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Building Entertainment: The Animated Films of the Walt Disney Studio. Live-Action Edition. The Parent Trap

Welcome to my weekly discussion of the animated films of the Walt Disney Studio. As stated, we have completed the animated films and are now exploring the partial animated and live-action films. The title comes from a quote from Walt, “I never called my work an ‘art’ It’s part of show business, the business of building entertainment.”

Title: The Parent Trap

Year: 1961

Source materials : Based upon the 1949 book Das Doppelte Lottchen 1 by Erich Kästner.

Box office: $25.1 million

Plot: Identical twins Sharon McKendrick and Susan Evers meet at Miss Inch’s Summer Camp for Girls, unaware that they are sisters. Their identical appearance initially creates rivalry, and they pull pranks on each other, culminating in the camp dance being ruined. As punishment, Miss Inch decides that they must live together in the isolated “Serendipity” cabin (and eat together at an “Isolation Table”) for the remainder of the camp season.


After discovering that they both come from single-parent homes, they soon realize they are twin sisters and that their parents, Mitchell “Mitch” Evers and Margaret “Maggie” McKendrick, divorced shortly after their birth, with each parent having custody of one of them. The twins, each eager to meet the parent she never knew, decide to switch places. Susan gives Sharon a matching haircut and has her bite her nails. They also take a crash-course getting to know each other while learning about each other’s personalities and ways of life.


While Susan is in Boston at their grandparents’ house pretending to be Sharon, Sharon goes to California to their father’s house, pretending to be Susan. Sharon learns their father is engaged to a child-hating gold digger named Vicky Robinson. Sharon calls Susan to tell her that their father is planning to marry Vicky, who is beautiful and dangerous, and that she must bring their mother to California immediately. Susan eventually reveals to their mother and grandparents the truth about their switching places. They are extremely happy to see Susan again, and Maggie and Susan fly to California.



After Mitch and Maggie are reunited, they argue and the twins make their surprise appearance together. Mitch is extremely happy to see Sharon again, and after he tells Vicky the truth about the twins, she is shocked and furious — especially after learning that Maggie plans to spend the night at his house. The girls recreate their parents’ first date at the Italian restaurant Martinelli’s with a gypsy violinist. The former spouses are gradually drawn together, but have another fight with Maggie about why they divorced in the first place telling Mitch that she and Sharon are leaving in the morning, and that she wishes him the best of everything with Vicky.


Susan and Sharon try to find a way to delay their return to Boston, so the twins dress and talk alike so their parents are unable to tell them apart. They will reveal who is who only after returning from the annual family camping trip. Mitch and Maggie reluctantly agree. Vicky is furious, so Maggie tricks her into taking her place and letting her know it would give her a chance to get to know the twins better. Mitch is an outdoorsman, but Vicky is not, and she is not used to climbing mountains and being in the woods, so the twins decide to play tricks on her.


Vicky spends her time swatting mosquitoes after unknowingly using sugared water instead of mosquito repellent, and being awakened by two bear cubs licking honey off her feet, which the twins had previously placed there. Exasperated, Vicky finally has a shouting tantrum destroying everything in her path and culminating in angrily slaps Susan, leaving Mitch with a whole new-found view of her. When she runs off to escape back to the city in a great huff, Mitch seems none too worried to be rid of her.


Back at the house, the twins apologize for what they did to Vicky, and are forgiven. Maggie makes dinner, and Mitch talks about what their life was like when they were married. They realize they still love each other, and do not want to grow into a couple of old and lonely people. They share a kiss, and decide to remarry.

Background: The film originally called for only a few trick photography shots of Hayley Mills in scenes with herself; the bulk of the film was to be shot using a body double. 2 The film used Disney’s proprietary sodium vapor process for compositing rather than the usual chroma key technique. When Walt Disney saw how seamless the processed shots were, he ordered the script reconfigured to include more of the special effect. Camp Inch was based on a real girls’ camp called Camp Crestridge for Girls at the Ridgecrest Baptist Conference Center near Asheville, North Carolina.


Maureen O’Hara became involved in a contract dispute with Walt Disney over her billing. Her contract stipulated she was to get top billing, but Disney liked the idea of advertising the film as “starring Haley Mills and Haley Mills.” Per her autobiography, ‘Tis Herself, the conflict became heated with Disney warning her not to pursue it. She eventually dropped the suit, but never worked with Disney again.


Music and Songs: The score was provided by Paul J. Smith. Richard and Robert Sherman provided the songs.


