The Haircut Episode, Peyton Place – February 11, 1966

Written By: Greg Howell - Jul• 06•15

haircutIn 1964, ABC launched the birth of the first successful prime time soap opera with Peyton Place. Airing twice a week, the TV show was part of that year’s famous lineup, along side Bewitched and The Fugitive, that financially saved the long-embattled network. The show implemented many proven soap opera staples, including extra-marital affairs, murder trials, and illnesses, and in the fall of 1965, spun its dramatic web toward 18-year old Allison, the daughter of the lead character. Allison was the victim of an hit and run accident, which put her in a coma. She finally awoke but was wheelchair bound throughout her recovery. Over the storyline, she began to put the pieces of her life back together, and for awhile, even faked her paralysis to avoid going home to Momma.

Allison, portrayed by Mia Farrow, was the series’ soft-faced, long-haired ingenue, and Miss Farrow (then dating Frank Sinatra) had not been completely pleased with the success of the show. Rumors abounded of her desire, from the series beginning, to be released from the show. Mia, in a surprising and unapologetic fit of rebellion, literally between taping scenes of the latest episode, left the set for her dressing room. Without conference with the show’s crew or assistance from a stylist, picked up a pair of manicure scissors and cut off all of her hair.  Decidedly an attempt to fluster the production of the show, Miss Farrow’s actions did indeed create a whirlwind of panic and rewrites to accommodate the sudden, drastic change.

In a pointedly direct response to Mia, Peyton Place producer Paul Monash wrote the following letter to Mia Farrow following regarding her dramatic new pixie cut.

Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation
December 14th, 1965

Dear Mia,

I am writing to you both as a friend and as an employer.

When you came into my office Friday, after cutting your hair, you expected me to be angry with you. I did not show anger, because that seemed pointless; and I didn’t really feel anger, because the potential damage was more to you than to me or to the series or to the studio. And that is what I am writing about to you.

It so happens, Mia, that we are able to accomodate the storyline to your action. But it might very well have happened that we could not. In that case, you would have injured all those who depend upon this series. That is something to consider. You have a legal contract with us and a moral contract with all those who work with you. And you have a conscience which tells you both must be kept.

But going beyond that, Mia, and in keeping with my very own feeling for you, I must ask you to consider carefully the effect upon your career should people begin to feel that your impulsiveness can impair productions. This industry, as you know, rightly requires strict disciplines. The strange thing is that you not only are usually very professional but you do have a strong inner discipline on which you can draw. If you fail to draw upon it, as you can, naturally outer disciplines will be imposed, and I would deeply regret that.

I have not lost any of my feeling or regard for you, and I hope that is of some consequence to you. As I said in the office, you are a uniquely beautiful girl-and-woman, and I am not thinking of the way you look but the way you are. I wish that you realize how gifted you have been, how fortunate you are, how fortunate you can remain.

You have in this company and at this studio several people who have deep and good feelings for and about you. You know who they are. Counsel with them, Mia, and keep faith with them.

(Signed, ‘Paul Monash’)

The production crew was able to re-edit and add additional dialogue to accommodate for the sudden haircut midway through the episode. And, in many ways, Miss Farrow’s stunt added a surprise and believable element and twist to the show. “Are you branding yourself because you just found out you were illegitimate?” her doctor asks after returning to his office to discover Allison’s new haircut. She replied, ever so coyly and with a spry lift to her voice, “You know what it really means Doctor. It really means, I got tired of my long hair. Simple!” The new twist added just the right amount of desperation that the character needed at the moment.

Of course, Mia Farrow’s pixie cut became legendary and iconic, ranking with some of the most well-known celebrity hair styles of all time, and helped push her into the stratosphere of super stardom.

Mia was able to exit the show at the end of the season, and would soon marry Frank Sinatra. Legends about the haircut abounded, including that Vidal Sassoon gave her the famous cut. Mia has since set the record straight about the entire ordeal. However, many years before Farrah, Felicity and Jennifer Anniston, Mia Farrow introduced a fashion female hairstyle craze to a television audience for the first time ever on February 15, 1966 (not counting, of course, Jaqueline Kennedy, who, via television, revolutionized fashion styles in the USA.)

 

Sources:

New York Times,Setting the Record (and the Hair) Straight By MIA FARROW, JAN. 23, 2013

Letters of Note, Vol. 2

Classic TV History Blog

Cashmore, Ellis (1994). And There was Television. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-09131-2. pp. 121

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