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In Nazi-occupied Holland in World War II, shopkeeper Kraler hides two Jewish families in his attic. Young Anne Frank keeps a diary of everyday life for the Franks and the Van Daans, chronicling the Nazi threat as well as family dynamics. A romance with Peter Van Daan causes jealousy between Anne and her sister, Margot. Otto Frank returns to the attic many years after the eventual capture of both families and finds his late daughter's diary. 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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