Monday, April 08, 2013

Movie Monday: The "Parent Trap" (1961) Edition

I watched part of "The Parent Trap" last night. Not the remake, but the original film released by Disney in 1961. What is known in my universe as the "real Parent Trap."

Not that there is anything wrong with the remake, which starred Lindsay Lohan and Dennis Quaid. It isn't a bad movie. I just isn't the movie that I grew to love as a child. There's just something missing. I don't know what that something is, just that whatever it is, it isn't there.

The original version, if you haven't ever come across it, stars Hayley Mills as Susan and Sharon, identical twins who don't know each other exist until they end up at the same summer camp as adolescents.

Now, stop right there. How could this be possible? Well, their parents divorced shortly after the twins were born, with each parent taking one child. They live on opposite coasts, and neither parent talks about the other or about their marriage. It sort of makes sense in a pre-Internet world. Anyway, it's a Disney movie. Disney has managed to get away with all sorts of things over the years that other studios wouldn't have been able to make work.

Anyway, Susan and Sharon don't like each other much and a series of pranks against each other eventually gets out of hand at a dance with the boys from the camp across the lake (no, I'm not telling what the prank is; you have to watch the movie), and so they are moved into an isolated cabin with the hope that they will resolve their differences. They end up figuring out that they are sisters (not telling you how they do that, the movie) and hatch a plan to trade places so that Susan can meet her mother and Sharon can meet her father.

Yes, again, I know this is far-fetched. That's what the willing suspension of disbelief is all about.

There is also, of course, the hope that Susan and Sharon can somehow get their parents back together. Only when Sharon arrives in California, she discovers that Mitch (played by Brian Keith), her father, is engaged to a younger woman. The wedding is coming up soon. Alarmed calls go back and forth across the land, and back in Boston Susan ends up 'fessing up to her grandfather (played by Charles Ruggles) that she's not Sharon after he overhears her talking to Sharon on the telephone in the middle of the night. Here's that scene:

Back in California, Mitch's housekeeper, Verbena (played by Una Merkel, who is wonderful) thinks that something is up, but hasn't quite figured out what it is.

At any rate, when the truth comes out in Boston, Maggie, the girls' mother (played by Maureen O'Hara) sets out to return Susan to her father and to bring Sharon home, after some shopping and a make-over instigated by Ruggles' character, who has a pretty good idea that Maggie is still in love with Mitch.

Much hilarity ensues once everyone is in California. Not the least of that hilarity comes from Reverend Mosby, who is slated to perform Mitch's wedding ceremony. As Rev. Mosby, Leo G. Carroll is wonderful in his amused reaction to the whole situation. Vicky, the woman Mitch is going to marry (played by Joanna Barnes), and her mother, who are mostly just interested in Mitch's money, are not nearly so amused, which is also pretty funny. As is the camping trip...but I'm not going to say any more about that.

You have to see the movie.

Yes, the story is unbelievable. Yes, the movie was made in the early Sixties and looks it. Doesn't matter. It's still a good movie and you should see it.

I feel compelled to mention, under the circumstances, that the film's title song was performed by Tommy Sands and Annette Funicello, who were making the film "Babes in Toyland" at the time. Funicello passed away today at the age of 70, and judging from my FB feed, will be sorely missed.

Anyway. Yes. Go see the original version "The Parent Trap". It's on Showtime right now if you've got it. Otherwise, find a copy. It might mostly be a reminder of a slightly more innocent time. But that isn't a bad thing from time to time.


I also want to mention the passing of film critic Roger Ebert, who died last Thursday, also at age 70. I didn't always agree with Ebert's movie reviews, but I always enjoyed reading them or listening to them on "At the Movies". It was so obvious that he loved film - loved watching them and loved talking and writing about them. I understand that while he was a Roman Catholic, he wasn't convinced of the existence of God. However, ever since I learned of his passing, I've had this mental image of him arriving at the Gates of Heaven to find St. Peter with a huge smile on his face and two huge "thumbs-up", welcoming Ebert to heaven with a huge bowl of popcorn and an invitation to the movie theater that never closes.

I'm going to miss seeing Ebert on my Twitter feed.

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