The Parent Trap
Reviewed by: Brett Willis
2 hr. 7 min.
Starring: Hayley Mills, Maureen O'Hara, Brian Keith, Charlie Ruggles, Una Merkel | Writer/Director: David Swift | Producer: George Golitzen | Writer: Erich Kaestner
This is a heartwarming story of children helping their parents get back together. This original version does not have the bad language of the remake, and it does have Hayley Mills—in fact, it has two of her!
Sharon McKendrick and Susan Evans meet at a summer camp and hit it off badly because they’re offended that they look like each other. After they and their tentmates commit an escalating series of pranks against each other, Sharon and Susan are punished for the rest of camp by being put together in an isolation tent. They finally learn to get along, and eventually discover that they’re not just look-alikes but are identical twins who were separated when their parents divorced. Since neither parent ever remarried, the girls assume that they still love each other and would benefit from meeting again. They switch identities, so each can meet the parent she never knew and so the parents (Brian Keith and Maureen O'Hara) will eventually have to meet and un-switch them.
A problem arises when Dad plans to finally get married—to a young woman whom Sharon correctly pegs as a gold-digger. To stop that from happening, the girls move up the timetable of revealing who they really are. Once Mom and Dad are reunited, the twins use all their resources to push their parents into a renewed relationship and to get rid of the intruder Vickie (Joanna Moore).
The story itself is excellent, and the “twinning” special effects are nearly perfect.
The dirty tricks that the girls play (on each other at camp, and later on Vickie), though hilarious, are an example of bad behavior. At least in the case of Vickie, they’re somewhat justified because she’s a deceiver who really doesn’t love their father. When Mom and Dad meet, there’s a little bit of sexual humor and innuendo sprinkled here and there; but compared with what’s being written today, it’s very mild. Overall, this film is a strong example of the view our culture once held, that it was important to salvage imperfect marriages rather than just bail out. That alone makes it worth seeing.
Year of Release—1961