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Frank Sinatra's Wives (Part 3)

Updated on September 17, 2017

Meeting Mia

Mia Farrow was born into Hollywood royalty: her father was the film director John Farrow and her mother was Maureen O'Sullivan, a star of the 1930s Tarzan movies. By the time she encountered Frank, Mia was the 19-year-old star of the soap opera Peyton Place. The show was shot at the same studios (20th Century Fox) as Von Ryan's Express and Mia was hanging around the set in a translucent dress when Frank spotted her. The attraction was mutual. He was intrigued by her purity and she was bowled over by his charisma. "I liked him instantly", she said later. "He rings true, he is what it is": When Mia accepted an offer of a weekend at his house in Palm Springs, the romance between the hipster and the hippie began.

She was the opposite of the women who usually attracted him: skinny ("my measurements are 20-20-20"), unimpressed by wealth, interested in mysticism and yoga, and as fresh as a flower. Frank was amused by and protective of her lack of conventional social grace and Mia was in awe of his worldliness and intrigued by his aloofness.

They tried hard not to make the age difference matter. They shared many romantic hours doing crosswords and watching TV in bed. She called him Charlie Brown, after the Peanuts comic strip character, and he call her My Mia, Doll Face or (after her hair was shorn) My Little Boy. They had rows about his family not inviting her to Sinatra's 50th birthday party and split in early 1966, but were reunited three months later.

The same old Frank

Frank's association with Mia had given him a lease of life that was obvious to those who were close to him, but friends and family were divided over the wisdom of a long-term union. After some hesitation and much press speculation, however, the couple married suddenly in Las Vegas in July 1966 during a break in the filming of the movie he was making, The Naked Runner. The ceremony took place in the suite of the manager of the Sands, Jack Entratter, in front of a select group of friends, and none of Frank's family was present.

Although some detected a mellower Sinatra, there were flashes of his old cruelty. When Mia attended his engagement at the Sands in November 1966, he introduced his new life to the audience. "Yeah, I sure got married", he went on to say. "I finally found a broad I could cheat on". This was seemingly a joke, sending up an argument that they had earlier had in which she suspected him of being unfaithful, but Mia was understandably humiliated. Ironically, when she was in Europe in the spring of 1967 making the movie A Dandy In Aspic, Sinatra convinced himself after seeing a promo shot that she was having an affair with her co-star Lawrence Harvey. Even though she flew back to assure him otherwise, he flew into a classic Sinatra rage.

The end of the love story

Their different outlooks on life would soon take their toll. Mia later wrote of their lack of "understanding in everyday life as well as the major, deeper themes". To adapt Sinatra's 1981 song "I Loved Her", she was Beatles, he was Basie; she was marijuana, he was JD; she was 21, he was 50.

Sinatra had discussed the subject of marriage in an interview for Life magazine in 1965. "If I would marry again, it would have to be somebody out of show business or who will get out of show business", he said. "I feel I'm a fairly good provider. All I ask is that my wife look after me and I'll see that she's looked after". He'd already, however, had to compromise that ideal with Mia, who was happy to look after him some of the time but was also determined to have her own career. She had agreed against her better judgement to appear opposite Sinatra in his forthcoming movie The Detective ("if I were his leading baby", she had said, "too many people would think he had handed me the role"). But when Rosemary's Baby, the film she was working on in autumn 1967, ran over schedule, he insisted that she leave Roman Polanski's picture to fulfil their arrangement and she refused. Sinatra's response was to send his lawyer, Mickey Rudin, to serve her with divorce papers in her trailer -written in her name.

Mia was devastated. A few weeks later she asked Sinatra if she could come back, and she was allowed to spend Christmas with Frank and a group of friends at Palm Springs. But then Sinatra didn't call -and she knew it was over. She agreed to a quick Mexican divorce, but refused to cite Sinatra's "mental cruelty" as the ground, insisting on mere "incompatibility". She also refused a financial settlement, saying that she just wanted to remain friends, which they did. In February 1968 she went to meditate in India with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and The Beatles.

She went on to marry the conductor and pianist André Previn and had a long-term relationship with Woody Allen, which ended when she discovered that he had been having an affair with her step-daughter. Sinatra, always supportive from a distance, apparently offered to have Allen's legs broken.


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