by Della Thomas
Modern Screen, June 1959
No one in Hollywood understood Millie Perkins . . . . She never went to a party. She was never seen on a date with a boy. They felt sorry for her. She was the loneliest, strangest little girl they'd ever seen. How could they know she was treasuring a delicious secret . . . . For months she carried the secret deep in her heart . . . a secret so full of fear and wonder that she spoke of it to no one but the drifting swans . . . but her heart was burning, bursting to tell the world . . . Millie's secret!
Millie's secret is love, and the boy she loves is Dean Stockwell.
Millie and Dean have been inseparable since they met, many months ago. At that time, Millie was in the middle of making Anne Frank, and had not been seeing anyone at all, but leading the quietest of lives. Frightened by the responsibility of handling a star role without acting experience, she kept to herself.
Before Dean came into her life, she received many invitations from young fellows in Hollywood. As the "new girl" in Hollywood, she could have been rushed off her feet. Every young guy in Hollywood wanted to take her out. She said no very wistfully to them all and retreated to her little apartment, eating frozen food dinners every night when she could have been dining in the nicest restaurants in town opposite a young man who could tell her how lovely she was. Dick Sargent asked to take her out – he's a nice guy, but she said no. He promised it would be only for dinner and he'd get her home early; still she said no. Barry Coe, Dwayne Hickman, loads of guys tried to date her; to all of them, her demure no.
The only person who meant anything to her was George Stevens, her director. He was like a father to her – maybe the only man she felt she could lean on because she scarcely knew her own father, who was away from home all the time. She respected Stevens, listened to him and knew he understood her. She had Christmas dinner at his home – wore her one and only dress-up dress, a black velvet sheath. Let his son, George Stevens, Jr., pick her up and take her home, but there were no sparks between her and Stevens, Jr. Hollywood, anxious to tie Millie up with a young man, puzzled by her nun-like life, tried to tie her up with Stevens, Jr. There was nothing to it. George, Jr., was working for his father on the picture, had lunch with Millie in the commissary, but as she said, "We didn't fall in love, not anywhere near it."
When Stevens (Sr.) told Millie one day that he thought it would be a good idea if she'd go to the small dinner party at Nina Foch's house, that Nina was a fine actress and might be able to help her, she finally agreed to go. Millie would never go to a party, but if her director wanted her to, she would go for his sake.
Millie went alone, wearing her typical costume, blue wool skirt and white blouse; no make-up except mascara on her enormous green eyes.
Dean Stockwell was at the party. Everyone sat around and talked, mostly about acting, theater, etc. Millie was very quiet, said nothing. But Dean – who most people think is a moody introvert – was very talkative that night. He was very positive about everything, argued with everyone. She thought he was wonderful – such a definite personality, out of the ordinary. When she drove home – alone – that night, she found herself thinking of him.
She was too shy to ask Nina about him; even to mention his name to George Stevens. One evening shortly afterwards when she reported for her first drama class given in a cellar by young actor-teacher Robert Blake, her heart leaped. There, in the group, was Dean. Dean jumped up when he saw her. After the class, they went out for coffee, sat for hours. Millie – the lonely little girl who was never seen on a date with a boy. The flame started to kindle. She wore her usual outfit; the same hairstyle in a mop, pale face, magnificent eyes that burned in her small, thin face.
They saw each other again the following Thursday night at Blake's class; Dean and Millie immediately paired off and went to a little Russian restaurant for Beef Strogonoff and Dean talked for hours. Dean began to tell her about himself – his days as a child star; his rebellion against Hollywood; the time he took off and worked as a common laborer in Mexico; his views on acting, on the world, on people. He'd never been in love – or it seemed that he never had, he told Millie, now that he knew her. Millie saw something in Dean no other girl had ever seen – a man to lean on. Dean's such a confused, outspoken rebel that no one has ever thought of him that way, as a person of stability. This was the first time in Dean's life that a girl looked at him with such open admiration, loved him as a woman loves a man because of his strength. Millie's a troubled girl, confused; she worries a lot. She began telling Dean all of her problems; her doubts and fears about her career; her loneliness, her feelings about her family, about herself. And Dean found himself opening his heart to this girl.
They Kept Their Secret
Shortly afterwards, Dean had to leave Robert Blake's Cellar Group, because Blake didn't want to take on any experienced actors like Dean. Millie, as a novice actress, remained. But by this time, Dean and Millie didn't need the Cellar group to bring them together; they had each other. They were going together. They realized each needed the other; they were quietly, firmly in love. But they kept their secret from the world.
Everyone had been trying to get Millie out of her shell; Dean is the only one who loves her exactly as she is and is not trying to change her. Dean likes to dress well, but he's never tried to tell her to dress DIFFERENTLY. She wears the same skirt and blouse (either white or a print) all the time. And the same car coat flung over her shoulders.
