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An apology to Mia

March 15, 2021

Here’s the thing. I’ve never particularly liked Mia Farrow. Mostly because I’ve always thought she was a terrible actress. Rosemary’s Baby? Yeah, okay, but you have to admit John Cassavetes and Ruth Gordon and Ralph Bellamy and the other supporting players did all the heavy lifting. As for her excruciating, never-should-have-happened appearance in The Great Gatsby, if I hadn’t been with a friend at the cinema I would have walked out. That’s how bad she was. (When it was finally over and I told my friend, she said she wished I’d said so, as she’d wanted to walk out, too.) So, never rated her as an actress, but there was something else. I’m not sure what.

Which leads me to confess that thirty years ago when, shortly after her long-term partner Woody Allen tackily took up with her young adopted daughter, Farrow levelled allegations that he had interfered with their seven-year-old daughter Dylan, I didn’t believe her.

I was a bit prejudiced – and not just by my opinion of her acting ability. This scandal broke not long after my partner Mike and I got together.

Mike had been married twice before we met. The second marriage was the result of a relationship with one of his grad students. (That certainly wouldn’t be tolerated these days.) When she discovered she was pregnant, she gave him an ultimatum: marry me or I’m having an abortion. Mike, who already had two children from his first marriage, chose the former option. Not the best basis for a marriage, so probably not a surprise to learn that it didn’t last all that long. By the time his younger daughter was three they’d split up. He saw her every weekend and in the summers took her, along with his older son and daughter, for long, lazy visits to his family’s home on Manitoulin Island. When his daughter was seven, her mother announced she was moving to Seattle, which was the beginning of three years of seven-hour roundtrip drives every other Friday and Sunday to spend time with his daughter in Vancouver. Three years later, his ex-wife was remarried with young twin boys by her second husband. She did not want Mike in her life – or her daughter’s life. And so she did something awful: she accused Mike of interfering with their daughter. He more or less bankrupted himself with legal fees to defend himself in a Seattle court where he was eventually and completely exonerated. That’s when his daughter’s therapist contacted him to say she believed him, had always believed his daughter was being coached by her mother, that, yes, of course he was now entitled to resume unsupervised visits, but that the whole process had taken a toll on his daughter. Seeing him left her feeling she was betraying the mother she loved. That’s when Mike made the hardest decision he’d ever made in his life: he decided to not insist on visits, to let his daughter go.

When he told me about this soon after we met I was horrified. I said the only thing I could think of which was to suggest that when his daughter was older and more able to process events for herself she would reach out to him. Several years later it turned out I was right.

A phone call out of the blue one Sunday night reunited them. Tragically, too much damage had been done. A few months of talking and emailing regularly came to an end when she succeeded where she’d twice previously (unbeknownst to Mike) failed  and committed suicide. When Mike finally saw his daughter again it was in her open coffin.

So, yes, I guess I was on Team Woody. I bought into it when people began to talk about ex-wives “pulling a Mia Farrow”. I felt so sorry for Dylan Farrow, this poor child made a pawn in this awful affair. I didn’t think she was her father’s victim. I thought she was her mother’s.

It wasn’t until 2018, when Dylan Farrow came out as an adult, begging to be believed, that I finally did believe her. (Why, if it wasn’t true, would she put herself through this again?)

I’ve just finished watching Allen v Farrow on HBO.

As Dylan’s brother Ronan says, holy shit.

Allen, of course, has dismissed the documentary series as a hatchet job. What the show reveals is that the actual hatchet job was carried out nearly 30 years ago – by Allen and his many supporters on Dylan and her mother.

That Dylan Farrow is still standing is a minor miracle.

I owe her – and her mother – an apology from the bottom of my heart.

From → Blog

2 Comments
  1. krysross permalink

    What a horribly sad story. I didn’t know Mike had lost a child to suicide.

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