American actress and long-time Woody Allen muse, Mia Farrow was the third of seven children born to film star Maureen O'Sullivan and director John Farrow. Born February 9, 1945, she enjoyed the usual pampered Hollywood kid lifestyle until she fell victim to polio at the age of nine; her struggle to recover from this illness was the first of many instances in which the seemingly frail Farrow exhibited a will of iron.
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Educated in an English convent school, Farrow returned to California with plans to take up acting. With precious little prior experience that included a bit part in her father's 1959 film John Paul Jones, she debuted on Broadway in a 1963 revival of The Importance of Being Earnest. The following year, she was cast as Alison McKenzie in the nighttime TV soap opera Peyton Place, which made her an idol of the American teen set. That people over the age of 18 were also interested in Farrow was proven in the summer of 1965, when she became the third wife of singer Frank Sinatra, 30 years her senior. The marriage provided fodder for both the tabloids and leering nightclub comics for a time, and while the union didn't last long, it put Farrow into the international filmgoing consciousness. (She and Sinatra remained close, long-time friends after their divorce).
Farrow's first important movie appearance was in Rosemary's Baby (1968) as the unwitting mother of Satan's offspring. She was often cast in damsel-in-distress parts -- capitalizing on Rosemary's Baby -- and in "trendy" pop-culture roles for several years thereafter. During this period, she married pianist André Previn and starting a family. Her skills as an actress increased, even if her films didn't bring in large crowds; Farrow's performance as Daisy Buchanan in The Great Gatsby (1974) remains one of the few high points of the largely disappointing film. By the early '80s, a newly divorced Farrow had taken up with comedian/director Woody Allen, for whom she did some of her best work in such films as Zelig (1983); Broadway Danny Rose (1984), in which she was barely recognizable in a brilliant turn as a bosomy blonde bimbo; The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985); Hannah and Her Sisters (1986); Radio Days (1987); Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989); and Husbands and Wives (1992).
Farrow and Allen were soul mates in private as well as cinematic life; she had a child by him named Satchel, who was Allen's first son. In 1992, ironically the same year that she starred as Allen's discontented spouse in Husbands and Wives, Farrow once more commanded newspaper headlines when she discovered that Allen had been having more than a parental relationship with her adopted daughter Soon-Yi Previn (whom he later married). Farrow and Allen then engaged in a long, well-publicized court battle for custody of their adopted and biological children; in the aftermath, Farrow wrote a tell-all memoir entitled What Falls Away. She also continued to appear on the screen in such films as Widows' Peak (1994), Miami Rhapsody (1995), and Coming Soon (1999).
Farrow stayed out of the limelight at the beginning of the next decade, but brought back memories of one of her best films, Rosemary's Baby, when she appeared as the nanny guiding the evil Satan child Damien in John Moore's adaptation of The Omen. The actress appeared in The Ex (2006), a romantic comedy, and in the first installment of filmmaker Luc Besson’s fantasy adventured trilogy Arthur and the Invisibles. Farrow starred alongside Jack Black, Mos Def, and Danny Glover in the lighthearted comedy Be Kind Rewind (2008), which followed a bumbling movie lover who accidentally erased a vast collection of VHS films. In 2011, Farrow joined the cast of filmmaker Todd Solondz’ Dark Horse, in which she co-starred with Selma Blair and Jordan Gelber. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi