Friday, January 21, 2022

Fond Farewell: A View of Mimieux

Yvette Mimieux is something of a peculiarity here at Poseidon's Underworld. At no time have I ever been aching to see a movie or TV show simply because she is featured in it, yet - as I have discovered over the years here - she figures into many projects that I happen to hold dear! It's not such a big surprise that she had not stood out as an obsession of mine when you know that I am fixated on extremely vivid performers like Joan Crawford and Faye Dunaway...! Mimieux was far more demure and serene than they. But she had a soothing, pretty, sunny presence and appeared in quite a few memorable movies, alongside some top people. When she passed away a couple of days ago, it was something of a shock as, by today's standards, 80 is not that terribly old. And she had been in generally good health. Let's take a look now at some of the highlights of her life and career.
Born January 8th, 1942 in Hollywood, it's probably one of the least well-known aspect of Miss Mimieux that she was half-Mexican. Her mother was Mexican and her father French. Their slender, angular daughter began to act in local plays and was soon spotted by Vincente Minnelli, who cast her in a small role in his latest movie Home from the Hill (1960.) Her part was ultimately trimmed from the release print, but it earned her an MGM contract nonetheless.

Many folks think of cult favorite The Time Machine (1960) as her first movie, though she had actually worked on the aforementioned Hill and had also toiled briefly (uncredited) in A Certain Smile (1959) for 20th Century Fox (and popped up on TV a couple of times as well.) Her real film debut came in the comparatively obscure...
Platinum High School (1960.) Mimieux was not the leading lady in this, but she was featured enough to warrant a Golden Globe nomination for Most Promising Newcomer. it did seem to set a pattern for her, though, of portraying women who were victimized. Many, many times in the coming years, she would find herself being pawed and mauled (or worse) in the movies. Incidentally, the other stars of this film included Mickey Rooney, Terry Moore, Dan Duryea and Conway Twitty! Quite a conglomeration.

In any case, for the year 1960 (and long beyond) it would be The Time Machine which secured her place in the world of science fiction and would remain one of the films seen over and over again by new generations. Still, not even that was all. 1960 was a memorable year for her!

This was also the year of Where the Boys Are, a summer & sand saga with a whopper of a hit theme song and a concept that brought about many imitators (not to mention a horrid remake in 1984.) Here she found herself looking for love from hunks like Rory Harrity, but finding danger instead.

After talk of costarring Mimieux with George Hamilton (a costar of Where the Boys Are) in a remake of The Clock (1945), which didn't come to fruition, the two were teamed in 1962's Light in the Piazza. She played the daughter of Olivia de Havilland, vacationing in Italy, who'd been injured as a child and hasn't progressed much mentally beyond that. Nevertheless, Hamilton is charmed by her innocent naivete and pursues a romantic relationship with her.

Another of her 1962 movies was Diamond Head, as the troubled younger sister of Charlton Heston. This same year she worked with Glenn Ford in the expensive, but unsuccessful, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

Her other 1962 film was the Cinerama extravaganza The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm, in which she played The Dancing Princess in one of a few different vignettes.

1963 brought Toys in the Attic. In this production she played the young bride of Dean Martin and rubbed acting elbows with Gene Tierney, Wendy Hiller and Geraldine Page.

She and Richard Chamberlain were paired in the colorful, gentle period romance Joy in the Morning (1965) as young marrieds finding their way. She had guest-starred on his hit show Dr. Kildare the year prior in a two-parter as a surfer with epilepsy. This was before the guest role category, but she did get a TV actress Golden Globe nomination for the part (losing to Mary Tyler Moore for The Dick Van Dyke Show.) Trivia note: With that she became the first actress on television to display her navel!

The Reward (1965) had her playing alongside Max Von Sydow, Efrem Zimbalist Jr and, as shown here, Gilbert Roland. It was one of many occasions in which she was "the girl" among several male stars in a adventure of some sort. 

As the mid-'60s dawned, Mimieux remained a viable leading lady, but the prestige of her roles began to fall off slightly. She found herself in The Caper of the Golden Bulls (1967) opposite Stephen Boyd. It was one of many movies to show off her fit and trim figure in a bikini. She also worked with Dean Jones in the Disney flick Monkeys Go Home! (1967), which, while filmed in the U.S. afforded her the chance to play French.

In 1968 she did a movie for low-budget AIP, a real dip from her MGM days, called Three in the Attic, but it was a big hit - AIP's highest-grossing film of the decade. Christopher Jones, a briefly-hot star in the James Dean mold was the star. 

That same year she was reunited with her Time Machine costar Rod Taylor in one of my all-time favorite films of hers, Dark of the Sun.You can read more about it here.