Dean had a birthday party just the other day. Millie went to his apartment a few hours earlier and cleaned up, fixed the hors d'oeuvres, cooled the champagne, got the cake, had everything ready. Dean's parents were at the party, his brother Guy and his wife, a couple of people from Playhouse 90. The other girls were dressed up. Dean kissed Millie and said, "That's my girl – she looks different from any other girl. She IS different."
He goes along with her moods, her tastes, everything; he understands her. Millie was thrilled one day when she learned that her friend Larry Schiller knew the caretaker of the Huntington Hartford Estates – a large, secluded, hillside estate of many acres in the Hollywood hills. Larry introduced her to the caretaker, and she asked to be allowed to come inside the estate sometimes so that she could lie on the grass for hours, by herself, and read. This is her idea of great fun. She told Dean about it, and instead of laughing at her, he said, "I'd like to go with you." Now they both go there often, just by themselves, lie on the grass, read books to each other, Millie resting her head in the crook of Dean's arm. Or sometimes they just talk or stay there silently, just the two of them.
Dean Watches Over Her
They call each other HONEY, and DARLING; she usually calls him STOCK. He loves to call her POOPSIE and often refers to her possessively as THE BETTER HALF OF ME.
After work, they always meet and have dinner together – either in a small dimly-lit Russian restaurant on the Sunset Strip, or in Dean's apartment, and Millie always seems to have an accumulation of problems to pour out to Dean. "The studio is having a red evening gown made up for me to wear to the premiere of Anne Frank," she wept one evening recently. They were sitting close together in a booth in a little restaurant, Dean's arm around her, her head on his shoulder. "I don't want that dress; they'll make it too dressy, and I'm not the dressy type. I'm too thin to wear it without sleeves. It won't look good. If they make it WITH sleeves, it will be too much dress for me. I'll look AWFUL in it." She was getting more distraught by the minute – a small problem, but in Millie an overwhelming grievance.
Dean held her close, kissed her forehead tenderly. "Look, POOPSIE," he said calmly. "Let the studio make it. It won't cost you a dime. Then if you don't like it, you don't have to wear it. I'm taking you to the premiere, either way, and there won't be any other girl at the premiere who'll come near you."
She calmed down.
One thing he's trying to do is get her to eat more. She'd be satisfied with a graham cracker for dinner. She hates to eat; is oblivious to food; has no feeling for it. Before Dean came into her life, she saw nothing wrong with eating a frozen food dinner every night, or going to any hamburger place and munching on a cheese sandwich or hamburger while reading a book. Now dinners mean something, because they're the start of the evening with Dean. Little restaurants – intimacy between them. Dean tells the waiter, "A junior steak for her," and kids her into eating most of it.
They spend many evenings in his house or hers, sitting on the floor, listening to records – he has a collection of the old masters, and of jazz. She lives in a mediocre, furnished house in Hollywood with Sandra Knight, a red-haired, beautiful, bouncing young actress (exactly opposite of her) and Dean often comes there, and they listen to music, hold hands and think about the future.
After Dean leaves her for the evening, he always calls her up when he gets back to his apartment and they talk for hours.
They like to do simple things – walking through the Hartford Estates; going to Santa Monica pier or Paradise Cove pier in Malibu – as long as it's not dress up . . . as long as they're together.
Dean is a fighter when it comes to his work; he fought with the directors in Compulsion to do the role as he saw it; fought with them in Playhouse 90. He seems to know what he wants. Dean wants to be boss in everything. Millie loves this.
They are deeply in love. These are two unusual young people who need each other desperately; two unique souls who have found each other. Millie, for the first time, has found a boy she loves who doesn't laugh at the way she dresses, doesn't try to change her; a boy she feels she can lean on.
Dean, always a non-conformist, always a rebel, a guy who found his whole personality disturbed by his experience as a kid actor, who was fed up with everything and everyone – this boy understands Millie as no other young man can, and loves her. He knows most people think he's a nut. Millie thinks he's the strongest guy alive.
They'd both like to get married, but this isn't the time.
Millie hesitates to marry now because she doesn't think her mother, who is Catholic, would approve of Dean, who is not Catholic. Besides, she leaves soon for Europe for several months of personal appearances with the various premieres of Anne Frank, then leaves for Israel for many, many months to make The Greatest Story Ever Told. She'll play Mary.
But in the meanwhile, they're inseparable. This is a strong, deep love – two kids who don't fall in love easily have fallen for each other. Their love will endure.
Millie is appearing in The Diary of Anne Frank for 20th Fox; Dean is in Compulsion for 20th.