June 21, 1961 – The Live-Action Film The Parent Trap is Released to Theaters
“The nerve of her! Coming here with your face!”
On June 21, 1961, the live-action feature film The Parent Trap was released to theaters. It was based on the German children’s book Das doppelte Lottchen by Erich Kästner. The film is well-known for its use of split-screen shots to help create the illusion of twins, both played by Hayley Mills. The special effects were credited to Ub Iwerks, who was well known at this time for his technical innovations. The movie also includes three songs by famed songwriting duo the Sherman Brothers: “The Parent Trap” sung by Annette Funicello and Tommy Sands (who were filming Babes in Toyland at the time); “For Now, For Always” performed by Maureen O’Hara; and “Let’s Get Together” performed by Hayley Mills (with a short version heard at the camp dance by Annette Funicello). The film was quite successful on its release, and even more successful in its rerelease to theaters in 1968. The film was also nominated for two Academy Awards: Sound, and Film Editing. Although set in Boston and California, the film was mostly shot in California, with scenes at Mitch’s ranch filmed at the Golden Oak Ranch in Placerita Canyon. The film was adapted and directed by David Swift, who would go on to write the screenplay for the 1998 remake of the film. The original film stars Hayley Mills as Susan Evers and Sharon McKendrick, Maureen O’Hara as Margaret McKendrick, Brian Keith as Mitch Evers, Joanna Barnes as Vicky Robinson, and Una Merkel as Verbena.
The film begins with Sharon McKendrick arriving at Camp Inch from her home in Boston. She is soon taken to her cabin and meets her bunkmates Betsy and Ursula. They soon make their way to the mess hall for lunch, where Sharon soon bumps into a girl who looks exactly like her. At lunch, a camp dance is announced with Thunderhead Boys’ Camp, much to the excitement of the girls. Miss Inch, the owner of the camp, declares that girls who get enough demerits will not be allowed to attend. Later on, Sharon comes across the girl again, and when the girl (named Susan) mocks her, war begins between Sharon and Susan, including their bunkmates. Susan and her friends decide to trash Sharon’s cabin; the untidiness keeps them from the dance. Sharon, Betsy, and Ursula watch angrily as the dance goes on, and Ursula comes up with an idea. As Susan steps onto the deck with her date, the girls cut the back of her dress off, exposing her underwear. Susan’s friends try to cover her up, and bring her outside. The war comes to a head where the two girls attack each other, and the fight heads inside where they knock over the records, and ruin all of the food. The two are then given their punishment: they will spend the rest of the summer together, beginning with rooming in the isolation cabin named “Serendipity.”
One stormy day, Susan is hanging pictures when a large gust of wind blows her pictures across the floor. When Sharon helps her, Susan thanks her sincerely, and the two begin to talk. They share stories of their home lives, and when Sharon sees a picture of Susan’s father, she suddenly gets goosebumps. She puts the pieces together, and shows Susan a picture of her mother. Susan asks why Sharon has a picture of her mother, and the two finally realize that they are sisters. Later, the two speculate why their parents split up, although they can’t understand why they would want to have broken up. Suddenly, Susan gets an idea: the two would switch places to meet the other parent. Sharon believes that if they switch, they’ll have to be unswitched, and they’ll bring their parents back together. They start teaching each other about their lives, and by the time the summer ends, they’re ready to switch.
Susan soon arrives in Boston, and is greeted warmly by her grandfather. She then meets her mother, Margaret, and is quite in shock when she does. Margaret makes comments on her daughter’s seemingly odd behavior, as it seems like “Sharon” had never seen her before, before finishing getting ready for her various meetings. Susan tricks her mother into staying home from her meetings, and the two go for a picnic in a park. Susan then asks for information on her father, and finds out information about their first date at a restaurant called Martinelli’s and the song they consider “their song.” Meanwhile, Sharon arrives in California and meets her father, Mitch, for the first time. Although initially nervous and flustered, she soon starts asking him a barrage of questions. He then attempt to have a serious talk with her, but doesn’t get very far. Sharon then meets ranch hand Hecky and housekeeper Verbena, with the latter thinking that something is very different with her. Her suspicions are further aroused when Susan’s dog Andromeda acts rather antagonistic towards Sharon. Sharon hears a strange woman’s voice when she enters the house, and acts Verbena about the woman she saw. Verbena doesn’t like the woman, and doesn’t hesitate to let Sharon know.
Sharon finally meets Vicky, Mitch’s young paramour, and a gold-digger to boot. Sharon tries to drive Vicky away, claiming that Mitch likes to “play the field,” although Vicky isn’t convinced. At three in the morning, Boston time, Susan waits for Sharon’s phone call. Sharon tries to warn Susan about Vicky, but Susan doesn’t listen and orders Sharon to bust up the relationship between Vicky and Mitch, as she refuses to give up her time with her mother. The next day, Mitch tries to tell Sharon that he wants to marry Vicky, although Sharon starts asking questions about her mother. Mitch tries to brush off her questions, thinking she wants the “sex talk.” She quickly changes the subject, trying to get him to talk about her mother instead, but he’s so flustered that he goes back to his golf game. They spend the rest of the day together, and Mitch finally gets the nerve to talk about marrying Vicky. Sharon storms off before he can get the words out and starts talking to herself, but Verbena overhears and starts questioning the girl. Sharon finally admits that she’s Sharon, not Susan, and Verbena promises to keep it a secret.