She was paired with no less than Albert Finney in the scenic romance The Picasso Summer (1969), which had the couple attempting to locate the elusive artist. 

After such negligible fare as The Delta Factor (1970), Mimieux turned to TV and was featured in the series The Most Deadly Game. She replaced Inger Stevens, who'd done the pilot, but sadly committed suicide prior to the show's filming schedule. This earned her a third Golden Globe nomination, but the award went to Peggy Lipton for The Mod Squad.

Her next two movies make her an honorary member of the Disaster Movie Club, thanks to the all-star cast formats and the vehicles in distress. Skyjacked (1972) had her in the middle of a love triangle with Charlton Heston and Mike Henry, but also caught up in the drama of a hijacker taking over their passenger liner.

The Neptune Factor (1973) had Ben Gazzara and Ernest Borgnine, among others, attempting to rescue some stranded divers deep beneath the ocean's surface (where the creatures have grown extra large thanks to heat emitted from the ground there!) From here on, her career would waffle chiefly between television movies and the occasional feature. She penned one of the TV flicks herself, called Hit Lady, and had Dack Rambo as her leading man! She had also appeared in Black Noon and Death Takes a Holiday.

In 1976, she scored another drive-in style hit with Jackson County Jail, in which she is a motorist tormented by some unsavory townspeople (not the least of which is local deputy Fredric Cook, who rapes her!) She goes on the run with fellow inmate, billed then as "Tom" Lee Jones! This was so successful when run on TV that CBS reworked it into a slightly different TV-movie pilot called Outside Chance, which would have featured her as a weekly female version of The Fugitive, but it didn't come to pass.

There were quite a few TV-movies she worked in. Some were unusual like The Legend of Valentino, in which she played Natasha Rambova (!) to Franco Nero's silent movie icon. She also did a remake of Bell, Book & Candle. But the big hoot is the one pictured above, Snowbeast, about a creature terrifying revelers at a ski resort! Look closely and you can see some fur behind her.

I had to include this caption from the prior photo. Such simpler times. Her costars in Snowbeast were Clint Walker, Bo Svenson and Sylvia Sidney (not pictured) and it's a scream for reasons unintended.

Another item that makes her an honorary Disaster Movie Club member was Disaster on the Coastliner, a 1979 TV-movie which had her on an Amtrak train which has been deliberately set to collide with another! Plenty of names in this one from Lloyd Bridges and Raymond Burr to William Shatner and, as seen here, Robert Fuller.

Also in 1979, she was cast in the very expensive Disney sci-fi thriller The Black Hole, for which there was much anticipation. Unfortunately, it fell short of expectations at the box office despite a solid cast (Maximilian Schell, Robert Forster, Anthony Perkins and Ernest Borgnine) and a great score by John Barry.

As the wife (since 1972) of director Stanley Donen, Mimieux really only had to work when she wanted to. Somehow she wound up in the bizarre Circle of Power (1981), which I hope to look into soon, and did TV films like Forbidden Love (in a relationship with young man Andrew Stevens!) and Night Partners (a failed police show pilot with Diana Canova as her partner.) She also took pen in hand again and wrote Obsessive Love, seen here, in which she was dangerously attracted to married soap star Simon MacCorkindale.

After several unsuccessful attempts to become part of a regular series, Mimieux finally got her chance with the prime-time soap Berrenger's, all about the goings on at an expensive department store. Here she was in the arms of hunky Ben Murphy. Unfortunately, this didn't turn out to be another Dallas or Dynasty as the show didn't register (get it?!) with viewers. It was gone after a dozen episodes.

Her marriage to Donen came to an end in 1985. And at 43, she was finding it hard to secure good roles. She did a 1986 TV-movie with Robert Conrad and Richard Roundtree called The Fifth Missile and that was the last viewers would see of her for a while.

She had other things to enjoy, however. In 1986, she wed Howard Ruby, a staggeringly successful real estate mogul who specialized in corporate housing. The two would spend 35 years together, traveling extensively, hosting elegant parties and taking part in charitable causes. 

Now there truly was no reason to work any more, but she did return to television on two occasions. One was a Perry Mason mystery movie in 1990. Then, after working on the two-part Jackie Collins telefilm Lady Boss in 1992, she retired from acting. She turned her interest to painting, home decor sales, archeology and real estate.

As Mrs. Howard Ruby, Mimieux kept busy with their various interests (and eye-poppingly appointed homes.) She also kept her figure and continued to be a gracious and welcoming hostess for many occasions with her husband. Mr. Ruby ultimately lost his sight and chose to live in the familiar surroundings of their luxury yacht, but few ever expected that Yvette would pass away at this point in her life.

