Perkins engaged to Dean Stockwell: SHE NO LONGER HAS TO PRETEND
By Jane Ardmore
Photo play magazine, December, 1959
Millie Perkins is an ordinary enough name.
Millie Perkins was an ordinary enough girl until January of 1958, when -
against odds of 10,233 to 1 - she won the role of Anne Frank. She'd only
tried for the part when 20th Century-Fox insisted she at least TRY. She
hadn't wanted to be an actress, and she didn't care if she won or not. But
she had won, and in February she'd gone to Hollywood.
With only one suitcase, she'd stepped
off the train. A thin girl in a rumpled blouse and skirt, with dark knee
socks, she'd peered nervously and near-sightedly around her. There were so
many people hurrying around the station; so many strangers - and they all
seemed to know exactly where they were going. She wondered if she'd ever know
just where she was going. What am I doing here? She asked herself. She didn't
know what it all meant - what it would mean. And, of course, she had no idea
that here was where she would find herself as a person, that here was where
she'd finally find love . . .
Later that day, as she ran across the
studio lot to have her first stills taken she felt even more bewildered.
"Bring six changes," the voice on the telephone had said, and
Millie'd laughed nervously to herself. Since she'd just arrived on the Coast
that morning, she didn't HAVE six changes. So she was going, dressed just as
she'd been on the train that morning - in her white blouse, her favorite
ribbed wool socks, and a loose-fitting green corduroy jacket.
It was a clear gray day with a gentle
wind and a hint of rain, and that made her think wistfully of home in
Fairlawn, New Jersey. In a day like this, she would lean out of her bedroom
window and see the birch and maple trees, the Chinese fruit trees, and watch
the breeze ruffling the branches. There was always so much going on at home,
she thought nostalgically, and she was always a part of it. She remembered
how her sisters - Janet, Christine, Anne Marie, and Cathy - were always
cooking and sewing, how someone was always at the phone or the piano. She
remembered, with affection, all the excitement when Papa, who was a first
mate with Bull Lines, came home from sea - all of them rushing to welcome
But the sky was higher here, there
was no scent of fruit, and she was running between great square cream-colored
concrete barns she'd been told were sound stages. Hollywood! And she was
alone for the first time in her life.
"Hi, Millie! Been to wardrobe
already? You look pretty good in those Anne Frank clothes!" It was
George Stevens Jr., the associate producer, a nice-looking fellow with a
friendly smile, who'd hailed her and was now falling into step beside her.
She smiled impishly at him.
"These aren't Anne's clothes, they're mine. They're the kind I always
wore in New York."
He looked at her in surprise.
"But you were a top model, Millie!"
"That doesn't mean I wore fancy
clothes. The photographers were only interested in my face." It was only
an accident she'd been a model anyway, she remembered. A friend of
Christine's had taken some pictures of her one night, and sent them to a modelling
agency. And from then on, she'd been one of New York's busiest models.
"I didn't like modelling too much," she went on, beginning to feel
very much at home with George.
"It was too hectic. I need some
quiet" - she tried to explain - "I like to know who I am."
"And you've come to
The exclamation hung in the air.
"I must stop in make-up,"
she said softly, running away from George Stevens Jr., who belonged here and
wasn't a bit afraid.
She edged into the room so quietly,
no one heard her.
"Hello, Mr. Nye," she
blurted out, climbing quickly into the high leather chair as if she were
about to have a tooth pulled. Ben Nye, the make-up man, studied her for a
moment. Dark hair pulled back and tucked out of the way, enormous gray-green
eyes, thick black lashes, and a small, pink mouth.
She eyed herself uncertainly in the
mirror. IF HE TRIES TO MAKE ME LOOK GLAMOROUS, I'LL JUST LOOK SILLY, she
thought in dismay.
But she was relieved at the
appearance of director George Stevens in the mirror beside her. A big man
with a quiet voice; he made her feel at ease. "She looks just fine,
Ben," Mr. Stevens said.
"We picked Millie, in the first place,
because she looks like a fourteen-year-old girl."
Then, turning to her, he said,
"Leave your hair down for the cocktail party, Millie. When we start
rehearsing, we can try it both ways."
The cocktail party! She didn't know
how she'd get through it. She stood there next to Mr. Stevens. He had invited
all the press to meet her. And what on earth could she ever say to them?
The press began asking questions. She
found the first question easy. "No, I'm not at all sure I want to stay
in Hollywood. In fact, I'm not at all sure I want to be an actress."
