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The Parent Trap (1961)

Is there a Baby Boomer male who didn’t have a crush on Hayley Mills back in the early 60’s?

If there was, he probably never saw her in her magnum opus, The Parent Trap.

The film trades on the extremely popular, but probably psychologically unhealthy fantasy of a lot of divorced kids that they can somehow get their parents back together again.

In this case, the too dumb for their own good ‘rents are played by Brian Keith (who owns every young girl’s fantasy of a California horse ranch) and Maureen O’Hara (who inhabits no one’s fantasy of a stuffy Boston home, relieved only by Charlie Ruggles as a grandfather with a permanent twinkle in his eye).

In The Parent Trap, their kids are both Hayley Mills (or Hayley and her body double, Susan Henning) as twins who were separated at birth by their idiot parents. 

Based on the German novel by Erich Kästner, Das Doppelte Lottchen (The Double Lottie), where the twins are named Lottie and Lisa. In the transfer to Hollywood, the girls are renamed Sharon and Susan. Somewhere along the way, they also picked up an inexplicable British accent. Very hard to understand as neither parent sounds remotely British.

Is anybody besides us bothered by one small fact? Despite the divorced parents seeming to be on pretty good terms (especially considering the relative rarity of divorce way back when), neither parent has told either of the girls that they have a sister - let alone an indentical twin? How screwed up is that?

Of course if they had been told, you’d never have a picture and we’d never have gotten see Hayley Mills get her underpants exposed to a bunch of boys! Yes, that scene was mighty racy for a Disney picture. Ms. Mills reports that she was so nervous about the scene where one twin cuts away the back of the other twin’s dress at a mixer with the boys’ camp that she actually wore multiple pairs of underwear during the filming of that scene!

Possible rock & roll history was made during the climactic scene involving the twins recreating their parents’ first date at an Italian restaurant in the outdoor courtyard of dad’s (Brian Keith) fantastic California ranch.

The duo serenades their folks with a very catchy little big beat number, “Let’s Get Together,” written by those Disney song-writing fools, Richard and Robert Sherman (later to hit the motherlode with the songs for Mary Poppins).

Here in 1961, a full two years before the Beatles recorded “She Loves You,” you can hear the lad’s trademark pop hook “Yeah, yeah, yeah” being crooned by two other lovable British mop-tops, Hayley Mills and Hayley Mills. Mills rode that song all the way to #8 on the Billboard Hot 100 in September of that year.

For whatever reason, the film’s title tune (also written by the Sherman brothers) is not sung by Hayley, but by Disney contract players Annette Funicello and Tommy Sands, who were busy at the studio filming Babes in Toyland at the same time.

The film was put together by the very capable David Swift. Swift had a long Hollywood career, working as animator for Disney and then as both a writer and director with a credit list that includes Pollyanna, Good Neighbor Sam, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, and a variety of TV shows from Alfred Hitchcock Presents through The Love Boat. Appropriately, his final project was serving as screenwriter for the 1998 remake of The Parent Trap starring Lindsay Lohan.

For whatever reason, the original version of The Parent Trap went on to become one of Disney’s best-loved and most-remembered live action films. It wound up the 6th highest grossing film of the year, coming in just behind West Side Story, The Guns of Navarone, El Cid, and two other Disney films – 101 Dalmatians and The Absent-Minded Professor. The film was also nominated for two Oscars in technical categories (Sound and Film Editing).

BTW - Here's a photo of Hayley with her body double, Susan Henning. The two have remained in touch through all the intervening years.

Before the ’98 reboot, it spawned no less than three made-for-TV sequels all with Hayley Mills returning as the now grown up Sharon and Susan.

The Parent Trap and The Parent Trap II are available on DVD.

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