The Parent Trap (1961)


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What do you get when you take a German book originally written as a movie scenario inspired by a movie and make a movie of it? You get a film franchise that includes one megahit film, three TV sequels, and a 90’s remake starring Lindsay Lohan.

Let’s take a look at the film that started it all! Here’s The Parent Trap!

And remember, SPOILERS AHEAD!

The film opens up to a stop-motion piece of animation that summarizes the basic plot of the movie with a title song sung by Tommy Sands and Annette Funicello.

They're not even acting in this movie, but are still getting a salary presumably. No wonder they're full of glee!
They’re not even acting in this movie, but are still getting a salary presumably. No wonder they’re full of glee!

It’s interesting to note that this is the first Disney film that the Sherman Brothers worked on and it shows. The movie only has 3 songs and in my opinion, they’re extremely sub-par to what we know the Sherman Brothers can produce. Then again, we all have to start from somewhere and build ourselves up!

"Ha ha, that's not funny."
“You’re darn right!”

After the opening sequence, we see a girls’ camp and focus in on two girls, Susan and Sharon, both played by Hayley Mills. The reason why the two are focused on is that they seem to be lookalikes!

Imagine if they made both kids have the same hairstyle!
Imagine if they made both kids have the same hairstyle!

They both accuse the other of looking like her, and immediately dislike each other. One of them sabotages the other’s cabin

I don't know what I'd do if I woke up to this sight!
I don’t know what I’d do if I woke up to this sight!

and the other gets revenge by cutting the other’s dress.

In the end, the woman in charge decides to punish the two by putting them together in a cabin where they’ll be forced to talk and get along. And after a wind blows through one of the windows and they work together to close it, they instantly become friends and bury the hatchet.

Wind: Bringing people together since...1961, apparently!
Wind: Bringing people together since…1961, apparently!

They start talking and learn interesting things about each other. Besides looking alike, they also share the same birthday and also one has a mother, but no father, and the other, vice-versa. They quickly deduce that they’re actually twin sisters! Apparently, their parents separated/divorced when they were babies and the mother took one of them and moved to Boston while the father moved to California with the other.

Both girls long to meet the other parent and devise a plan to switch places! They take turns teaching each other about each other’s lives so that they can successfully get away with their plan and not be caught. They even decide to take the plan further! They realize that their parents have never remarried and deduce that they may still have love for each other, so the girls hope that they can get their parents to meet again and remarry.

When the camp ends, Susan goes to Boston as Sharon and comes face-to-face with her mother, Maggie, played by Maureen O’Hara. Maggie doesn’t suspect anything despite the fact that Sharon seems a bit more emotional and happier to see her than usual. Nevertheless, they hit it off well.

"Did you really miss me all that much at camp?" "You have no idea, Mother!"
“Did you really miss me all that much at camp?”
“You have no idea, Mother!”

Meanwhile Sharon who’s gone to California as Susan comes face-to-face with her father, Mitch, played by Brian Keith. And pretty much the same thing happens: Mitch doesn’t suspect anything and Sharon is more emotional and happier to see him.

"I missed you, dear! You're practically a different woman!" "You have no idea, Father!"
“I missed you, dear! You’re practically a different woman!”
“You have no idea, Father!”

She loves seeing him and loves the big ranch that he owns, but then a stranger shows up at the ranch: a young woman named Vicky, played by Joanna Barnes. Apparently, while his daughter was away at camp, Mitch was enjoying a romance with this young woman and seems to be inclined to marry her. Sharon is shocked at this turn of events, especially after realizing that Vicky’s only marrying her father for his money.

Can anybody tell me what color her hair is? It's been bugging me. I call it yellowish-gray.
Gold diggers…always fun characters to see!

Later that night, Sharon makes a long-distance phone call to Susan and inform her of the goings-on. They plan that Susan should try her best to get their mom to California before Mitch can remarry while Sharon should try to break up Mitch and Vicky’s “romance”.

While that’s going on, it’s not long before the kids’ secret is found out. Sharon is soon discovered to be Susan by her grandfather, played by Charles Ruggles.

Just goes to prove: you can never fool your grandpa!
Just goes to prove: you can never fool your grandpa!

He then convinces her to reveal her secret to her mother, who reacts extremely happily as one can imagine! But now that the secret is out, Maggie has to go to California in order to switch Susan with Sharon, since she’s only legally allowed to have Sharon.

Maggie and Susan make a surprise trip to California right when Mitch has Vicky over and as you can imagine, the next 15-20 minutes are hilarious to see as they’re filled with mistaken identities, clumsiness, and tensions between Vicky and Maggie that are so thick that you can cut through them with a knife!

That smile masks 1000 schemes!
That smile masks 1000 schemes!

In the end, Vicky is upset that Mitch’s ex is staying over, Mitch is astonished to realize that he’s had the wrong girl the whole time and is surprised/annoyed to see Maggie, and when Vicky heads home for the day, Mitch and Maggie try to sort everything out in regards to the girls.