Everyone laughed. This disturbed her. She wondered whether she should have
March: I'll never be able to act, Millie
thought despairingly. She virtually lived on the set these days.
"You have expressive hands,
Millie, wonderful hands," Joseph Schildkraut
told her one morning. The great Schildkraut! She
thought. And for the next few days she was so self-conscious of her hands,
that she didn't use them at all but held both arms awkwardly straight at her
Ed Wynn helped. He'd take her and
Diane Baker and Dick Beymer aside and tell them stories, funny stories, while
Nina Foch talked of such mysterious new things as callisthenics, relaxation,
"Control, technique," she
would say in her beautiful voice, "is what frees the little angel in
each actor to express freely." But Millie
would only feel all the more lost and
bewildered and answer: "But I'm not an actress."
"Every girl is an actress,"
Director Stevens would tell her. "She's just got to loosen up and
So she'd try. But after long, hard
hours of rehearsal, she'd cry exasperated, "I can't even get across the
room without bumping into a chair. I'm just a CATASTROPHE."
"You're not fat enough to be a
catastrophe," Stevens would answer genially.
But still the feeling persisted. She
felt like a scared little girl when she started the scene with Dick Beymer -
the one in which she was to ask him if he'd ever been kissed. But she was
surprised. The scene wasn't so hard. She could understand the part…after all
she was a teenager herself and she'd dreamed about romance just as every girl
She relaxed a little more, too, when
she found Dick Beymer was almost as scared as she was.
The day George Stevens took the crew
in to watch the rushes, she'd been in agony, wishing that she could do each
scene over again! She'd sat unhappily through the discussion of the scenes.
Then she'd walked away from the projection room fast, eager to get home and
get away from it all.
"Hi, Garbo," George Jr.
called out, slowing down his car and opening the door. "Come on, I'll
take you home."
She slid into the front seat,
fighting back tears.
"You're coming along, you
know," he said sincerely. "Really beginning to unfold."
She looked at him gratefully. He'd
been such a good friend to her. He makes me forget all my problems, she
April: I'm so lonesome and homesick,
Millie thought achingly. It was a Wednesday evening in early April, and she'd
curled up in a big chair with "The Sea Around Us." Her hair was in
curlers and she still had cream on her face and her dinner was cooking in the
kitchen. But she couldn't put Anne Frank out of her mind. It's the old
problem again, she said to herself. She knew that she
wasn't a good actress yet. Director
Stevens had been patient. He was saving the big scenes; she knew that,
waiting for her to grow to them. But
would she be able to? There was one scene she'd dreaded most of all - one
with Ed Wynn - where, because of her hate and resentment toward him, she had
to fight and cry. Hardest of all, it was to cry. She had tried it so often,
but the tears wouldn't come. Should she try it again?
She got up and got the script from
her bedroom. A letter from her father fell out from between the pages.
Slowly, she picked it up and sat down again, re-reading the words for the
"Millie, if you can't eat a
great deal, at least sleep," Papa'd written worriedly. These were the
first letters she'd ever received just for herself from Papa. Always before,
he'd written to Mama, with a line or so to each child. But now he was writing
to her as if she were all grown-up.
He'd tell her how the stevedores were
so interested in her career, bringing him the news items they'd find in the
papers, and that he'd seen her picture in a magazine in the Honduras. And
always news of the family that she was so hungry for. News about Janet and
the four children in Georgia and about Christine's marriage and about how delighted
Anne Marie was about expecting a baby. He'd write that Cathy wondered how it
felt to be a movie star. And he'd tell her that Jimmie
was going around pretending that he
wasn't a bit impressed that his sister Millie was acting in a movie - even
though he was secretly so proud of her.
Suddenly the doorbell rang,
interrupting her thoughts. "Who
in the world knows where I live?" she said half-aloud. Then
seeing her face in the mirror, she
realized she still had the curlers in her hair and the cream on her face. She
couldn't answer the door looking like this. But the bell rang again. She had
no time to fix up.
"Millie, we want your
autograph," they chorused - a dozen teenagers, bubbling with good
"How about a picture,
Millie?" one pony tailed, blonde girl asked her, holding up a camera.
"Looking like this?" she
gasped, pointing to the curlers. They laughed, too, at this. She wrote her
name in each book, and with
choruses of goodbyes, they left her.
Closing the door, she leaned against
it. They'd asked her for her autograph. They thought she was somebody. They
believed in her. She couldn't let them down now.
