The slick tough world of Frank Sinatra was beginning to pall ... then Mia Farrow saw Andre Previn conducting Beethoven's Fifth Symphony
It was a gala performance in the summer of 2012 by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra with a rare performance by the charismatic conductor Andre Previn, now in his eighties, and no one noticed the frail elfin-faced woman sitting in the shadows several rows back in the vast hall.
As the first haunting chords of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, rang out, Mia Farrow, nearing 70, turned to a friend and whispered: "This was how it all started." Then she sank into the magic of the music... and her memories. Mia Farrow was back over 40 years when she was a legendary flower-power icon, the darling of the hippy movement and married to a man old enough to be her father. For in 1968 Mia Farrow was 23, Frank Sinatra was 53 and the two-year marriage, which should never have taken place, had become a sham. They could have hardly been more disastrously different. Sinatra hated what he called "all that culture crap" while his wife loved the company of artists, actors and classical musicians.
Sinatra had tried in vain to stop her acting —"My wives stay home and look after me"— and their rows had sometimes ended in violence. He was furious when she cut her hair into a boyish style. He was furious when she refused to accompany him to boxing matches, the races and gambling casinos and instead became involved in flower power and meditation. In fact she seemed to do everything to make Sinatra angry. When he supported the Vietnam War, she opposed it. When he declared how much he hated the Kennedys she asked Jack and Bobby to the premiere of Rosemary's Baby.
He hated classical music. Which was why Mia went alone to a London Symphony Orchestra concert at London's Festival Hall on a summer night in 1968 and fell in love with the sound of music. Andre Previn, charismatic jazz-pianist turned classical music star, was conducting the LSO in a programme of Bach and Beethoven, including Beethoven's fifth symphony. Mia was bewitched by the music and entranced by the small dynamic figure on the rostrum. Afterwards, when she met Previn in his dressing-room, she found the feeling was mutual. They met again, and within days, one of Hollywood's most successful women stars was confessing to friends that she was in love. As Mia's relationship with Andre Previn deepened, so did her marriage problems. Finally she sued for divorce on the grounds of cruelty and incompatibility.
To Sinatra's astonishment she turned down his offered $2 million alimony and their mock Tudor mansion in Los Angeles. All she wanted, she said, were the stuffed animals from her bedroom and a rocking chair. The only other thing she wanted was Andre Previn. He was still married to songwriter Dory Previn but soon he and Mia were inseparable, jetting around the world to concert-halls and film locations while Dory read about their activities in the papers and channelled her fury into a best-selling song: Beware Of Young Girls. Finally, in April 1969, when Mia Farrow revealed that she was pregnant, Dory agreed to a divorce. Previn and Farrow were married four months later, a month after Mia had given birth to twin boys. But this didn't stop the pair commuting between Britain and Hollywood. In England they had a 17th century mansion where they entertained music-lovers like Prime Minister Edward Heath.
They also had a secluded waterside house in Martha's Vineyard, the millionaire's playground off Cape Cod.
Two years later, they adopted a Vietnamese baby, had another child of their own, and then adopted two Korean children. "These are golden times," Mia declared. "I am aware of that every single second."
Often she alone took the children to Hollywood - Previn was constantly travelling to concerts — and soon came rumours that she was having affairs with movie celebrities including Roman Polanski and Sven Nykvist.
And when, in 1977, Mia set off for the South Seas to star in the $20 million remake of Hurricane, Hollywood gossips claimed it was because Polanski was directing it. When this became public, the distraught Mia attempted suicide. But within a few weeks she had recovered, and decided, on reflection that the marriage was over. The couple flew to the Dominican Republic in September 1969 to get divorced and arrange joint custody of the children. Mia moved into the Hollywood home of her mother, actress Maureen O'Sullivan. Later, Andre Previn was to say: "I have a great many positive things to say about Mia Farrow. She has always been a terrific mother and I don't think anyone can argue with that. I hope, for the children's sake, we will always be friends." They have been — during the scandal surrounding Woody Allen's relationship with Mia's children, Previn was, said Mia,"a constant strength and support."
Today, the pair are still close friends and Mia goes to Previn's infrequent concerts — he is now 84. But his music has lost none of its enchantment for her.
Whenever I hear Beethoven's Fifth, she said recently, "the years roll away and I'm once again a hippie in love!"