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As It Was: Reported as Dead, Actress Turns Up in Jacksonville, Ore.

Millie Perkins had never studied acting when she was selected for the title role in the 1959 film version of “The Diary of Anne Frank.”

Perkins’ sensitive portrayal of the young girl who hid from the Nazis during World War II and died in the Holocaust made Perkins famous, but a major film career failed to materialize.

She played minor movie roles, but by the 1970s she had disappeared from the Hollywood scene, prompting syndicated columnist Dick Kleiner to report she had died.  Perkins responded she was alive in Jacksonville, Ore.

Twice divorced, Perkins had left Hollywood, searching for a simpler life and a place to raise her two daughters.  A 1977 article in People Magazine described her life in Southern Oregon, where she often spoke to local high school drama groups and gave drama-therapy lessons in her living room on Tuesday nights.  She described Jacksonville as “the most beautiful spot I’ve ever been in.”

Perkins eventually returned to Hollywood, where she had supporting roles in movies and television.  She said her life in Jacksonville gave her the strength to make a comeback.  “The Diary of Anne Frank” remains her most famous role.

Sources: Reiss, Al. "No Role Could Ever Match 'Anne Frank,' So Millie Perkins Retreated to Rural Oregon." People.com, 28 Nov. 1977, www.people.com/archive.; Works Cited: Perlee, Dave. "Millie Perkins or Imposter?" Olean Times Herald, 22 Nov. 1978.

Sharon Bywater of Ashland, Oregon grew up in Southern California. She taught English literature and writing at Syracuse University in New York, where she also wrote and edited adult literacy books and published freelance articles in local media. Later, she lived in Washington, D.C., where she worked as an international telecommunications policy advisor at the U.S. Department of Commerce. She has Master’s degrees in English and Communications Management.