Frank Sinatra and Mia Farrow cover

Frank Sinatra and Mia Farrow


DEAN Martin once quipped he had a bottle of Scotch older than Mia Farrow.
When the elfin actress met Sinatra in 1964 he was nearly 50--she was 19, five years younger than Frank’s daughter Nancy. Frank and Mia insisted the 30-year age difference wouldn’t make any difference.
But, of course, it did.

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Frank Sinatra and Mia Farrow

Age Matters

DEAN Martin once quipped he had a bottle of Scotch older than Mia Farrow.

When the elfin actress met Sinatra in 1964 he was nearly 50--she was 19, five years younger than Frank’s daughter Nancy. Frank and Mia insisted the 30-year age difference wouldn’t make any difference.

But, of course, it did.

There’s little doubt that Mia - a child of Hollywood with parents ‘Tarzan’ actress Maureen O’Sullivan and Australian director John Farrow – was just as enamored with Sinatra as he was of her when they first met on the lot at 20th Century Fox.

Peyton Place

Peyton Place

She was the latest big ingénue, playing Allison MacKenzie opposite Ryan O’Neal’s Rodney Harrington in the original TV version of ‘Peyton Place’ while he was filming ‘Von Ryan’s Express.’ Sinatra was also going through something of a career rival with his music career.

The Beginning

The hipster blonde, then with long hair, became a regular on Sinatra’s set and when he took her with him on his weekend retreat to Palm Springs the romance began in earnest.

Sinatra was like an insecure schoolboy, always asking members of his inner circle what they thought of his new young love.

They weren’t altogether impressed. According to Sinatra’s longtime valet George Jacobs, Mia was “a total space cadet.”


The obvious comparison was Humphrey Bogart’s great romance with Lauren Bacall, who was 25 years his junior.

“No one, absolutely no one, took this romance seriously,” wrote Jacobs in his book, ‘Mr. S: My Life With Frank Sinatra.’

“Yes, Lauren Bacall was 19 when Bogart found her, but she was throaty and sexy and seemed 29. Mia seemed 12.”

Wanting A Change

Wanting A Change

The May-December relationship was accentuated all the more when Mia cut her long blonde hair to just a few inches in length while she was dating Sinatra.

The daring new style led to gossip she did it out of spite to get back at her older beau for some unknown slight, but years later she admitted she was ‘mystified’ by all the fuss the haircut created. “I just wanted a change. I saw it as exciting and wonderful,” she told Jay Leno in 1997.

No Awkwardness

Publicly, at least, Sinatra took the change in good humor.

“It’s terrific,” he told her, according to biographer Kitty Kelley, “Now you can go out for Little League like the rest of the boys!”

Talk of a rift between Sinatra and his young girlfriend were further fueled when he asked Mia not to attend his 50th birthday bash in December 1965 at the Beverly Wilshire thrown by the two Nancys – his first wife and his daughter – because he didn’t want any awkwardness with his ex.

But behind the scenes – particularly in the bedroom – the relationship had lost none of its heat.


By July 4, 1966 Sinatra had decided to make it official, telling friends he was lonely and needed a companion.

He slipped a $90,000 engagement ring on Mia’s finger and soon afterwards, he jetted off to shoot ‘The Naked Runner’ in London.

While he was there he reportedly made one last – unsuccessful - attempt to persuade Ava Gardner, newly settled in the city, to take him back.

His attempt to woo Ava rebuffed, Sinatra took his Lear jet back to the States to marry Mia in Las Vegas. “He looked grim, as if he was on his way to major surgery, or his own execution,” wrote Jacobs of the flight to Vegas.



After the July 19, 1966 ceremony at the Sands, Sinatra looked “shell-shocked” while Mia was “radiant.”

“The girl had gotten her man, at last. Now the even harder part was figuring out how to keep him,” added Jacobs.


Sinatra, a traditional, old-fashioned husband despite his own excesses, expected Mia to give up working if they got married.

The young actress, after enjoying her first taste of real stardom in ‘Peyton Place,’ was just getting started.

