Saturday, August 15, 2015

Hayley Mills - Disney Legend

If there was any one person that embodied the qualities we associate with a Walt Disney film ( humorous, colorful, cheerful ), it’s Hayley Mills….this gal is a sheer delight to watch! And judging from box-office sales she was not only Disney’s living screen representative but his greatest asset as well. 

Hayley Mills captured audiences the world over from her very first film appearance at the age of 13 in Tiger Bay ( 1959 ) and over fifty years later she’s still gaining new followers with every screening of her films. She’s just simply irresistible. 

Hayley Catherine Rose Vivien Mills was born on April 18th, 1946 in London, England, her father being Sir John Mills, the celebrated stage and screen actor, and her mother Mary Hayley Bell, a playwright/novelist. Talent obviously was hereditary in the Mills family, for her older sister Juliet Mills, also became a well-known actress. A younger brother, Jonathan, was born shortly after too.

The children often spent time with their parents on tour, on the film sets, and at parties and because of this, were very intelligent and outgoing. 


During a cocktail party in 1958 at the Mills household, director J. Lee Thompson noticed the precocious young Hayley and suggested to her father that she audition for the role of Gillie in his upcoming thriller, Tiger Bay. The role was originally intended for a young boy but sporting a cropped top and a muddy pair of jeans, Hayley made do and played it as a “tomboy” to perfection. She was critically lauded for her part as the frightened little witness to a port-town murder and received a Silver Bear Award ( for special performance ) at the Berlin Film Festival.

Lillian Disney was among the admirers of this fresh new face and thought she’d be an ideal choice for the title role in Pollyanna. She suggested this to her husband, Walt Disney; he agreed, Hayley agreed, the Mills agreed, a five year contract was signed and presto! a star was born. Indeed, and what would Pollyanna ( 1960 ) had become if not for Hayley! With those big bright blue eyes and that enchanting grin, she became Pollyanna. Or rather…she simply played herself and Miss Goody Two-shoes forever became associated with Hayley. 


After the enormous success of Pollyanna, Walt Disney had his team of writers quickly develop another script for their star, and a popular German story by children’s author Erich Kastner called “Das Doppelte Lottchen” was rewritten as The Parent Trap. This tale of twin sisters who scheme to reunite their divorced parents was a perfect choice too…it gave Hayley the opportunity to play not one but two roles, and double Hayley, double the FUN ( and double the profits! ). To this day, The Parent Trap is Hayley Mill’s most recognized work on film. It’s no surprise either, it is such a wonderful and sweet movie. 

The film’s popularity established her as America’s favorite child actress ( in spite of being English and quite ladylike ) and throughout the early 60s Hayley’s face could be seen on posters, paperdoll books, magazine covers, record albums, and paperbacks. She had a pleasant singing voice too, and not only sang in most of her films but cut a few singles as well. 

             

During the next several years Hayley went on to make four more pictures for Walt Disney Studios : the adventurous In Search of the Castaways ( 1962 ) with Maurice Chevalier and Michael Anderson Jr. ; the lovely Summer Magic ( 1963 ) with Dorothy McGuire and Burl Ives; The Moonspinners ( 1964 ), filmed with the scenic backdrop of Greece’s Cretan coast; and That Darn Cat ( 1965 ) with Dean Jones and Dorothy Provine. 


Her contract with Disney was not exclusive though and this permitted her to make many films for other studios as well. In 1963 she starred in the Rank production of Whistle Down the Wind, a story about a group of children in Lancashire who shelter a criminal believing him to be Jesus Christ. It was based on the novel of the same name, written by her mother. 

             

She displayed her underrated dramatic talent as a malevolent child of secrets in Universals’ screen adaptation of Enid Bagnold’s mesmerizing play The Chalk Garden ( 1964 ) co-starring her father John Mills and the beautiful Deborah Kerr. Hayley bit into her role as Laurel and delivered an in-depth performance where the sinister and vulnerable sides of her character are shown with great skill and emotion. 


Around this time she also starred in The Truth About Spring, once again cast opposite her father. James MacArthur, David Tomlinson, and Lionel Jeffries also starred in this light-hearted seafaring adventure, but even with such a grand cast it lacked that magical Disney touch ( which it sorely needed ). 