Settling down in the chair again,
with the script-book in front of her, she thought, They'll never know how
much they've helped me. Then, through eyes misted with tears, she started to
read again, the beginning words of the scene.
And the next day, she played the
scene almost easily. George Stevens told her she was fine, so did Joseph
Schildkraut, and Nina Foch said, "Why don't you come home to my
apartment for dinner? I feel like spending the evening with a few people I
Millie started to shake her head. The
only times she REALLY wanted to go out, was when nobody asked her, and she
was all by herself at home. But then she caught a look of disappointment in
Nina's face, and she
said, "I'd love to."
It was a very small,
spur-of-the-moment supper party, but still Millie felt a little awkward, a
little shy. She ate, and a moment later she couldn't have told herself what
she'd eaten. Then, after dinner, a boy she'd noticed across the room came
over to her and smiled. "Hello," he said, "I'm Dean
"I'm Millie Perkins."
"I know." His voice was
very soft, very low.
Why, I think he's shy, she thought,
looking at him and wondering why. Because, certainly, he was very handsome.
She had recognized him – he was a "little person," as she called
someone without pretensions, someone simple and open and direct - and almost
as quiet as she herself was. I LIKE him, she decided, I really do.
But then the party was over and the
night was over and she was back at work on the set, working as hard as she
knew how to get Anne just right - to BE Anne. She almost forgot about the
quiet, dark boy she'd met the night before.
But he hadn't forgotten her. She was
washing her hair under the faucet, when she thought she heard the phone ring.
Why does the phone ALWAYS ring at times like this? She wondered, as she
lifted her head to listen. It was the phone, all right.
Wrapping a towel around her hair -
with the shampoo still in it – she walked over and picked up the receiver.
"Hello?" she said.
"Hello! Isn't it a lovely day? I
thought you mightn't be home at first, when you didn't answer right off. This
is Dean Stockwell."
"Oh." She didn't know what
to say, and so neither one of them said anything for some moments.
Then: "Would you like to go for
"A drive? Why - why, I think I'd
like that," she said. "But you'd better not come for an hour or so.
I can't be ready till then." And
she added quickly, "I've just
washed my hair, you see," so that he wouldn't think she was one of those
girls who primped and everything.
And so they drove off into the
Hollywood hills, looking for signs of spring. It was a lovely afternoon. It was
the first time Millie had
really been happy in Hollywood, and
after she was home alone again, she wondered why she'd been so happy.
Maybe it's because he's so quiet, so
nice. Or maybe it's because music seems to be one of the biggest things in
his life; music and books and nature. Then looking at herself in the mirror,
she smiled. Maybe it's because he's like me, she admitted, and she smiled
May: "I'll always be a nobody,"
Millie thought in anguish. Standing in a dark spot just off the sound stage,
she patted cologne on her hot forehead, rubbed hand cream on her perspiring
"Millie! Millie Perkins!"
They were calling her. It was time to shoot the scene again. She hurried
toward the tiny-lighted set in the middle of the vast dark sound stage. She
caught herself tripping over one of the big cables coiled on the floor. She
was ALWAYS stumbling over something. But today more than ever. Today she had
to do the scene with Ed Wynn that she'd been dreading for so long. They'd run
through it a dozen times already. She'd been dull, flat, and wooden each
"Ho ho, Millie. You know why they
called Anne FRANK?" Ed Wynn chuckled, helping her through the
light-stands that edged the set.
"Don't start joking," she
implored him. "That's all I need. I'll die!"
"A little joke is good. Did you
ever hear the one about . . ."
He cocked his head so comically, she
laughed before he'd even reached the punch line. Then he told another and she
forgot her stomach pangs.
"Ready?" George Stevens
asked. He settled down in his chair, the tips of his fingers together. Millie
and Ed Wynn were still laughing as they took their places in the small space.
In that instant, Ed Wynn's face
changed. He started arguing with her. She heard, she argued back, answering
him, forgetting herself, forgetting the problems of acting. She was fighting
against a difficult, critical adult, for the right to be happy. Tears rushed suddenly
over her little face. She cried; she sobbed.
Then the scene was over. She saw the
pleased look on Director Stevens' face. She saw George Jr. was winking and
nodding. Good heavens - acting was just like life. How simple! You just had
to react to someone!
She ran to Ed Wynn and kissed him.
