For me, Barbara Caron Mills is the embodiment of the Girl From Ipanema–long and lean and tan and lovely. I’m ashamed to say I cannot recall the first film I saw her in but the moment I first noticed her is indelibly etched into my memory. She was cast as Georgia’s stepdaughter Virginia in the Harry Novak corn porn hick flick SWEET GEORGIA and she happened to go horseback riding. Bareback. Nude. Soon after Barbara Mills became a name I would seek out. Then I found Barbara Caron and even Gabriella Caron as she seems to have alternated names in her brief yet full career.
She was in forty films, credited and uncredited, most of them falling between 1969 and 1972. Early on she was a background or supporting player, and thankfully, there are a several later films in which the vibrant starlet was the lead. She was a painter at heart, having moved to Venice Beach from Massachusetts, in order to pursue her artistic dreams at the age of seventeen. She found out, as most do, it’s hard to pay the bills with art so she modeled on the side for some money. This led her to acting with her debut in the ribald cold war comedy THE HAREM BUNCH, OR WAR AND PIECE about three sexy Israeli spies who meet there match when a shiek lays them all out at once leaving them gratified and exhausted. This film would set the tone for the whole of her career.
In 1969 Barbara married fellow Massachusetts native, Frank Mills. Frank worked in the industry as a camera operator and was able to get Barbara a few roles and eventually her agent, Hal Guthu. Hal was involved in launching several careers and may be most remembered for his mysterious death. She got a lot of work from 1969 until 1973 having many uncredited roles and only a handful of starring ones. She made a break in 1971’s THE LOVE GARDEN where she plays the possessive lesbian lover Inez. Other films that she would be top billed in include BLUE MONEY, GABRIELLA GABRIELLA, SWEET GEORGIA, THE SUCKERS, CLASS OF ’74 (which uses a lot of the footage from GABRIELLA GABRIELLA), and KEYS. All are from 1972 but KEYS and CLASS OF ’74. She appears in PANAMA RED as a last hurrah and favor for her friends John Holmes and Bob Chinn. Her career would also see her work with filmmakers Harry Novak, James Bryan, Arthur Marks, Mack Bing, and Lee Frost. She costarred with lovely ladies the likes of Pat Woodell, Marsha Jordan, Rene Bond, Laurie Rose, Luanne Roberts and Linda York. Only three very small roles would follow in her retirement before she gave acting up for good.
After leaving acting on the birth of her son Nigel she began working as a make-up girl on adult features lensed by her husband Frank and often starring her close friend John Holmes. That’s right. She was good friends with Johnny Wadd himself (on a side note I happen to have grown up in Holmes’ hometown…sadly the likeness ends there). Mills frequently worked on sets with Frank the two of them having an extremely close and loving relationship. The couple would eventually move to Thailand 2009 following their son and she would die there on December 15, 2010 at 59 years of age. Thankfully Jill C. Nelson, author of Golden Goddesses:25 Legendary Women of Classic Erotic Cinema, was able to sit down and interview Barbara shortly before her untimely death. The result may be the only document that will actually allow fans a window into the world of the lovely brunette. She was also able to interview Mills’ daughter Carly.
Barbara claimed to have no regrets and that she felt she was still carrying on in the spirit of the 60’s revolution. She was a very spiritual person and was in fact an ordained non-denominational minister who performed a handful of weddings. Carly remembers her mother being reticent and a tad embarrassed by her film work. This may be solely in her relationship with her children but it seems it may have been broader. Stories would pop up from time to time and her daughter was able to convince her that her work was something to be proud of which led to Mills embracing her past work. Barbara possessed a truly ethereal quality. When asked about her work she sums up, “When I remember my former work in films, I believe we left behind a really free spirit. We weren’t condemned for what we did. We were sometimes greatly appreciated for our work. It was interesting. It was an innocent time, it wasn’t considered real.”
Young and fresh faced Barbara Mills is an unforgettable actress once you fall under her spell. Her star rose quickly and burst like a supernova over exploitation cinema vanishing almost as abruptly as it arrived. Not only a beauty and great actress, she was a consummate artist and a devoted wife and mother. B cinema will surely never see another like her. Below you will find more images of the lovely lady and a list of her films that are covered in the blog pages of 3S: