RIP Yvette Mimieux (1942-2022)

During the end of the classic era, where many new faces were gracing the screen, Yvette Mimieux was one of the best of her class. She was sweet and fresh-faced, yet something about her seemed to represent the new era of films that was to follow. Maybe this is because many of the movies that Mimieux starred in pushed the envelope for the time, while still being regarded as films of classic cinema. Mimieux started her film career when she was still a teenager, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that she was a native of Hollywood. Even though she grew up in the film capital, however, Mimieux had to be discovered for movies just like most other actresses. It was legendary director Vincente Minnelli who spotted her in a play and cast her in his modern take on the western, Home from the Hill (1960). Those of you who have seen the movie, however, are probably wondering where she was in that film. While Minnelli was her discoverer, her scenes ended up being cut before the final release. While this might have been upsetting for the young actress, MGM was nonetheless impressed with her and decided to give her a contract.

Mimieux’s credited film debut would be Platinum High School (1960), which was not as worthy of a new talent as Home from the Hill would have been, but it did have a good cast. Mimieux was also flexing her acting muscles on TV, but what really stood out at the time was her second credited role in the now classic sci-fi The Time Machine (1960) (a favorite of ours). While Mimieux doesn’t show up until a good way into the movie and it would have been easy to get swept up in the effects, she was very memorable as Weena – a girl from the future who lives in a society where people just exist, no empathy or thirst for knowledge. The part required someone youthful and new to the screen to really hit its mark and Mimieux was ideally paired with the very handsome Rod Taylor, in one of his best roles. With the triumph of The Time Machine, Mimieux followed it up with another hit, Where the Boys Are (1960). Her role in it, while innocent, was a far cry from Weena, as Mimieux idealizes her spring break vacation to Florida with her friends – thinking she’ll meet the man of her dreams.

Mimieux’s next film offered her likely her best performance. It was Light in the Piazza (1962) (another favorite of ours) where Mimieux’s innocent look is once again used to an advantage. She plays the mentally challenged daughter of an equally great Olivia de Havilland, who ends up falling in love with George Hamilton while on vacation in Italy. de Havilland is then caught between trying to give her daughter her chance of happiness and honesty. The film, while boosting a beautiful location, had enough plot and talent to compliment it and make it more than just scenic fluff, like what was constantly being made at the time. Light in the Piazza was, indeed, something special. Mimieux’s next role after her tour de force was a supporting role in The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1962), a remake of the 1921 classic. Mimieux had another supporting role in the charming The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm (1962) in “The Dancing Princess” segment of the film where she dances and is romanced by Russ Tamblyn.

It was back to more dramatic things with Diamond Head (1963) where Mimieux had a bigger role than her last two installments, where she was romantically paired with James Darren. The main couple of the film, however, was Charlton Heston and France Nuyen. Mimieux’s next role was the Tennessee Williams’s drama Toys in the Attic (1963) where she was paired with the handsome Dean Martin and her mother was played by Gene Tierney, but Geraldine Page and Wendy Hiller had the most interesting roles in that one. Mimieux’s next string of films weren’t as promising as her first ones, but her being there and the pairs she made with her leading men were always nice contributions.

She had a quick guest appearance as herself in Looking for Love (1964) where she’s only on for a second in a film that could have used more of her. The next films were Joy in the Morning (1965) and The Reward (1965) where she was linked with Richard Chamberlain and Max von Sydow, but the films were below their talents. Mimieux took a lighter route with the Disney live action film Monkeys, Go Home! (1967) with Maurice Chevalier and Dean Jones. It wasn’t as good as Disney’s other films starring Jones, but who could resist Mimieux and Jones together (at last)? After being in one of the many heist films of the ‘60s, The Caper of the Golden Bulls (1967) and a TV version of “The Desperate Hours” with George Segal and Teresa Wright, Mimieux was back to her original form when she was repaired with Rod Taylor. The flick was the hard-hitting action film Dark of the Sun (1968), which Inglorious Basterds (2009) owes more than a little to. At the end of the classic era, Mimieux worked in two more movies – one with Christopher Jones (Three in the Attic (1968)) and another with Albert Finney (The Picasso Summer (1969)), but Dark of the Sun was the real last triumph of Mimieux in the classic era.

Mimieux kept making films and TV appearances through the ‘70s and ‘80s, including the remake of the 1943 film Journey Into Fear (1975), which, despite its great cast, wasn’t as good. Mimieux also got to be memorably paired opposite Gene Kelly in a two part episode of The Love Boat and was in one of the Perry Mason TV movies of the ‘90s, which are critically acclaimed. Her finest work, however, was always what she gave at the beginning of her career when films were still in a golden age. While Mimieux represents the end of the era, she is still nonetheless a member of the golden era of films in the truest sense, which is why she was so well regarded by old Hollywood fans.

~Bianca

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