Meanwhile the girls continue trying to do everything to get their parents back together including recreating their parents’ first date

Italian restaurant recreations...bringing people together least 1961!
Italian restaurant recreations…bringing people together since…at least 1961!

and refusing to tell the parents which of them is who.

The final straw to this predicament is planted when Mitch takes the girls and Vicky on a camping trip and the girls pull all kinds of pranks on Vicky (much alike the ones they did to each other at their camp) so much so that Vicky gets infuriated and runs away while calling off the wedding.

Getting bears to lick her feet while she slept wasn't such a bad idea after all!
Getting bears to lick her feet while she slept wasn’t such a bad idea after all!

With Vicky out of the picture, Mitch and Maggie realize their love for each other, remarry, keep both kids, and live together happily ever after!

And that’s The Parent Trap and it’s simply great! The writing/story is just so creative and clever that it keeps you entertained throughout the entire movie! The characters are likable and easy to relate to and the actors are really good, especially Hayley Mills. You honestly feel that there are twins playing the role and it’s not just her playing two roles! She deserves to be commended for that!

"He said I should be commended!" "No, he meant ME!"
“He said I should be commended!”
“No, he meant ME!”

The only major problem that I have with the movie is the sub-par music like I’ve said before. But I can’t be too harsh on the Sherman Brothers as this WAS their first Disney movie that they worked on and the film isn’t really supposed to be a musical.

"I'm glad you can't be too harsh on us. Too bad we don't feel the same way!"
“I’m glad you can’t be too harsh on us. Too bad we don’t feel the same way!”

Nevertheless, this is a film that everybody should see at least once in their lives…more than once, preferably!

(You can click on the image below for an enlarged version of my rating sheet.)


So, the final score for this film is 29/35 = 82.86% (B-) !

The next review will be posted on August 18th.

16 thoughts on “The Parent Trap (1961)

      1. I haven’t seen it in years, but I remember liking it, but not as much as this 1961 version.

        But I’ll definitely have to watch it sometime for this blog, so we’ll see what my thoughts on it will be then.

  1. I know I linked my review for those movies at one point, so you should know this, but I have some additional problems, which mostly steam from knowing the original book, which is not a comedy by any means, but a serious discussion about the emotional impact of divorce on children, and how difficult it is to raise a child alone. Also a way bigger clash of two worlds because in the book, one child grew up in relative poverty, and with a lot of responsibilities while the other one grew up relatively rich and spoiled.

    I like the parent trap movies, the original and the remake (which has for me a slight edge because I like the servants so much more in this, especially the butler is hilarious), minus the camping trip which I think is fairly stupid filler which would be better used on character development. But knowing what a heartfelt book lies under all that, one which really respects the intelligence of the children….I could never give it as high marks as I would give something like Mary Poppins, a movie which has the comedy, but still discusses the issue at hand in some really thoughtful scenes.

  2. I adored this movie as a child. But how can you say the music is sub-par lol? “Let’s Get Together” is such a fun song! 🙂

      1. From the movie? There’s the one that the mom sings, don’t remember the name. And then there’s the Parent Trap song in the opening…

      2. I personally like “Let’s Get Together” the most. I did see the sequels (ok, not great) and the remake. The remake was cute, but I liked the original more cause I felt it dealt with divorce better. The parents had more issues to work out than the ones in the remake, who just seemed to break-up over a silly fight.

  3. Your reviews are so detailed and fun. Thanks! I also love the chemistry between Ohara and Keith. It really sizzles!

    I know a lot of divorced people hate this movie because it gave kids hope they would get back together but I think most kids are smart enough to know difference between a movie and real life

    I also hate camping and could be totally submarined like Vikki. 😉

    1. Thanks for liking my reviews! I try to do my best, which is why I put out a new review every 2 weeks.

      Hmm…I never thought about how divorced people feel about this film. That’s interesting!

      Make sure you don’t show your future kids this movie or else they WILL submarine you whenever you go camping 😛 .

  4. Pretty much all that I really enjoyed from this version was the song “Let’s Get Together” (which I actually first heard on the first volume of the CLASSIC DISNEY series of music CD’s- and in a different key, at that). If anything, the 1998 remake was more to my liking. (Call it familiarity breeding contempt, if that phrase is even applicable…)

  5. The original book was actually compulsory reading for me in elementary school, so I was very familiar with it, and its’ plot. Because of this, I was always very detached with the Disney versions of this story, never was wowed by them. Saw the 90s one as a kid, didn’t care about it. Watching this version for the first time felt the same, I moreso did it out of obligation. Nevertheless, it is a very good movie still, definitely one of the best live-action comedies from Disney I’ve seen so far! The comedy is excellent, and so is the acting, too! They really did a good job in fooling me that there was always two Hayley Mills on screen by a simple yet extremely effective technique! Overall, I respect these films, but because of my familiarity with the original books, they will never become as endearing as for many others.

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