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Happy birthday, Rosemary's Baby: the dark fable that spawned a genre

 Devilry in the delivery: the elfin Mia Farrow carried a heavy load in the Roman Polanski film of Ira Levin’s 1967 novel
 Devilry in the delivery: the elfin Mia Farrow carried a heavy load in the Roman Polanski film of Ira Levin’s 1967 novel

 Ira Levin’s chilling novel, published 50 years ago, is unjustly overshadowed by Polanski’s film

Half a century after it was first published on March 12 1967, it’s almost impossible to come fresh to Ira Levin’s supernatural chiller Rosemary’s Baby. Mia Farrow and her pixie cut loom large as scenes from Roman Polanski’s adaptation, released the following year, unspool in the mind’s eye: we see her frantically shuffling Scrabble tiles to decode her demonic neighbour’s anagrammatic pseudonym; or shrieking “What have you done to his eyes?” as she’s introduced to the not-wholly-human firstborn she’s been carrying for the rest of the movie.

Reading the novel even now, Levin’s prose feels screen-ready, its snappy dialogue a source of frequent humour. Here, for example, is Rosemary hosting a party:

 

“The garlic bread!” Rosemary cried.

“In or out?” Joan asked.

“In.” Rosemary pointed with a mascara...

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