Parent Trap, The (1961)
“The nerve of her, coming here with your face!”
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
Response to Peary’s Review:
There’s no disputing the cult status of this beloved film, the “second [Hollywood] adaptation of Erich Kastner’s  novel Lisa and Lottie.” The first version, Twice Upon a Time (1953), was directed by none other than Emeric Pressburger, but remains oddly elusive; I’ve never seen it, and have no idea how to go about finding a copy. Meanwhile, two other previous non-Hollywood versions were made as well (one in Germany, and one in Japan), and in addition to later being adapted quite a few more times internationally, it was remade by Hollywood in 1998 with Lindsay Lohan in Mills’ roles. Clearly, the ludicrous storyline — Kastner was purportedly inspired by the similar plot device in Three Smart Girls (1936) — resonates with young viewers, who love to imagine that all their divorced parents need is simply a strong nudge towards reintroduction in order to happily reunite. Meanwhile, Kastner added the universally appealing notion that we may have an identical doppelganger out in the world, someone we know nothing about, but who we may run into by chance, and who will quickly become our closest confidante and companion. What’s not to love about this fantasy scenario?
Adult viewers, however, will likely have a terrible time accepting the notion that O’Hara and Keith split up their twin daughters at an early age and failed to tell either one about the other; it not only strains credibility, but leaves a decidedly sour taste in one’s mouth about their parenting decisions. Regardless, O’Hara and Keith do indeed make for an appealing would-be couple:
… especially when contrasted with the cartoonishly evil gold-digger played by Barnes (whose frosted hair and matronly hairdo make her appear much older than her actual 27 years of age).
And Mills’ performances — helped tremendously by fantastic double-exposure special effects — make the film easy to sit through, even when all its other elements fail to inspire.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
One thought on “Parent Trap, The (1961)”
Not a must.
As is the case now for me with most classic Disney films, I hadn’t seen this since I was a kid. And, boy, does it not hold up well at all. Not even Hayley (whom I adore in film generally, as being in the top 5 best child actors as well as just having much screen charm) can put this one over successfully (esp. nowadays) – through no fault of her own. I’ve no doubt that the film (and Hayley in it) struck a particular chord with young audiences “at the time” – as Peary notes – but, aside from a handful of moments when the film comes to mildly interesting life, ‘TPT’ doesn’t ultimately pack enough of a satisfying punch.
Director David Swift (and, of course, Hayley) had done such pleasing work with ‘Pollyanna’ the previous year – and that film still holds up today…which makes ‘TPT’ all the more of a disappointment and a slight chore to get through.
Particularly annoying is the opening theme song – which is simply wretched. Annette Funicello must have subsequently been given a vocal coach, cause her singing here is like fingernails on a blackboard. Ick!
FFs will want to make sure to check out ‘Whistle Down the Wind’, released the same year and which contains one of Hayley’s best performances in film.
Fave moment: Keith gets nervous when he realizes he’s going to have to talk with Hayley about ‘the facts of life’. There’s an awkward moment of misunderstanding before Hayley blurts out that she knows all about that! 😉
Gay FFs will get a kick out of seeing ‘our own’ Nancy Kulp in a small role as a camp counselor. She’s an absolute treat here but, sadly, given very little screen time.
Note: The ‘doppelganger’ theme is used to wonderful effect in Kieslowski’s brilliant film ‘The Double Life of Veronique’.