Maureen O'Hara and Hayley Mills in The Parent Trap (1961)

Mills & Mills

Before a young and innocent Lindsay Lohan starred in "The Parent Trap" remake there was the 1961 version starring the angelic Hayley Mills alongside movie veterans Maureen O'Hara and Brian Keith. In fact the 1961 version of "The Parent Trap" wasn't the first either as the story by Erich Kästner has been adapted into various movies over the years including "Das doppelte Lottchen" from 1950. But for me the 1961 version of "The Parent Trap" is my favourite as it has that old style Disney innocence and bubbles along with plenty of family friendly humour. And surprisingly for a fun family movie where the jokes are as obvious as the story there is some surprising moments of tenderness which creep in to give it an edge over the other versions.

Having turned up for summer camp Sharon McKendrick (Hayley Mills - Pollyanna) is shocked when she meets Susan Evers (Hayley Mills) because they are the spitting image of each other, the only difference is their hair length and their upbringing with Susan raised on a ranch whilst Sharon has been raised in the city. But they soon discover that this isn't some quirk of nature as they learn that they are twins, separated at a young age when there parents divorced. Wanting to switch places so that they can find out what their other parent is like Susan cuts Sharon's hair like hers and when camp is over they switch places. All is well until Sharon, whilst pretending to be Susan so that she can meet her father Mitch (Brian Keith - Run of the Arrow) learns that he is planning to marry Vicky (Joanna Barnes) who is just after his money. So the twins get to work on not only trying to stop him from marrying but getting their mother Maggie (Maureen O'Hara - War Arrow) to the ranch to try and reunite them.

Maureen O'Hara and Brian Keith in The Parent Trap (1961)

To be blunt whilst I like the 1961 version of "The Parent Trap" it is a movie of its era and watching it now it is impossible not to notice how cheesy it is even if it is charming at the same time. But you make allowances for this and allow the simplistic fantasy tale of twins discovering each other for the first time many years after their parents divorced to entertain. And "The Parent Trap" is a simple tale of two halves with the first half being all about twins Sharon and Susan discovering each other, not getting along and then coming up with a cunning plan to switch places. It's full of innocent pranks as the girls initially don't get on and is just as innocent as they prepare each other for the different worlds they will move to as Sharon has a life of privilege in Boston whist Susan has freedom on a Californian ranch.

The second half of the movie is all about not only the twins trying to stop their father Mitch remarrying but also getting their parents back together. And as such the outcome of "The Parent Trap" seeing that it is a Walt Disney movie is very predictable; it's just a matter of time. But it works well especially as a movie for all the family because young children will enjoy the comedy of the twins switching places whilst adults will enjoy the comedy of her argumentative parents finding themselves being tricked in to meeting up.

Now as already mentioned this version of "The Parent Trap" is from a bygone era of innocence which whilst nice is often cheesy and as such there is a certain groan factor whilst watching "The Parent Trap" now. There is a falseness to some of the delivery as Hayley Mills delivers both Sharon and Susan and the musical scene borders on the cringe worthy. But for every over sweet scene there is also something charming and there is a beautiful moment of tenderness when Mitch gives Sharon a huge, emotion filled hug having found out she is not Susan as he thought. Add to this the clever editing to have Hayley Mills appearing as the twins in the same scene and there is a lot to like about this movie.

And to be honest whilst there is a certain amount of over the top gusto to Hayley Mills performance she does a pretty remarkable job considering that this was only her third movie. But for me it is the combination of Maureen O'Hara and Brian Keith as her divorced and argumentative parents which makes "The Parent Trap" such a joy. For what is basically a family movie Maureen O'Hara as Maggie is surprisingly sexy, beautiful and very fiery working well with Keith who plays Mitch in a sort of John Wayne manner. It means there is plenty of obvious laughs as they argue and often flirt definitely offering something fun for adults who end up watching this.

What this all boils down to is that "The Parent Trap" is in many ways a very stereotypical 60s Disney family movie which like others does now feel a little cheesy but it is still good fun and surprisingly charming. In only her third movie Hayley Mills does a wonderful job of delivering the comedy for younger audiences whilst the pairing of Maureen O'Hara and Brian Keith provide plenty of laughs for adults even when the outcome of this fantasy tale is pretty obvious.