To keep the children’s book theme going while I’m at conference, today’s not a book is one of my favourite children films – which also happens to be based on a middle grade book!
Let’s make something clear to start with: I’m talking about the Hayley Mills Parent Trap. Yes I’ve watched the Lindsay Logan version, but by the time that came out I had already seen the original and I was not about to be won over! I first stumbled over the second half of this film on tv one weekend afternoon when I was an early teen and was astonished to find a film that seemed to have the plot of one of my favourite books from primary school – except set in America. The book in question is Erich Kästner’s Lottie and Lisa – which I had been borrowing as my reading book from the school library about once a term (maybe more) since I had finished the reading grade levels. I think it might have been the first time that I’d come across a book adaptation that had really been adapted and changed for the film. Or at least the first time I realised I had! And apologies if you’ve never see the film – because the trailer does do the entire plot, but hey.
Instead of 1930s Vienna, we’re in contemporary America but our two separated at birth twins still meet at camp. In the book they’re younger than the movie’s thirteen going on fourteen, but the plan is the same – switch places and meet the parent they don’t remember and try to engineer a reconciliation. And yes, as a rational adult I know that splitting up twins when they’re tiny and never telling them that the other exists is wrong, but oh boy do I love it as a plot. And because it’s Disney their lives look glossy and fabulous. Sharon lives in a fancy house in Boston with her mum, delightful grandpa and uptight grandma but Susan lives on a California ranch with a lake that she swims in, her own horse and what would be called now an indoor/outdoor life style. It just looks so cool. Why wouldn’t the twins want to get their parents back together so they can stay at the ranch forever.
I also love Maureen O’Hara and Brian Keith as the warring parents. They’re not bit characters in Sharon and Susan’s story – they’ve got proper plot and a love story of their own. In fact I’d argue that O’Hara’s Maggie is the best part – with great outfits and all the best lines as she does her part in outfoxing her ex’s new girlfriend. Just try to ignore the bit where she punches Mitch in the eye! And then there’s the technical achievement of getting Haley Mills to play two characters at once in the pre-CGI era. It was like magic – and the explainer video on my DVD of how they did it is fascinating. It’s such a technical achievement.
Honestly I could go on for hours about how much I love this film, but I’ve written enough and now I need to stop because I want to go and watch it again on Disney+!
Have a great Sunday everyone.