In 1965, Hayley’s contract with Walt Disney studios expired and the first role she took on as an “independent” was the heartwarming The Trouble with Angels, directed by Ida Lupino. Hayley was superb in this film and sadly, this was the last of her more wholesome adolescent roles.

She shocked her fans by appearing nude in the British drama/comedy The Family Way and even though she continued to make films frequently up until 1972, her popularity declined dramatically. Times were changing, public tastes were changing, and good roles were hard to come by. 

During the making of The Family Way, Hayley had a well-publicized affair with its director Roy Boulting ( 33 years her senior ). They lived together for several years before marrying in 1971, having a son Crispian in 1973, and then divorcing shortly after. 

In 1981 she starred in the miniseries The Flame Trees of Thicka about a young girl’s view on life on a British plantation in Africa. Of course, Hayley played the mother here…not the young girl. Yes, and her fans were old enough to be mothers themselves ( gasp! ). And with their children now watching The Parent Trap what better than to have sequels made... Not one, not two, but three were released by the Disney Channel. Hayley revived her role as Sharon McKendrick and now played a mother to her very own set of twins. 


During the 1990s Hayley Mills did many other Disney television movies and was quite popular on the series Good Morning, Miss Bliss and it’s spin-off Saved by the Bell. Today she still keeps herself busy with film and television work and makes appearances at numerous events. 

Hayley Mills is the pink of perfection. As children, we all grew up watching her and most of us { girls } grew to emulate her too. Her characters were always capable, cunning and cute and Hayley never had a shortage of that good ol' American spunk. Although I focused on her Disney films in this post, she made many a fine performance throughout her career. Hayley well deserves the title "Legend", not only for her work with the Disney Studios but because she is a legend. She is a true Pollyanna and her films bring a lot of joy into our lives. The words she once spoke about Walt Disney apply most certainly to herself as well... 

" You always come out of his movies feeling happier than when you went in and feeling better about humanity and the human condition " 

11 comments:

  1. I have an older sister with Downs and Pollyanna is one of her favorite movies. She also likes "That Darn Cat." The only Disney film of hers I haven't seen is "The Moonspinners."

    I did not know Lupino directed "Trouble with Angels"!!!! That's so interesting!!! You always have such great posts :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My sister loves "The Parent Trap" too.

      Delete
    2. We're glad you enjoyed this post. Yes, Ida Lupino was quite a talent. The Trouble with Angels had a lot of humor as well as touching moments and she did a great job with that film. I actually felt the movie had a little more depth than the book.

      Delete
  2. Loved this post!!! I love Harley Mills too, of course!! Great tribute to her!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Robin. Is there anyone who doesn't love Hayley? She is such a joy to watch!

      Delete
  3. As you know, I adore Hayley Mills and this was a grand post about her. I'm glad you highlighted one of her best films, the seldom-shown WHISTLE DOWN THE WIND (written by her mother). I do disagree, though, on one minor point: I thought THE TRUTH ABOUT SPRING was quite delightful.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Truth about Spring was entertaining, I just felt that it lacked that Disney sparkle. It's been years since I've seen it so I may just revisit the film this week! On a side note, I just found Sky West and Crooked and am anxious to see that film for the first time. I believe I "discovered" it on your blog, Rick. ;-)

      Delete
  4. Great post! I really enjoy the few Haley Mills films I've seen, and am always on the lookout for more to cross my path.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's hard to resist a Mills feature ( any of the Mills ). Keep your eyes open for The Chalk Garden, That Darn Cat, and The Trouble with Angels. Hayley really stands out in those.

      Delete
  5. I was so excited when I saw the topic of your post! She really was the Pink of Perfection and a HUGE influence on my adolescence. Love that girl to pieces and so grateful for your awesome post!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I believe so many young women can say that Hayley Mills was an influence on their childhood, just like you are saying. The kids who did not grow up with her films just don't know what they are missing. When I was young, I looked like Hayley and my uncle often called me "that little Brit". I only wish I had her personality!

      Delete

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...