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Scott's World: Millie Perkins Is Anne Frank

By VERNON SCOTT, UPI Hollywood Reporter

HOLLYWOOD -- No matter what she does for the rest of her life, actress Millie Perkins will go to her grave identified with Anne Frank, the tragic little Jewish girl who fell victim to the Nazis in World War II.

Millie was plucked from obscurity by director George Stevens to star in the title role of 'The Diary of Anne Frank' in 1958.

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The accompanying hoopla made Millie an instant celebrity. For several months her wide-eyed young features adorned the covers of scores of magazines. She was photographed and interviewed interminably.

'The Diary of Anne Frank' wasn't the box-office bonanza it was cracked up to be but Millie received uniformly excellent reviews.

But almost as quickly as Millie shot to stardom, her celebrity receded and finally disappeared altogether in a town with an extraordinarily short memory.

Three years after 'The Diary of Anne Frank' she starred with Elvis Presley in 'Wild In The Country,' which did little to advance her career.

Millie married and divorced actor Dean Stockwell, appeared in a few movies, some cheap westerns with Jack Nicholson, and a handful of TV shows. She married playwright-screenwriter novelist Robert Thom and drifted out of the business.

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Hollywood supposed it had seen and heard the last of Millie, a one-shot actress who enjoyed a moment of glory and quickly faded.

Wrong.

Millie is back in movies, co-starring with Jon Voight and Richard Crenna in 'Table For Five,' a family drama set aboard a Mediterranean cruise boat.

While Hollywood may have forgotten Millie for two decades, thousands of Americans continue to recognize her as 'the girl who played Anne Frank.'

After her marriage to Thom, Millie devoted her time to bearing and rearing her daughters, Lillie, now 15, and Hedy, now 13, content to play wife and mother in New York and Los Angeles.

Seven years ago the family moved to Jacksonville, Ore., a hamlet where Millie found work teaching drama at Southern Oregon State College. She also gave drama lectures at schools throughout Oregon.

'I co-hosted a local television interview show, too,' Millie said. ''The Diary of Anne Frank' is shown on TV a lot and very often in schools, so people recognize me all the time.'

Millie, 43, still resembles the 20-year-old actress who came to Hollywood from Fairlawn, N.J., 23 years ago. But the painful shyness has disappeared.

Perhaps if she'd been more ambitious and sophisticated Millie could have attained greater stardom in the '50s and '60s. But that isn't what she wanted at the time.

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'I didn't know what I wanted,' she said. 'I'd never acted before and I wasn't sure that's what I wanted for rest of my life. I took acting lessons and did a few plays and TV shows.

'But I didn't understand the urgency of a career. I never, in fact, made a definite decision whether to be an actress.'

She married Thom in 1963 and elected to rear a family, knowing sometime in the future she would return to the screen.

'I didn't miss show business because I never intended to work while I was raising babies,' she said. 'Being a writer's wife had its ups and downs emotionally and financially.

'I've been rich and I've been poor and I enjoyed both. I wouldn't change a day of it. Since my Thom died two years ago, I've provided for my children and relied on myself.

'I loved my years of teaching in Oregon. All the same, I moved back here when Thom died because I'd fallen in love with acting. I've had a few TV parts and appeared in an episode of 'Hart to Hart' back on the Fox lot.

'The guard at the gate recognized me on my first day at work -- 20 years after I'd last been there. It started things off just right.'

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Millie, who became a star before she became a person, now is enjoying a comeback, looking ahead to a career which might have been kaput by now if she had remained in Hollywood.

'I've had a decent life and I intend to establish myself as a good actress,' Millie concluded. 'And I very happy that people associate me with Anne Frank. I'm very proud of that.'

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