960 she made three films, two of which established her in her new career.  The first was a B-effort, Platinum High School, with Mickey Rooney, that few have ever heard of.  Next came an iconic movie, H. G. Wells' The Time Machine, as the female lead, Weena, the role for which she is arguably the most famous.  She and Rod Taylor were a sexy pairing.

Then came the film in which I first saw her, Where the Boys Are.  It was an immensely popular teen flick about the annual Easter invasion of over-sexed teens in Fort Lauderdale.  As Melanie, Mimieux had the most dramatic role of the four lead actresses (Dolores Hart, Paula Prentiss and Connie Francis were the other three). 

As part of her MGM contract, she did what she was told, which is too bad, because they put her into an ill-advised remake of The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1962).  The studio had high hopes but all were dashed when the public chose to stay away.  I recently wrote of my favorite Mimieux film, 1962s The Light in the Piazza.  I won't go into it again here except to say that I thought she was magical as Clara, a mentally-challenged young woman, on holiday with her mother (Olivia de Havilland, also in one of her best roles as an older actress) in Florence.  The same year she made another film that didn't quite become the hit MGM was hoping for, The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm

With James Darren in "Diamond Head"

I quite liked her two 1963 films.  To many Diamond Head would be just another glossy romance drama but I was taken with it for a number of reasons.  One, of course, was that it was gorgeously filmed in Hawaii; two, was its exciting cast (Charlton Heston, France Nuyen, George Chakiris, James Darren and a lovely character actress, Aline McMahon); and three, its plot involving race relations and a bigoted head of a rich family.  As the willful Sloane, Mimieux fought her brother Heston over his resistance to her involvement with two local brothers while Heston himself was involved with a local woman. 

The second film that year was Toys in the Attic, based on a Lillian Hellman play.  With another enticing cast (Dean Martin, Geraldine Page, Wendy Hiller, Gene Tierney and a terrific character actor, Frank Silvera), Mimieux was in some heady company.  One might think she'd be lost in all that talent but she held on tightly.  It is the story of a ne'er-do-well man out to nurse his wounds as he brings his child bride, Lily, back to his hometown and into the home of his spinster sisters.  It was a serious drama with Martin arguably the best he'd ever been on the big screen.  Unfortunately few saw it.

In 1965 she costarred with Richard Chamberlain as a troubled young couple trying to juggle marriage and college in Joy in the Morning but it didn't do well.  Whether Mimieux or MGM decided to call it a day, I don't know, but their partnership ended after this film.  In some ways, so did her movie career.

With the possible exception of a reteaming with Rod Taylor in 1968s African mercenary adventure, Dark of the Sun, her films were largely ignored by critics and the public.  How many of you remember seeing or liking Monkeys Go Home, The Reward, The Picasso Summer, The Delta Factor, The Neptune Factor, The Black Hole or Skyjacked (another pairing with Heston)?  Ugh, ugh and more ugh.

Since she didn't play the Hollywood game, one never heard about her personal life.  She wasn't the beard for some gay actor at a premier and one never heard who she was dating.  For this reason it surprised many that she married MGM director Stanley (Singin' in the Rain, On the Town, Two for the Road) Donen in 1972.  He was not only 18 years her senior, but they appeared to many to be from very different worlds.  She divorced him in 1985.

In the 70s Mimieux turned mainly to television and had a bit more success than she did in films.  In addition to acting, she did some screenwriting and producing.  She also indulged in writing poetry and was faithful to her singing and dancing lessons. Always interested in more than the entertainment industry, she became an anthropologist, a yoga practitioner and a businesswoman, specializing more in real estate.  She made no theatrical films after 1981 and gave up acting entirely in 1992.  She's rarely been heard of since.

Mr. and Mrs. Ruby

In 1986 she married another older man, Howard Ruby, who is the founder and CEO of Oakwood Worldwide, a firm involved in global real estate.  They are still married.

I had quite the attraction for Ms. Mimieux when we were both younger.  When her films started getting bad, I stopped going but I have always wished she'd done more, was more interested in having a movie career.

Zanuck's Mistresses


  1. Remember her in a couple of tv movies.......very attractive milf.

  2. next will be Juliette Greco I guest so

  3. Just now watching THE PICASO SUMMER with a young Albert Finney. Have a soft spot for many of the films from the 60's/70's (my formative years) and always liked/related to some of the angst-filled characters played by actresses of that time like Yvette M. Am quite loving the animation sequences in this film. ;-)