From the very start, Mimieux was pegged as a certain type, a winsome blonde to be chased, attacked or molested, though she always wanted more and sometimes achieved that. She had the drive to generate roles for herself in order to avoid being window dressing. She was also very much appreciated by her many illustrious costars (I don't know if I have ever read a single thing about her that was negative regarding her personal demeanor or work habits!)

Before we go, let's take a gander at that belly button she showed the world (and the handsome doctor who was in charge of her case!)

Viewers of Dr. Kildare must have loved this two-part installment as it afforded the chance to view some Dick Chamberlain beefcake!

Au revoir, Ms Mimieux!


BryonByronWhatever said...

Lovely lady. Thanks for this sweet tribute. said...

Great job, as usual, Poseidon!
I didn't realize Yvette had been married to Stanley Donen, one of my favorite directors.
One of the major papers described Yvette as specializing in fragile characters, which is a nice way of putting it. She and Carol Lynley seemed to play the same type of roles in the '60s.
Also, seeing your recap of her early roles made me realize that Yvette really got the build up in the early '60s.

Yvette Mimieux's passing was a bit of a jolt, as you say, because she was healthy and 80 is not so old today. But the same thing happened to another January birthday girl, Jessica Walter, who died in her sleep at 80, last March.
Take care, I'm getting so that hate to even click on the news in the morning lately!

VictorG said...

What a lovely tribute to a radiant star. I grew up watching Yvette Mimieux on tv and in films, she was an ubiquitous star in my youth. Since I was a big fan of Dr. Kildare, I remember well her stint on that show with one of the handsomest men on the planet. I never pegged her or her characters as a "dumb blonde" because there was so much more going on in her eyes and in her acting choices.

Where The Boys Are and Light in the Piazza are two of her films I like to watch again, particularly because of the casts. I definitely need to rewatch The Black Hole and to see her with Simon MacCorkindale in the film she wrote, Obsessive Love. Who wasn't in love with that hunk? I think one of the reasons Yvette may qualify for membership in the Disaster Movie Club was her hairstyle and hair color in Disaster on the Coastliner; who convinced her to trade in her sunny blonde locks for that ugly brunette helmet? Oy, talk about a disaster.

I'm happy to know that Yvette Mimieux found fulfillment away from the screen and contentment in a loving relationship. Her poor husband must be devastated as she was undoubtedly the center of his life. She was gracious and beautiful right to the end, and that's a fine achievement. Thanks again for a comprehensive and sweet tribute to a bright star, Poseidon.

Dan said...

They do say celebrity deaths come in threes - so we have Betty White, Yvette, and, uh, Meat Loaf?
Other than “Time Machine” and “Boys”, don’t think I’ve seen anything else with her in it. I, too was surprised to learn she had been married to Donen.
Thanks for yet another sweet tribute.

hsc said...

I'm sorry to hear of Yvette Mimieux's passing; I always liked her, even kind of had a crush on her for a while when I was in elementary school.

Even though I saw her in THE TIME MACHINE and (of course) WHERE THE BOYS ARE, the two-part episode of DR. KILDARE is actually my main memory of her.

I was still quite young and her demise at the end of the episode shocked me, since I was too young to pick up on "Let's see: beautiful headstrong epileptic surfer girl who won't listen to her doctor's advice-- where do you suppose THIS is going?"

As I recall, she is even briefly shown lifeless underwater after having a seizure while surfing and drowning. It really upset me for days-- like I said, I sort of had a crush and didn't expect to see her die.

Years later, when JOY IN THE MORNING turned up on TV and my Mom asked if I'd like to watch it with her, I passed. Even though Mom assured me she wasn't going to drown in this one, I wasn't taking any chances with a re-teaming with Richard Chamberlain.

Another one of her films that sticks in my head is THE PICASSO SUMMER, which I must've seen on The CBS Late Movie sometime in the '70s, because it apparently wasn't released theatrically in this country.

Mostly what I remember is the ironic ending, where the couple give up after trying to meet up with Pablo Picasso for the whole movie, and leave to go home without noticing a man down the beach from them making fantastic drawings in the sand, which are being washed away by the waves...

And even though I only saw it the one time, I can *still* hum that theme song by Michel Legrand.

Thanks for this remembrance of a lovely lady!

Dean W. said...

A wonderful, touching tribute for a lady of class, and glamour. Thank you, Poseidon!

A said...

Thanks for another great post, Poseidon.

