Based on Anne Frank's diary, and the stage play that was adapted from it: In Nazi-occupied Holland, Otto Frank and his family have decided to go into hiding, because of the increasing persecutions against Jews. The businessman Kraler and his assistant Miep prepare a hiding place in the rooms above their place of business, and arrange for the Franks and another family, the Van Daans, to stay there. Later on, they are joined by the dentist Dussel. Together, they try to avoid detection while hoping for Holland to be liberated by the Allies, but even meeting basic needs can become a challenge, and even minor incidents could present a grave risk. Written by
Just as Otto Preminger gambled in the casting of unknown Jean Seaberg in the title role of "St. Joan," so George Stevens similarly took a big risk with Millie Perkins in "The Diary of Anne Frank."
As the story goes, Stevens saw model Millie on a magazine cover, fell in love with her expressive eyes, and theorized that this unknown would be more effective than an established star to portray Anne.
Though Perkins had no acting experience, Stevens--at the peak of his career--was confident that he could teach Millie to act, at least for this film.
Although Audrey Hepburn was very interested in the part (as was Stevens in her) Stevens finally decided that it would be more effective to use a fresh actor--one with whom the public would have no pre-conceptions. (Other successful cases to support his theory being Hurd Hatfield as Dorian Gray and Robert Alda as George Gershwin.) Still, it was a huge gamble, since Anne was the pivotal role in this major production.
Well, the results are now history. For many moviegoers Perkins was just fine. While some critics easily spotted her reedy inexperience and rather sympathized with her being thrust into a super-professional arena, they conceded that Millie did do a commendable job.
Unfortunately, Perkins took a lashing from most critics, and her subsequent acting career has been relegated to minor roles in "B" films. Those are the "breaks," though in the fickle film world.
Yet, with all this, many people still think of Perkins' countenance when they envision of Anne Frank. So she and Stevens made a lasting impression.
Likewise, for many, this production remains the definitive version of a profoundly touching World War II real-life chronicle.
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