Millie Perkins

Millie Perkins
Millie Perkins

Millie Perkins. TCM Overview

Millie Perkins was a very pretty model who won a starring part in her very first film.   She was born in New Jersey in 1938.   She began her career as a model and in her teens was featured on many magazine covers.   She auditioned for and won the lead in the 1959 production of “The Diary of Anne Frank” directed by George Stevens.   She acted opposite Elvis Presley in “Wild in the Country” and made a few independent movies with Jack Nicholson before he hit the big time.   In the late 60’s she retired from the screen to raise her family.   She returned  to films in the 80’s somewhat more mature but as warm and wining as ever.   She continues to play choice character parts such as playing Andy garcia’s mother in “Lost City”.   She recently attended a retrospective showing of “The Diary of Anne Frank” with co-star Diane Baker and this can currently be viewed on utube.

TCM Overview:

She won one of the most coveted roles in Hollywood history–Anne Frank, the Jewish teen who still affirms the human spirit while hiding from the Nazis–in George Stevens’ “The Diary of Anne Frank” (1959). Yet the almost fragile, seemingly eternal dark-haired ingenue Millie Perkins failed to ignite with the audience to become a big movie star, partly because she projected an ordinary quality. There was so sense of urgency or recognition of the inherent dangers. After finding steady work in the 1960s, she seemed to disappear in the 70s, only to renew her career as a strong supporting player in the 80s and 90s.

Born in Passaic, New Jersey, the daughter of a sea captain, Perkins was a junior model and cover girl before winning the Anne Frank role. Her second film was “Wild in the Country” (1961) opposite Elvis Presley; it was de rigueur for every ingenue at the time to play opposite Elvis. (In a twist of fate, Perkins would later portray Gladys Presley, Elvis’ mother, in the short-lived 1990 ABC TV series, “Elvis”). She continued her leading lady career in such efforts as “Ensign Pulver” (1964) and even was alongside Jack Nicholson during the Roger Corman period in “Ride in the Whirlwind” (1965), which Nicholson also wrote and co-produced. But by “Wild in the Streets” (1968), it was apparent Perkins’ screen career was faltering. After her marriage to writer-director Robert Thom, Perkins seemingly retired, appearing only sporadically in film and on TV. It was not she was cast as Jon Voight’s ex-wife in “Table For Five” (1983), that Perkins re-emerged. She had retained her delicate, porcelain features–her face had hardly–but her body was sturdier, and she now projected far more personal power and strength. Now relegated to supporting parts, she played Sean Penn’s mother in “At Close Range” (1986), Charlie Sheen’s mom in “Wall Street” (1987) and the parent of murder victims in “The Chamber” (1996).

On the small screen, Perkins first appeared on TV in 1960 on a Bob Hope special, and made her episodic debut on an episode of “Wagon Train” the following year. When she resumed her career in the 80s, she worked with some regularity in character roles. Perkins played a rape victim in “A Gun in the House” (CBS, 1981) and went on to a number of portrayals as wives, married to drunk driver Don Murray in “License of Kill” (1984, CBS) and Ed Asner’s ailing Norman Cousins in “Anatomy of an Illness” (1984, CBS). Even in her first regular series role, she was typecast, playing the estranged spouse of William Devane on the CBS primetime soap “Knots Landing” during the 1983-84 season. Moving into maternal roles, she was cast as the penultimate mother, the Virgin Mary, in the NBC miniseries “A.D.” (1985) and was the parent of the young Patty Duke in 1990 biopic “Call Me Anna” (ABC). Six years later, she appeared alongside Duke as an Amish woman in “Harvest of Fire” (1996, CBS).

The above TCM Overview can also be accessed online here.

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