The big dilemma, as it had been with his first two marriages, was that Sinatra may have liked the idea of a subservient wife, but he chose women who patently were not.

The marriage didn’t get off to the best start. Sinatra jetted his “child bride” off to London but quickly discovered that she knew far more people there than he did, many of them the young rock stars he despised for making him feel outdated.

Under Siege

The valet claimed Mia complained about her “old fuddy-duddy” husband who kept her locked up in their apartment like the “Prisoner of Zenda.”

Back in America, things weren’t much better with Sinatra introducing Mia on stage at the Sands in Vegas, saying, “Finally I found a broad I can cheat on.”

Although his classic song ‘Strangers in the Night’ topped the Billboard charts shortly after the wedding, Sinatra was feeling under siege from the new breed of long-haired, hippie rock stars.

Mind The Gap

Mind The Gap

And Mia – who didn’t have much of a clue about her husband’s music before she met him - certainly had all the Beatles albums and was personal friends with some of the leading lights in the rock revolution.


Her young hippie friends would come into the house barefoot and give Sinatra a flower – making him feel “square” for the first time in his life, she recalled.

The unwritten contract between them was that they wouldn’t have any children and she’d give up her career. He’d grudgingly allowed Mia to shoot the spy thriller ‘A Dandy in Aspic’ in Europe but there was trouble looming with her determination to follow that up with the Roman Polanski horror movie ‘Rosemary’s Baby.’

Femme Fatale

By this time, Sinatra’s pals taken in by Mia’s innocence had gained a whole new respect for her.

“She was a total femme fatale,” said Jacobs, who’d changed his tune after his first impression of her as being way out of her league.

In her biography of the singer, Kitty Kelley suggested Mia was “extremely manipulative for such a young woman.”

But the two headstrong stars were heading for a collision. Mia had agreed to work in a film with her husband called ‘The Detective’ but the shoot coincided with ‘Rosemary’s Baby,’ which was running over schedule.

Hard Stop

Hard Stop

Sinatra was adamant. She should quit the Polanski movie and keep her word to him.

When Mia refused, Sinatra humiliated his wife by serving her with divorce papers on the ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ set in front of the cast and crew.


Leaving the studio in tears, Mia was devastated. “I had nothing I wanted to live for,” she said later.

“That marriage was terribly important to me.”

The divorce was finalized later in 1967, but, like his other ex-wives, Mia only had good things to say about Sinatra afterwards and the two remained friends.

“When I married Frank Sinatra, my father had recently died, and he [Sinatra] had just turned fifty, and people said, ‘Oh, you’re looking for a father.’ It’s hard for me to, um, deny or confirm. But what I will tell you is that he was the coolest, handsomest, sexiest guy,” she said.


“I don’t think there are many women of any age who could have resisted him.

He was utterly charming. Absolutely adorable. So you can talk father all you like – he wasn’t anything like my father.

“Frank Sinatra had a very strong moral structure. He was actually quite staid in certain respects, very much the Italian father. There was a part of him that would say, ‘break his legs,’ but there was a part of him that wouldn’t actually do it.

“And there was a part of him that was an excellent father and an excellent friend, who wouldn’t lie, who would do the right thing for other people and seek no reward,” she added.

Mia In India

Mia In India

Soon after the break-up, Mia travelled to India in early 1968 to study transcendental meditation with the Maharishi with the Beatles, Mike Love of the Beach Boys, Donovan and her sister Prudence, who inspired John Lennon to write the song ‘Dear Prudence.’

Needless to say, that wasn’t Sinatra’s scene. The divorce became official later that year.

Life Goes On...

Mia would go on to marry conductor Andre Previn and have an ill-fated relationship with Woody Allen which would end disastrously when she discovered he was having a sexual relationship with her adopted daughter.

The way Sinatra’s third marriage imploded surprised no one. There he was, the wrong side of 50 and single again. There was no shortage of women, but he wanted someone to take care of him.

He was tired of trying to stay forever young. It was time to grow up.