Mitch once again tries to talk to Sharon, but Sharon doesn’t take the news well. Vicky offers to have a talk with her one on one, and while the talk begins calmly, when Sharon points out that Vicky wants to marry Mitch for his money, Vicky becomes antagonistic. Later that night, Sharon sends a telegram to Susan, asking her to wait for her call again at 3 AM. When the two talk, Susan’s grandfather listens into the call, and corners Susan when she leaves the study. Revealing that he knows everything, Susan admits everything. Finally at the breakfast table the next morning, she admits the truth to everyone. Margaret is overcome with emotion for seeing Susan for the first time in over a decade, and the two talk about what really happened between Margaret and Mitch. Margaret and Susan pack to go to California, and Margaret’s father surreptitiously convinces her to change her look to keep up with the times in his way of helping Susan and Sharon’s plan on getting their parents back together.
Susan and Margaret soon arrive in California, and Sharon breaks the news to them about Mitch’s engagement, which visibly upsets Margaret, although she tries her best to cover it up. When Mitch returns, he starts chewing out Susan, with Susan catching on to how Sharon had been acting around the house. Soon after, Vicky, her mother Edna, and the Reverend Dr. Mosby arrive to talk with Mitch and see the house. Mitch goes upstairs to shower, leaving Susan to play hostess. He is unaware that Margaret has just used his bathroom to take a shower, and she slips out before he enters, wearing his bathrobe. Susan grabs Margaret so she can take a glimpse of Vicky. When Mitch finally goes downstairs, he spies Margaret running around outside, and is shocked enough that he trips over a table and drops the drinks he’s holding. When he takes the group on a tour of the outside, he spies Margaret again, and trips into the outdoor pond. He is pulled out of the water and heads inside to confront Margaret and Susan.
When Mitch gets inside, the two have a polite reunion before they start arguing loudly. Mitch is interrupted by Susan, and he suddenly realizes that Susan and Sharon are in his house. Margaret tells him of their plan to switch places, and he is thrilled that he was able to meet Sharon for the first time in years. Margaret sends the two girls away so she and Mitch can talk alone. Mitch is angry that Margaret would show up now of all times, but Margaret starts acting coy. The two then start arguing again, and she threatens to punch him, and when he starts manhandling her, she punches him in the eye. When she tries to study his eye, the Reverend walks in, and Mitch quickly tries to explain the situation, although he introduces Margaret as his wife. The Reverend takes a shine to Margaret, and seems to find humor in the entire situation. Margaret then decides to go change into something a little more comfortable than Mitch’s bathrobe; while away, Vicky informs Mitch that she is not at all thrilled with the situation and demands that she not stay the night.
Edna and Vicky soon make an excuse to leave, uncomfortable with Margaret’s appearance. Later, Susan, Sharon, and Verbina convince Hecky to help them with the next step of their plan: recreating the first date. Mitch goes out onto the patio, as instructed, and sees the setup. When Margaret arrives, the two sit down and have a terse interaction. However, they stop talking when the girls step out to perform a song for the couple. After their show, they leave the couple alone to have dinner. Margaret then tells Mitch that the girls are trying to recreate their first date, including their first song. Mitch starts reminiscing about their fights in their marriage, stating that they wouldn’t have lasted anyway, and that it was a mistake in the beginning, which upsets Margaret. The two argue again, and Margaret starts to storm off, but she stops herself. She lets him know that she’s leaving in the morning with Sharon, and sincerely wishes him the best with his marriage with Vicky.
The next day, the twins have come up with a new plan: they come down the stairs in matching outfits, with no one able to tell them apart. They inform their parents that neither girl is going back to Boston, they’re all going on the campout together, and will let them know which is Susan and which is Sharon when they get back. Vicky is furious that Mitch is going off with Margaret, and Margaret agrees. She then suggests that Vicky goes in Margaret’s place. The girls are angry about this development, and Vicky isn’t thrilled either. While hiking up to the campsite, the girls play a prank of Vicky with a lizard on top of a water bottle. She threatens the girls when Mitch isn’t listening, so they decide to up the ante with their pranks. Vicky is miserable the entire time, although she says she’ll stick it out. Although Mitch lectures the girls on playing pranks, he secretly finds them hilarious. That night, the girls play one last prank, mimicking the prank that Susan played on Sharon when they first met. Vicky wakes up to find two bear cubs licking the honey on her feet, and starts trashing the campsite due to anger. She then slaps one of the twins, and decides not to marry Mitch after all, with Hecky driving her back to civilization.
The group goes back to the ranch, and Margaret asks Mitch what happened to Vicky. The girls apologize to Mitch about what they did to Vicky, then leave to let the two adults talk. Mitch suddenly realizes that he still has feelings for Margaret and, finding that the two are alone, he goes upstairs to shave and put on a nice outfit. He brings up a bottle of wine and turns on some nice music, and the mood turns to the romantic. He tells her that he misses the wet stockings she used to hang in the shower, his razor being dull from her use, her hairpins, and more of the little things about her. He then admits that he misses her, and they kiss. Meanwhile, upstairs, Susan shares a dream she had with Susan of their future: the remarriage of their mother and father.