Thursday, June 8, 2017

Hit Me With Your Best Shot: "The Parent Trap" (1961)

*This post is part of the "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" blogathon at The Film Experience*

I grew up watching the The Parent Trap a lot. Not the 1961 version starring Hayley Mills, which is the subject of this post, but rather Nancy Meyers' surprisingly faithful 1998 remake that introduced the world to Lindsay Lohan. I'm not even sure that I remember why: I don't think my family owned it on VHS, but I distinctly remember seeing it frequently. In any case, I know that version well enough that, watching the 1961 original for the first time, I was struck by how well I could remember the remake and play "spot the difference" even though it's been at least a decade since I've seen Meyers' version. But "spot the difference" isn't the reason we're here, is it?

The Parent Trap stars Mills, then coming off her starmaking performance in Pollyanna the previous year, in the dual role of Susan Evers and Sharon McKendrick, twins separated shortly after they were born who are reunited by chance at summer camp. Susan lives in California with her father, Mitch (Brian Keith), while Sharon lives in Boston with her mother, Maggie (Maureen O'Hara). After realizing that their single parents are in fact their parents, the girls set in motion an elaborate plan to reunite the broken family by switching places. Their plan faces a major obstacle, however, when Mitch reveals his engagement to Vicky (Joanna Barnes), who wants to marry into Mitch's considerable fortune.

The film is an eclectic mix of genres: a screwball farce, a romantic comedy, a family drama, all wrapped up in a Disney-approved family-friendly bow with a few nods to teen rock 'n' roll flicks to boot. What's perhaps most surprising about the film is how the film shifts between these modes fluidly while maintaining the distinctions between them. The film is never really so much a genre blender as it is a genre buffet: some exaggerated mischief here, an emotional realization there, but not letting anything on the metaphorical plate touch.

More after the jump.