  • “The Parent Trap” 3
  • “For Now, For Always”
  • “Let’s Get Together” 4
  • “Let’s Get Together” 5



 Hayley Mills as Sharon McKendrick/Susan Evers. Her first Disney film was the lead role in Pollyanna. 6 She appeared in Whistle Down the Wind, In Search of the Castaways, That Darn Cat!, The Truth About Spring, The Trouble with Angels and Endless Night. Brian Keith 7 as Mitchell “Mitch” Evers. He is best known for two television shows: Family Affair and Hardcastle and McCormick. He also starred in The Brian Keith Show. His films include The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming, The Wind and the Lion and Youmg Guns.

Maureen O’Hara 8 as Margaret “Maggie” McKendrick. Is best known to most viewers as Doris Walker in Miracle on 34th Street. She started in films with Alfred Hitchcock’s Jamaica Inn in 1939. Subsequent film roles include The Hunchback of Notre Dame, How Green Was My Valley, The Black Swan, The Spanish Main, Sinbad the Sailor, Comanche Territory, Rio Grande, The Quiet Man, The Wings of Eagles, The Deadly Companions, The Rare Breed, Big Jake, and Only the Lonely. Joanna Barnes as Vicky Robinson. She appeared in Auntie Mame and Tarzan, the Ape Man. She made guest appearances on many television series, including 77 Sunset Strip, Maverick, and Have Gun – Will Travel.

Charlie Ruggles 9 as Charles McKendrick. He is best remembered today as the big-game hunter in Bringing Up Baby and billionaire Michael J. ‘Mike’ O’Connor in It Happened on Fifth Avenue. He had a recurring guest role on The Beverly Hillbillies as Lowell Redlings Farquhar. Cathleen Nesbitt 10  as Louise McKendrick. Sge appeared in Three Coins in the Fountain, An Affair to Remember, Staircase, Villain, and French Connection II.

Una Merkel 11 as Verbena the housekeeper. She is best known for roles in the films 42nd Street and Destry Rides Again. She was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in Summer and Smoke. In 1956 she won a Tony Award for her role in The Ponder Heart. Leo G. Carroll 12 as Reverend Dr. Mosby. He appested in A Christmas Carol, Wuthering Heights, Father of the Bride, The Desert Fox: The Story of Rommel, Rebecca, Suspicion, Spellbound, The Paradine Case, Strangers on a Train, and North by Northwest. He appeared in three television series, Topper, Going My Way, and The Man from U.N.C.L.E..

Linda Watkins 13 as Edna Robinson. Her credits included From Hell It Came, Ten North Frederick, As Young as We Are, Cash McCall, Because They’re Young, Good Neighbor Sam, Huckleberry Finn, and Bad Ronald. Ruth McDevitt 14 as Miss Abbey Inch. Her film debut was in The Guy Who Came Back and apoeared in The Birds, Boys’ Night Out, Dear Heart, The Shakiest Gun in the West, Angel in My Pocket, The Love God?, Change of Habit, The War Between Men and Women, and Mixed Company. She also had a regular role as Emily Cowles on Kolchak: the Night Stalker.

Crahan Denton 15 as Hecky the ranch foreman. One of his most famous film roles was in To Kill A Mockingbird. Denton starred in many films, including The Great St. Louis Bank Robbery, Birdman of Alcatraz, and Bus Riley’s Back in Town. He was also a guest star on many television shows, including Bonanza, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Gunsmoke, Have Gun Will Travel, The Fugitive, The Donna Reed Show, and Perry Mason Frank De Vol 16 as Mr. Eaglewood. De Vol wrote the scores for many Hollywood movies, receiving Academy Award nominations for four of them: Pillow Talk, Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte, Cat Ballou, and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. Other scores include Kiss Me Deadly, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, McLintock!, The Flight of the Phoenix, The Glass Bottom Boat, The Dirty Dozen, Hustle, Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo, and Herbie Goes Bananas. 17 He also made guest appearances on TV in I’m Dickens, He’s Fenster, I Dream of Jeannie, Gidget, Bonanza, Petticoat Junction, Mickey, The Brady Bunch, Get Smart, and The Jeffersons.

We profiled Nancy Kulp for The Aristocats.

Legacy: The film was nominated for two Academy Awards: one for Sound by Robert O. Cook, and the other for Film Editing by Philip W. Anderson. The Disney Studios produced three television sequels The Parent Trap II, Parent Trap III and Parent Trap: Hawaiian Honeymoon. 18 The original was remade in 1998 starring Lindsay Lohan, Dennis Quaid and Natasha Richardson. In February 2018, it was reported that another remake of The Parent Trap is in development for Walt Disney Studios’ upcoming streaming service Disney+.


My take: I have always enjoyed this film. It’s cute and funny. And of course Maureen O’Hara is always lovely.

Next Week: The Search for the Castaways