They cloned Pollyanna. Not really, but that was certainly the effect Walt Disney wanted for 1961’s The Parent Trap.
Young actress Hayley Mills had skyrocketed to fame the previous year as the title character in Disney’s Pollyanna, and Walt decided to capitalise on that success by giving the girl double billing.
As twins Sharon and Susan, Mills proved more than up to the task, giving the spunky spark to this perennial family favourite.
Sharon McKendrick and Susan Evers first come across each other on a trip to summer camp, where each notices the uncanny resemblance.
Taking an instant dislike to their mirror images, the girls engage in prank warfare, culminating with a no-holds-barred brawl/food fight.
The camp counsellors at Camp Inch decide the best way to deal with the situation is to force the two to spend the rest of camp together since they’ll either learn to get along or quietly kill each other off.
As the two start to warm up, they discover they’re actually long-lost twin sisters, separated soon after birth when their parents divorced.
The girls decide to switch roles in order to meet the other parent and spend the summer coaching each other on their respective lives. At summer’s end, they switch places: Sharon goes to California to spend time with her father (Brian Keith), while Susan flies out to Boston to see her mother (Maureen O’Hara). They hope they can also reunite their parents into the bargain.
The switched sibs manage to pull off the scam, but trouble arises when dad announces his impending marriage to gold-digging Vicky Robinson (Joanna Barnes).
Sharon calls her sis in Boston, who tells her mother the truth and arranges to fly both her and mother out to spoil the wedding.
The girls’ matchmaking efforts appear to fall short when mum and dad have a fight, but on the day mother is to return to Boston, the identically dressed-and-coifed twins refuse to tell which girl is which.
That battle won, Sharon and Susan insist the family (including Vicky) go on a planned camping trip together, giving them time to sabotage one engagement and plot another. Of course, there’s a happy ending.
The split-screen effect of having both Hayleys on screen at the same time was pulled off without a hitch, and the actress played both parts with equally sweet and sour precociousness.
The movie was a smash, and Mills went on to star in a number of other films for Disney. In the 1980s, a grown-up Mills reprised her roles for a handful of TV movie sequels, and in 1998, Disney released a remade version of the original with newcomer Lindsay Lohan in the twin roles.
Writer/director David Swift was so taken with the possibilities of a comic summer camp that he used the first part of the film as the basis for a TV series several years later called Camp Runamuck.
Sharon McKendrick/Susan Evers
Frank De Vol
Rev. Dr Mosby
Leo G. Carroll