Yvette Mimieux, ’60s starlet of ‘Time Machine,’ dies at 80

Jan 19, 2022, 12:21 PM | Updated: Jan 20, 2022, 6:48 am
FILE - Actress Yvette Mimieux appears during a portrait session on Aug. 18, 1966.  Mimieux, the 196...

FILE - Actress Yvette Mimieux appears during a portrait session on Aug. 18, 1966. Mimieux, the 1960s film star of “Where the Boys Are,” “The Time Machine” and “Light in the Piazza,” died in her sleep of natural causes early Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022 at her home in Los Angeles. She was 80. (AP Photo, File)

(AP Photo, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — Yvette Mimieux, the blond and blue-eyed 1960s film star of “Where the Boys Are,” “The Time Machine” and “Light in the Piazza,” has died. She was 80.

Michelle Bega, a family spokeswoman, said Mimieux died in her sleep of natural causes overnight Monday evening at her home in Los Angeles.

In 1960’s “The Time Machine,” based on H.G. Wells’ 1895 novel, Mimieux starred opposite Rod Taylor as Weena, a member of the peaceful, blond-haired Eloi people in the year 800,000, who don’t realize they’re being bred as food by the underground Morlocks.

That role and others that soon followed made Mimieux one of the ’60s most radiant starlets. The same year, she also starred in the MGM teen movie “Where the Boys Are” as one of four college students on spring break in Florida. Her character, distraught after being sexual assaulted in a motel, walks despondently into traffic.

“I suppose I had a soulful quality,” she told the Washington Post in 1979. “I was often cast as a wounded person, the ‘sensitive’ role.”

Yvette Carmen Mimieux was born on Jan. 8, 1942, in Los Angeles to a French father and a Mexican mother. She was “discovered” at age 15 when publicist Jim Byron, as he told it, spotted her on bridle path from a helicopter while flying over the Hollywood Hills. She and a friend were riding on horseback; Byron landed in front of them and gave her his card. Mimieux began as a model before MGM signed her in 1959.

“The subtle approach is the thing,” Byron told The AP in 1961. “I think we’ve got another Garbo on our hands.”

And for a few years, Mimieux was ubiquitous. Life magazine put her on the cover with the headline: “Warmly Wistful Starlet.” She made eight films before turning 21.

Mimieux starred in four films in 1962, including Vincent Minnelli’s “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” and Guy Green’s “Light in the Piazza.” In the latter, she played the beautiful, mentally handicapped daughter of Olivia de Havilland. On a trip to Italy, Mimieux’s character Clara is pursued by a young Italian in Florence, played by George Hamilton.

Mimieux played a bride in “Toys in the Attic” (1963), an epileptic surfer in “Dr. Kildare” (1964) and a bride in “Joy in the Morning” (1965). She was three times nominated for a Golden Globe, including for her role in the short-lived ABC series “The Most Deadly Game,” from Aaron Spelling. In the ’70s and ’80s, she increasingly appeared in TV movies, some of which she helped write.

Mimieux co-wrote and co-produced the 1984 CBS TV movie “Obsessive Love,” about a deranged fan obsessed with a soap opera star. Mimieux said she had to battle the network over having a woman, played by herself, in such a role. Her idea stemmed from John Hinckley’s obsession with Jodie Foster, only with the gender roles reversed.

“The network felt people wouldn’t believe me as this woman. They said to me, ‘She’s a loner, and she shouldn’t be attractive,'” Mimieux told The New York Times in 1984. “I asked them, ‘Are you saying that only unattractive people can be crazy or lonely or have unfulfilled lives?’´´

Mimieux said television was never the “love affair” she had with film. But she complained about the kinds of roles she was offered, and the one-dimensional type of women that were written. (One of her last notable movies was the 1979 Disney film “The Black Hole.”) So Mimieux retired from show business in her late 40s. Her interests — including archeology, painting and traveling — always went beyond fame. Off-screen, Mimieux was much more than the naïve starlet she was pigeonholed as.

“I decided I didn’t want to have a totally public life,” she told the Post. “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.”

Mimieux first married Evan Harland Engber in 1959 before later divorcing. She was married to the film director Stanley Donen, from 1972 to 1985. In 1986, she married the real estate mogul Howard F. Ruby. She’s survived by Ruby and numerous stepchildren.

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Yvette Mimieux, ’60s starlet of ‘Time Machine,’ dies at 80