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'The Parent Trap's Hayley Mills: A '60s Disney Movie Phenomenon

Entertainment | October 10, 2017

Portrait of Hayley Mills circa 1965, and on her 1962 album cover 'Let's Get Together With Hayley Mills.' Source: Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images;

In the early 1960s, Walt Disney's live-action  movies were dominated by one charming British actress: Hayley Mills. The Parent Trap was the most famous of the six films she made for the studio. For the rest of the '60s and into the '70s, Mills acted in various movies, but was semi-retiredby 1975. She later returned to reprise her Parent Trap roles in successful sequels.

Born Into An Acting Family

The youngest daughter of British actor Sir John Mills and younger sister of actress Juliet Mills, Hayley began her acting career as a child. Her first film was Tiger Bay in 1959. She starred in Disney’s Pollyanna in the following year. For Tiger Bay, she won a BAFTA award for Most Promising Newcomer; for Pollyanna she won a newcomer Golden Globe and a special juvenile Academy Award.

America's Favorite Child Actress Of The Early '60s Was British

She appeared in six films for Walt Disney, with her most famous role being the twins Susan and Sharon in The Parent Trap with Brian Keith and Maureen O’Hara. The success of the song she sang from the film, "Let's Get Together" also led to the release of a record album, Let's Get Together with Hayley Mills, that also included her only other hit song, "Johnny Jingo". Next for Hayler was her first onscreen kiss that was in Disney’s The Moon-Spinners in 1964 with Peter McEnery. Her last film with Disney was the comedy, That Darn Cat! which also did very well at the box office.

She made several movies with her father, one was The Truth About Spring (1965), which co-starred another Disney regular, James MacArthur, as her love interest. Then along came The Trouble with Angels in 1966. It was a huge hit; Hayley played a bored Catholic boarding school girl who got into trouble with the pranks she played on her classmates, nuns and especially with the Mother Superior, played by the legendary Rosalind Russell. 

Her Career Stalled In The Mid-70s; Then She Returned

Mills appeared again with her father and Hywel Bennett in director Roy Boulting's critically acclaimed film, The Family Way which was also released in 1966. This was a comedy about a couple having a difficult time consummating their marriage, which happened to feature music by Paul McCartney and arrangements by Beatles producer George Martin. She began a romantic relationship with Roy Boulting while working on the film and they were married later on in 1971. They had a son, Crispian Mills, who is the lead singer and guitarist for the raga-rock band Kula Shaker. The couple divorced in 1977. She had a second son, Jason Lawson, from her relationship with British actor Leigh Lawson.

She took on more serious roles in thrillers and mysteries, then dropped out of the film industry for a few years after 1975 until 1981. In 1981, Mills returned to acting with a starring role in the UK television mini-series “The Flame Trees of Thika”. She made guest appearances on “The Love Boat” and narrated an episode of “The Wonderful World of Disney”. She reprised her roles as twins Sharon and Susan for a trio of Parent Trap television films- “The Parent Trap II”, “Parent Trap III”, and “Parent Trap: Hawaiian Honeymoon”.

She starred as the title character in the Disney Channel-produced TV series, “Good Morning, Miss Bliss” in 1987. The show was cancelled after 13 episodes but the rights were acquired by NBC and changed the name to the teen hit series, “Saved by the Bell”.

Hayley Mills Today

Hayley has since worked on documentaries, short films (one written by her brother Jonathan) and mini-series in the later years, along with reviving her stage career with her sister Juliet.

In 1988 she co-edited the book “My God”, which was a compilation of brief letters from celebrities on their beliefs regarding God and what happens after death. Her partner since 1997 is actor/writer Firdous Bamji, who is 20 years younger than Hayley. In April 2008, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Hayley credits her survival to the alternative treatments she tried after surgery, instead of opting for chemo or radiation. She told Good Housekeeping magazine in January 2012 that she has fully recovered. 

Tags: Career-Defining Moments | Disney | Hayley Mills | Movies In The 1970s

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Cyn Felthousen-Post


Cyn loves history, music, Irish dancing, college football and nature. Social media is also her thing, keeping up with trends and celebrities with positive news. She can be found outside walking or hiking with her son when she's not working. Carpe diem is her fave quote, get out there and seize the day!