"You are the loveliest man I've ever met in my whole life," she
"You see, you stopped being
unhappy, you stopped worrying. You were unhappy for nothing." He lowered
his voice and said seriously. "Never waste time on unhappiness, little
Millie. There is no time for it."
Dancing in her excitement, she ran to
George Jr. and joined him for the coffee break. "You see, Millie, you're
actually enjoying it now," he said teasingly.
He was right, Millie realized. She
That wasn't all she loved. She loved
life. She loved Hollywood. And she loved being with Dean. They'd dated
constantly ever since they'd met. In fact, Mille told herself one day, I
guess I'm going STEADY. Neither she nor Dean had dated anyone else since
Nina's party. I'm so glad I went, she thought.
Then she stopped still in the middle
of the street. What if I HADN'T gone? But she wouldn't even face that
horrible thought. She was on her way to pick up some bread for sandwiches.
Dean was taking her to Malibu pier to fish.
On the other side of them was a young
couple just about their age. They were surrounded by their children - five stair
steps - one of them in a lunch basket. Millie looked at the couple and their
children, and then at Dean. "I think it's wonderful," she
whispered. "They seem so happy - but - "
"But YOU wouldn't be happy that
"Oh, I would! But not so soon,
not now," she said softly.
And, as softly, he answered, "I
know." He took her hand, giving it a gentle squeeze.
She looked at him again. He DOES
know, she thought, and somehow his knowing made her happier than she'd ever
thought she could be.
June: "I'm not really shy at
all," Millie thought. She and Dick Beymer had just finished rehearsing
the last scene. Often before, they'd heard the green police wagon come
shrieking through the streets, coming closer and closer, then passing . . .. They
were safe again. This time, she and Dick had stood close together, hearing it
shriek closer and closer. And somehow they'd known that this time it wouldn't
pass. Without a word, they'd held each other very close, promising to wait
forever . . .
Everyone on the set was crying.
Millie looked around her in surprise - she'd forgotten herself. She'd done
all these emotional scenes in front of all these people She remembered how,
in high school, she'd wanted so badly to try out for the school play - but
try out in front of all those kids?
Later, over coffee, she told Dean
about it. "I guess my biggest problem has been that I love life - and
that I was barricading myself against it because I was so scared and
frightened. And now, from acting, I've discovered I'm not scared any
He leaned over and grinned at her.
"Going to be an actress, Millie?"
Going to be an actress? Yes, she was.
She was going to learn as much as they could teach her. That's why she'd let
Dean take her to Robert Blake's workshop. But now she felt like running away
again. Standing there, watching the director bring out all the talented young
people in that long room, she felt she didn't belong. And, after all, Dean
had been an actor since he was a child, and he'd just come from a stage production
of "Compulsion." He - and nearly everyone else in that room - were
professionals with years of training behind them.
Then, Sandra Knight, Millie's new
roommate, and she started working on a skit together. As soon as they
started, Millie was all right again. She forgot her fears and started to live
the part as she'd been doing on Anne Frank. I DO belong, she thought gladly.
I'm an actress too.
She looked over at Dean. He was
smiling. He looked so proud of her. And she sat down quickly. Why, I'm in
love, she thought, realizing for the first time why she was so happy.
After class, she and Dean went for
coffee with all the other kids, but she scarcely heard them. She noticed that
Dean seemed far away, too, and when she walked out of the coffee shop with
him, she discovered why.
"Millie," he said, turning
and looking into her eyes, "has it happened to you, too?"
She didn't have to ask what he meant.
"Yes," she whispered.
"Forever?" he asked.
"Forever," she told him.
And she knew from that moment on, that it would be, even though he didn't
give her the plain platinum ring – with two leaves encircling a single
diamond - until two months later in August, when she came home from a month
of publicizing "Anne Frank" in Europe, even though they didn't
announce their engagement until September.
"We'll be married in June if you
like," Dean said, looking down at her.
"I know girls are supposed to
like that month best of all."
Millie smiled. "Any month would
be the best month, but June will be just fine." Then, suddenly, she was
Dean bent down, trying to comfort
her. "Millie - what did I do? What did I say?"
Shaking her head, she whispered,
"Nothing, nothing. It's just that I'm so happy, it scares me . . ."
For a moment she stood there looking
up at him. And just as suddenly as she started to cry, she began to smile.
There was nothing to be scared about. Everything was going to be wonderful.
She just knew it!
MILLIE'S IN 20TH'S "THE DIARY OF
ANNE FRANK." DEAN'S IN 20TH'S "SONS AND LOVERS."