Classic Film Review – The Parent Trap4 min read

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Brenda Fellman

The Parent Trap is a family comedy that succeeds admirably as both children-friendly and a reasonably witty, sophisticated comedy that parents will enjoy. The plot revolves around two teenage girls meeting at summer camp and discover that they are twins separated as babies. They learn that they have been living with one parent each and decided to swap places to meet the other’s parent and at the same time scheme to reunite their family.

Let’s start with the fact that the use of split screen has been around since the early days of film. The technique dates back to the 1890s, and early uses can be seen in films like Edwin S. Porter’s 1903 film Life of an American Fireman. The split screen technique can be very hard on the actor as they would be required to play dual roles as well as to create two physically identical but distinctly different characters on screen, and would often have to act against themselves. This technique would be difficult for much older and experienced actors and up till this point most films that tried to do this failed with this aspect. That must have put allot of pressure on young Haley Mills’ shoulders (who was no new comer to the screen having won an Oscar for Pollyanna the year before). She was not only able to portray the two girls with enough differences in their personalities that most people probably wouldn’t realise that it was only one person playing the part but able to act against herself as well.

The rest of the cast aren’t messing around either, Maureen O’Hara and Brian Keith as the parents of the girls are amazing in their parts. Maggie, who at the start of the film is bland and not that noticeable has a glamorous metamorphosis in the latter half of the film that shows just how funny and sexy she can be. Mitch (played by Brian Keith), the twins’ father, generates the right mixture of roughneck toughness and paternal warmth. Joanna Barnes kill it as Vicky Robinson. she is so fun as an obvious predatory gold digger looking to sink her claws into Mitch.

Verbal duels between Vicky and Maggie and the twins are surprisingly catty for a children’s film and delivered with perfect villainy. Then there’s the ever-dependable Una Merkel. She is a gem as the smart-talking maid, having lost none of her streetwise timing since her brassy blonde days in the 1930’s. Charlie Ruggles is extraordinarily lovable as the grandfather, and Cathleen Nesbitt plays wonderfully against him as the domineering grandmother. Leo G. Carroll once again improves a film simply by his appearance even though he only has a small rule as the Reverend. Even Nancy Kulp is on board as a butch camp counselor. The cast is filled with so many great actors yet the youngest of the cast would have been the one to either break or make this film and she seceded with making the split screen work for her.

The film is filled with memorable moments, from the girls tricking Vicky into whacking sticks together to scare off predators, to the twins teaching each other to be them, to the scene when the dad discovers that the girls swapped places and has to deal with explaining to Vicky and her mother as well as the priest why his ex-wife is in a bathrobe. There’s plenty of slapstick, lots of fun laugh out loud scenes, and enough charm to delight all but the most cynical viewers to fall in love with this film.

The songs are fun but not that memorable. They are probably the least important part of the film. Even at the end of the film they don’t really address the problems that the parents had and how they would re-blend the two families, they just jump to the wedding.

In 1998, it was remade with Lindsey Lohan in the star role and while she did an okay job nothing beats the original. If you have never seen the original film give it watch. It’s a fun lovable film and can be enjoyed by all ages.


Cast of The Parent Trap

Hayley Mills – Susan Evers/ Sharon McKendrick

Maureen O’Hara – Maggie McKendrick

Brian Keith – Mitch Evers

Joanna Barnes – Vicky Robinson

Charles Ruggles – Charles Mckendrick

Cathleen Nesbit – Louise McKendrick

Leo G. Carroll – Rev. Dr. Mosby

Una Merkel – Verbena

Nancy Kulp – Miss Grunecker


This Review took a little bit of research and I was lucky enough to find this site that gave me all the information I need

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