The Strange Case of Mimsy Farmer

Mimsy Farmer in THE MASTER & MARGARET (1972)

It's hard to think of a film career as unusual and variegated as that of Mimsy Farmer (born on this date in 1945). From her beginnings as a squeaky clean child actress, through her years in Europe as a new kind of Aquarian star and on into her current status as one of filmdom's most sought after scenic sculptors whose work has appeared in films from PAN'S LABYRINTH to GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY.

Starting as a teenage ingenue on television shows such as THE ADVENTURES OF OZZIE & HARRIET and MY THREE SONS, she soon became a very busy day player. Some small film roles followed, and, as she began to mingle with a more cosmopolitan crowd, she developed an interest in LSD, and particularly in its therapeutic powers. In 1967 she moved to Vancouver Island and spent a number of months working as a nurse in a program founded by Al Hubbard, the "Johnny Appleseed of LSD." During this period she took LSD and administered LSD to a number of patients.

On returning to Hollywood she found that her experience with LSD prepared her for a new kind of role, and in the remarkably tone-deaf, but fascinating, RIOT ON SUNSET STRIP (1967) she embellished her performance with an absolutely amazing LSD dance sequence that is one of the glories of '60s exploitation cinema.

Here is that scene, in full:

As next-level as her performance in in RIOT ON SUNSET STRIP, the rest of the film is depressingly old-fashioned and sexist. A trip to Europe to work on a Roger Corman racing film proved to be fateful and her next major role was in Barbet Schroeder's MORE (1969), in which she portrayed a sexually free, heroin addicted vamp. It's a fine, bold performance, and it caught the attention of, not only audiences, but other European filmmakers.

Here is the (nudity filled) trailer for MORE:

In the sun-drenched psych-noir THE ROAD TO SALINA (1970), director Georges Lautner cast her in a part similar to her wild, Ibiza-partying libertine in MORE. The film was seen by few but its reputation has appreciated over the years.

Dario Argento was the next filmmaker to use Farmer's peculiar, soft/hard screen presence, this time in the seminal giallo FOUR FLIES ON GREY VELVET (1971) Her casting was inspired, as was her performance, and she would appear in a number of other giallo thrillers during the '70s.

This was a decade of unusual, often very adventurous films, such as the Yugoslavian adaptation of THE MASTER AND MARGUERITE (1972), the deeply disturbing BODY OF LOVE (1972), and TWO MEN IN TOWN (1973) in which she costarred with both Jean Gabin and Alain Delon. 

But no film from this period can compare, for sheer weirdness and well, Mimsy-ness, to Francesco Barilli's masterpiece THE PERFUME OF THE LADY IN BLACK (1974). The reissue trailer below gives a sense of the uncanny atmosphere of the film, and of Farmer's highly engaged performing style.

She worked steadily on European television and in films throughout the '70s and '80s. In 1989 she married scenic sculptor Francois Poirier. Mimsy, a very fine painter and sculptor herself, entered the field alongside Poirier and she has created sculptures for such films as BROTHERHOOD OF THE WOLF (2001), CHARLIE & THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY (2005), PAN'S LABYRINTH (2006), THE GOLDEN COMPASS (2007), GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (2014) and the new BEAUTY & THE BEAST (2017).

Here is a recent photo of Mimsy Farmer with one of her creations, a fox named Gilda, created for a commercial art campaign.