The Moon-Spinners (1964)

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Classic romance based on the novel by Mary Stewart, one of my favourite writers and one to try if you like midcentury Gothic thrillers. She was huge in the Fifties and Sixties. I didn’t know about this for the longest time and was delighted to find that it starred my Disney heroine, Hayley Mills. Nicky Ferris (Mills) is a teenager spending time in Crete at a small inn called The Moon-Spinners with her Aunt Frances (Joan Greenwood), a musicologist. One day Nicky discovers a handsome young man, Mark Camford (Peter McEnery), wounded in an empty church nearby. They’ve already met at the inn and he makes a very favourable impression, the life of the party and handsome to boot. It turns out that Mark was once a London bank messenger, but he lost his job after a major jewel robbery. Tagged as a suspect, he has made his way to the inn to gather evidence against the inn’s owner, Stratos (Eli Wallach), who Mark thinks is the real jewel thief. It’s run by his unsuspecting sister played by Irene Papas. Nicky and Mark fall in love and decide to capture Stratos together.This is a rather different Peter McEnery than we saw in Entertaining Mr Sloane, which he would make several years later:  he was contracted to Disney and this is really a kids’ movie. Here he distinguishes himself by bestowing upon wonderful Hayley her first proper screen kiss. It’s not a great genre piece by any means, with much  of the villainy of the novel rendered rather juvenile in the adaptation by Michael Dyne:  but it looks great – much of it was shot on location around Elounda at a time when Greece was opening up to tourism;  it sounds good, with Terry Gilkyson’s song and the folk music enhancing a pretty soundtrack; and the cast is extremely personable. If you’re a silent movie fan there’s the opportunity to see the fabulous Pola Negri in her last feature film, as the extraordinarily wealthy Madame Habib who has a particularly charming big cat. There are also terrific supporting roles for John Le Mesurier and Sheila Hancock. All in all, a lovely way to spend your afternoon. Directed by James Neilson.

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The Parent Trap (1961)

The Parent Trap 1961 poster

“The cheek of it  – coming here with your face!” Erich Kaestner’s beloved book about separated twin girls wanting to reunite their divorced parents was inspired by a Hollywood movie, Three Smart Girls (Koster, 1936), so it was apposite that, following an uninspired British version, Walt Disney would gussy it up and make it with his wonderful child star, Hayley Mills.  Trading places is a staple of cinema and the joy in this is how Hayley is playing both twins, with (for the time) good effects and a double you don’t really notice until you’ve watched a few times. Writer/director David Swift is pretty faithful to the novel albeit the action is obviously transported to the US, both coasts, with Sharon living on a California ranch with pop (Brian Keith with a spectacular red dye job) and Susan in a Boston brahmin’s household with mom (Maureen O’Hara). (Or is it the other way round?) The stuff at summer camp is hilarious and the reaction of the house-swopped twin to pop’s new girlfriend (Joanna Barnes, acid as you like) is priceless.  Disney made some great and long live-action comedies throughout the Sixties and this is one of the best because it touches every child for obvious reasons:  every child wants their parents to like them. Mills has said, “I meet people all the time and have letters all the time, still to this day, from people who say that The Parent Trap was a very important film for them, that it was a very significant film in their life, that they found it a really empowering movie because the children take charge of the situation and bring it to a very satisfactory conclusion.” She also had a hit album from the movie because Disney forced Swift to turn it into a musical. O’Hara had problems with Disney over her billing but said of the film’s importance, “It is particularly important to women and girls who come from broken homes.  They relate to it so strongly because they had many of the same feelings and hopes for their own family to get back together.” It was of course remade for the Nineties by the redoubtable Nancy Meyers and Charles Shyer and I write about that in my book about Meyers, Pathways of Desire, available at https://www.amazon.com/Pathways-Desire-Emotional-Architecture-Meyers-ebook/dp/B01BYFC4QW/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1481117503&sr=1-1&keywords=elaine+lennon. Let’s Get Together!