In her autobiography Forever Young, actress Hayley Mills vividly recalls the events of April 17th, 1961 at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. It was the occasion of the 33rd Academy Awards. All of Hollywood turned out for the star-studded event. The night was so special for the British-born actress because it was when she was accepted into the Hollywood circle when she was awarded an Oscar for her work in Walt Disney’s Pollyanna. With precise detail, the actress describes the lights and glamor of the night and the excitement leading up to the announcement of the award. What readers are surprised to learn is that the then-teenager was not there to accept the award. She was away at boarding school in England and fast asleep in her dorm room unaware of how dramatically her life was about to change.
Actress Shirley Temple was on hand to present the award for Best Juvenile Performance. It was only fitting that Temple, herself a one-time child actress and Oscar recipient, would be on hand to announce and bestow the award to the winner. Temple was six-years-old when she received the Oscar in 1935 for Best Juvenile Performance. When the announcement was made, Mills recalls in her book that “I was thousands of miles away in England, fast asleep, in a freezing cold boarding school dormitory, totally unaware of the honor that was being bestowed.” Mills was the winner of the special Oscar for her role in Disney’s 1960 movie Pollyanna and on hand to accept the award was fellow Disney actress and star Annette Funicello who graciously accepted the special statuette for Mills.
As Forever Young readers are taken on Mills journey from England to superstardom to adulthood, they learn that the Academy Award she received in 1961 mysteriously disappeared from her home. Mills says she believes it was stolen from her home in the 1980’s when she traveled to the United States to tape a television show.
When I interviewed Mills about her book via a Zoom call in September 2021 from her home in England, she was seated at a table surrounded by artifacts and memorabilia from her illustrious career. However noticeably absent was any evidence of the Oscar she received for Pollyanna. During our interview Mills recounted how the statue went missing. The circumstances surrounding the disappearance of the coveted prize, she recounted, remain a mystery. She claimed that the statue disappeared from her home sometime in the late 1980’s when she traveled to the United States to work on the television show Good Morning, Miss Bliss.
At the time of the interview, Mills said she tried to track down what happened to the award but she seemed to always hit a dead end. She even reached out to the Motion Picture Academy to see if they could give her a replacement statue only to be told “that it didn’t work that way.” Compounding the situation for the Academy was the fact that the original mold for the Oscar was destroyed after the statue was cast. She seemed content to put the missing Oscar behind her and chalk it up to experience.
Until now. Nearly six decades after receiving her first Oscar for Pollyanna, the Disney legend has received a second Academy Award. This time a full-sized Oscar to replace her pint-sized Academy Juvenile Award that went missing decades ago. The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences presented the 75-year-old Mills with a new Oscar while the actress was visiting the Academy’s headquarters in Beverly Hills. In presenting the award to Mills, AMPAS president David Rubin said Mills’ reaction “is the purest thing you’ll see all day.” In photos released of the presentation, Mills expression of surprise and shock over receiving her Oscar obviously made her day as well as for the legion of fans the actress has around the world.
This time Mills says she plans on keeping a watchful eye on her coveted prize.