In 1961, actress Hayley Mills won an Academy Award for the title role of “Pollyanna.” She was 14 years old, and the miniature version of the traditional Oscar was special, as it was the last Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) juvenile award ever given. The Academy Juvenile Award was first given to Shirley Temple in 1935.
However, Mills didn’t know she had won. Not only did she fail to attend the ceremony, but her parents, actor Sir John Mills and writer Mary Hayley Bell, chose not to tell her at the time.
“My parents decided not to let me go to the ceremony, because I was very young,” Mills told the Daily Mirror in a 2019 interview. “It was part of their attitude towards me when I was a child, that I should be kept as unaffected by the world I was now moving in as possible. So I went off to school, then when I came back from making a movie in Hollywood, I’d go back to school.”
She didn’t seem to resent her parents for their decision.
“I think my parents were very wise,” she revealed to the Daily Mirror.
Fellow child star Annette Funicello accepted the award on Mills’ behalf, and the young actress only learned about it after it was delivered.
“I was actually at boarding school in England, and I didn’t know anything about it until it turned up,” said Mills in a 2018 Entertainment Weekly interview. “Like, ‘Oh, that’s sweet. What’s that?’ I was told, ‘Well, this is a very special award,’ but it was quite a few years before I began to appreciate what I had.”
The award spent a quarter of a century on the mantelpiece of her London home. Then, in the late 1980s, the Oscar went missing while Mills was in California filming the TV series, “Good Morning, Miss Bliss,” which later became “Saved by the Bell.” Presumed stolen, the statuette never resurfaced.
“And you know, it’s not something you can replace,” Mills told EW. “They’ve broken the mold. I spoke to the Academy, and I said, ‘Well, look, give me a big one then!’ They said, ‘I’m sorry, it doesn’t work like that.'”
However, it would seem that the Academy later chose to make an exception. During a visit Mills made to tour the group’s Beverly Hills headquarters, AMPAS president David Rubin presented her with a full-size replacement Oscar, as shown in the Twitter post below from @TheAcademy.
The organization also shared a follow-up tweet with stills of the film for which Mills won the award.
“Hayley Mills as Pollyanna in @DisneyStudios “Pollyanna” (1960),” The Academy tweeted. “Mills won the Juvenile Oscar for her performance as Pollyanna. She was the last person and one of only 12 young actors to receive this award, a group that included Shirley Temple, Judy Garland, and Mickey Rooney.”
Hayley Mills as Pollyanna in @DisneyStudios "Pollyanna" (1960).
Mills won the Juvenile Oscar for her performance as Pollyanna. She was the last person and one of only 12 young actors to receive this award, a group that included Shirley Temple, Judy Garland, and Mickey Rooney. pic.twitter.com/MfmptwWebS
— The Academy (@TheAcademy) January 12, 2022
In the pictures, you can see how surprised and pleased Mills is to receive the replacement. Looks like her mantelpiece will be occupied by an Oscar statuette once again!