Yvette Mimieux is blond, blue-eyed, endowed with a terrific figure and a financially successful career, not to mention a healthy interest in subjects other than acting and Hollywood, and quite beautiful, charming and intelligent. But is she happy?
"Yes, disgustingly so," she said, riding in the back of a proper movie-star limousine with her sable coat beside her.
As she left the hotel to get into the limousine, passers-by stared at her, question marks dancing in their eyes. They knew she was famous, but who . . . qObviously not just another beautiful blond with a Hollywood tan and her blouse liberally unbuttoned, but not familiar enough for them to come screaming up to her asking for an autograph.
For a certain generation of men who spent their adolescence trying to seduce girls in the back seats of their Ford Mustangs, Yvette Mimieux was, on a scale of one to 10, a definite 10. She was the one who was molested in "Where the Boys Are" in 1961 -- signified mainly by her staggering along the median strip of a highway with a vacant look in her eyes -- and was the nubile but feeble-minded daughter in "Light in the Piazza" in 1962. Dr. Kildare fell in love with her in a two-part television show in 1964, but she had a terrible disease and died (and won a prize for her performance).
For a while she was on the starlet track and made six movies before she was 21. "I suppose I had a soulful quality," she said. "I was often cast as a wounded person, the 'sensitive' role."
But after "Diamond Head," and "Toys in the Attic," both in 1963, she seemed to disappear. Actually she didn't disappear, she just made a lot of forgettable movies, like "Monkeys Go Home" (1967), "The Caper of the Golden Bulls," and "The Neptune Factor."
But meanwhile she wasn't having a bad time at all. "I decided I didn't want to have a totally public life," she said. "When the fan magazines started wanting to take pictures of me making sandwiches for my husband, I said no. You know there are tribes in Africa who believe that a camera steals a little part of your soul, and in a way I think that's true about living your private life in public. It takes something away from your relationships, it cheapens them."
So instead she was going to U.C.L.A. and studying archeology (and found an important artifact of the Chumash Indian tribe on a student dig in California), writing, painting, setting up a group called Theater Event and traveling all over the world.
She lives in California with her second husband, producer Stanley Donen, and does about one film a year, leaving her free to pursue her other interests. Luckily, when she travels to places like Nepal or India, her face is not so well known that she has to hole up in a hotel room with security guards for friends.
She has painted landscapes in Japan and dug for archeological finds in Indonesia. Once someone whose idea of exercise was "opening a champagne bottle," she's now a tennis player and swimmer.When she's making a film she likes to play chess between takes.
She's 37 (the "Astrological Index to World Famous People" has her 38, but who's counting), and has a waist a 16-year-old would envy. In town yesterday to promote her new movie, "Black Hole," she was dressed in a white jersey dress and peach blouse cinched at the waist with a six-inch-wide belt . Fine lines around the eyes are the only visible symptom of approaching middle age.
"I don't like to tell my age," she said. "Not because of vanity, but because in 10 years when I look 37, producers will think I'm too old for some parts."