I was never a huge fan of Mimiex, but I think the only thing I really remember her from was The Time Machine. I didn't know she'd been married to Stanley Donen, and that somehow changes my view of her. She had a bigger career than I thought and I'll look for more of her movies.


joel65913 said...

Argh!! Make it stop already!! All my beloved niche (and some not so niche) actresses are leaving the stage in disturbingly high numbers.

I worry for Joanna Barnes, Nancy Kovack, Barbara Rhoades, Pat Crowley, Linda Kaye Henning, Audrey Dalton, my beloved Tuesday Weld and so many of those lovely temporarily ubiquitous ladies of the 60's/70's and beyond.

I audibly grasped when I saw the news about Yvette's passing. I had noticed on the 8th of this month that she was celebrating her 80th birthday and on a whim looked to see if she had anything streaming that I hadn't seen and came across "Night Partners". It wasn't great but neither was it terrible and it reminded me of what a pleasing, classy lady she was.

I always thought she had one of the really great Movie Star names and was surprised to find that it was her real one and that she was born in Hollywood! It seemed to be destined that she would enter film.

Most people's first exposure to her is either The Time Machine (which I like) or Where the Boys Are (which I LOVE) but for me it was the TV version of Death Takes a Holiday which I caught as a youngin' on the Movie of the Week! It's missing the mystically unsettling vibe of the original but with Myrna Loy, Melvyn Douglas and Monte Markham along with Yvette it has plenty to entertain.

While her vehicles were often unworthy of her serene dignified presence she did manage to appear in some good films outside of her two most famous.

I recently saw The Caper of the Golden Bulls and was delighted with it and mystified by its obscurity. A heist flick with beautiful Technicolor location shooting in Pamplona, a clever not overly complicated plot sprinkled with humor, two ravishing leading ladies, Yvette and Giovanni Ralli, Stephen Boyd taking his shirt off at the drop of a hat all set to a jaunty score. It's a real hidden gem.

She was quite touching in both Light in the Piazza and Toys in the Attic and Platinum High School was much gritter than I expected based on that title! And very fetching in Joy in the Morning.

I'm glad that she found a happy marriage and a role in society that she seemed so suited for. I'm sad that she's gone but her passing was swift and peaceful which is a blessing.

Gingerguy said...

So glad I checked your blog today! I was sad to hear of her passing, and love the photos of her as an older lady, she was so pretty. She is alwasy Weena to me and coincedentally I tried to watch "The Black Hole" last night, dvd was not cooperating for some reason-I had forgotten she was in that. I loved "Diamond Head" for its soapiness and "Light In The Piazza" for its oddness. ONe of your brilliant readers above mentioned Carol Lynley. They were both slightly haunting blondes, a bit ethereal. I had remembered a spooky tv movie I had seen as a kid and looked it up on IMDB. "Black Noon" is a witchy western and she really stuck in my head in that for about 40 years. The hits are coming fast and furious lately with celebrity passings but it's good to acknowledge the life and work of each one. Awesome job here

Unknown said...

A great article. I always learn something that never knew what I wanted to know... and I have to admit I knew very little about Yvette Mimieux's career. My knowledge of her starts at one of my favorite movies "Where The Boys Are" but then doesn't pick up again until "Jackson County Jail," with virtually nothing in between! It's good to hear she had a mostly gratifying film and tv career and afterlife. She seemed to not shy away from material that was considered "hot stuff" such as being a rape victim in WTBA. I found Jackson County Jail, like much of Roger Cormon's 70's-80's AIP or New World output, hard to watch. It's like putting your hand over your eyes but watching through the spaces between your fingers. Despicable people doing terrible things with no guarantee of a happy outcome and on a low budget. I have always been fascinated with Hollywood stars that, regardless of past or present status in the industry, dip their toe (or dive right in) to the seamier side of movies, that of drive-in exploitation... so many have done it, and why? I think that would make for an interesting read.
-- Fritzthatsit (the Grant Williams fan)

Chuck K. said...

Thanks for the great story on a very lovely lady.
So good in "Tiger Tiger" Kildare episode. Surprized that "Three in the Attic" beat out "Wild in the Streets" and the "Beach Party" epics as most successful of AIP's '60s output. Will always remember Yvette aimlessly walking down The Boulevard amid honking cars on a summer Fort Lauderdale night in "Where the Boys Are".

Poseidon3 said...

Hello, my loves... The first thing I want to say is that I came here not long after this post went up and replied to each person who commented in one of my typically lengthy responses... but I see now that it's gone! It didn't actually become applied. So I'm very sorry if anyone felt ignored. It may have been too long a comment and I got out of the window without realizing it. So sorry... I do read every comment and usually try to remark on each one. I'll be more careful in the future.