The 5 greatest Disney roles of Hayley Mills

From Pollyanna to pay cable.

Image: The Everett Collection

Mickey and Donald immediately come to mind when you think Disney characters. Wall-E and Woody are modern animated favorites. But when it comes to flesh-and-blood performers, Hayley Mills is probably the first actor that pops into the head of a Boomer when anyone says "Disney movie."

Born in London, Mills appeared in her first film, Tiger Bay (1959), when she was 13. From there, the British blonde made the leap to Disney flicks. In the 1960s, she and Annette Funicello became Disney's teen idols. Though in hindsight it seems as if Mills starred in dozens of Disney classics, she only acted in six live-action Walt Disney movies.

But that would not be her last role for Disney. Here are our five favorite Hayley Mills roles for Disney in chronological order. Which is your favorite?

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1. Pollyanna in 'Pollyanne'

Where else to begin but the very beginning? Pollyanna introduced Mills to Americans, and it was her first role aimed at kids. (In Tiger Bay, she had played the witness to a murder, alongside her real-life dad.) With a personality as bright as the yellow on the poster, Mills shined as the optimistic title character. The role is a little more old-fashioned and wholesome compared to her later teen comedies. This film could just have easily come out in 1939. But it's easy to see why the studio banked on the young star.

Image: Disney

2. Susan Evers / Sharon McKendrick in 'The Parent Trap'

Technically, yes, this list should be her Six Best Roles, as Mills pulled double duty in this doppelganger romp. The film garnered two Academy Award nominations, not to mention $25 million at the box office in 1961. Mills showed off her comedic range, not just portraying separated twins Susan and Sharon, but also Susan and Sharon playing each other. Clearly, we're not even going to debate whether Lindsay Lohan did it better in the remake.

Image: Disney

3. Nicky Ferris in 'The Moon-Spinners'

Her most overlooked and underperforming Disney flick might be a controversial pick. But we picked it because this Mediterranean adventure showcased a more mature Mills. In some ways, the movie is Hitchcock Lite, with Mills getting wrapped up in romance and jewel theft on Crete. The Moon-Spinners also happens to be the final film credit for former silent starlet Pola Negri. Two icons, two different generations.

Image: Disney

4. Patti Randall in 'That Darn Cat!'

Mills' beloved fifth film for Disney was the first for another Disney Legend — Dean Jones. The lighthearted crime comedy had a can't lose formula — the spunky Hayley Mills and a cat. Cats owned screens before the internet came along, you know. No wonder this was her biggest smash. The rest of the cast is delightful, with the likes of Roddy McDowall, Frank Gorshin and Neville Brand onboard. Oh, and that darn cat, of course.

Image: The Everett Collection

5. Miss Bliss in 'Good Morning, Miss Bliss'

Gen-Xers have their own Mills memories, too, thank you. Two decades after her run of family films, Mills headlined the sitcom Good Morning, Miss Bliss for the Disney channel. She was a more interesting foil for sharp teen Zack Morris. After all, the audience could easily picture Miss Bliss as a rambunctious teenager. They had probably seen The Parent Trap. After one season, the show jumped to NBC, where it was retitled Saved by the Bell. Alas, Mills did not make the move. One fan theory posits that the California-set Saved by the Bell is all just a dream of the Indiana-living Zack Morris of Miss Bliss. We can go along with that.

 
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tootsieg 26 days ago
I loved all of Hayley Mills’s movies. My 2 favorites are In Search of the Castaways and The Trouble With Angels.
AnnaRentzVandenhazel 3 months ago
There were also 3 made-for-TV movies with Hayley Mills playing Susan and Sharon as adults, on the 80s version of "Wonderful World of Disney". The Parent Trap II featured Sharon's daughter trying to set her up with the father of her best friend; The Parent Trap III was about Susan marrying a man with triplet daughters; and The Parent Trap: Hawaiian Honeymoon centered mostly around adventures of the triplets while the parents are having their honeymoon.
SallyBrown 13 months ago
Pollyanna
The Parent Trap
The Moon Spinners
That Darn Cat
Tiger Bay
The Chalk Garden
In Search of the Castaways
The Trouble with Angels
The Flame Trees of Thika
Battlemaster 15 months ago
Too bad the 1962 film, In Search of the Castaways didn't make the cut here. I loved that one. I think TCM ran it about two years ago or so. Either them or AMC.
MaryAlice 19 months ago
Absolutely love all of Haley Mills movies
RonnieCapuano 19 months ago
Pollyanna is still my favorite Disney movie of all time, I bet there are many that have never seen it or heard of it
BrittanyDale 20 months ago
A great universal movie she made with her real dad and James MacArthur is Truth About Spring.... soooooooo cute and good
idkwut2use 24 months ago
Oh wow, I totally forgot all about The Moon-Spinners!!!
Martin 26 months ago
She later starred in THE FAMILY WAY in 1966. It's notable in being one of the first movies to address male impotence and for having a music score composed by Paul McCartney.
Lacey 26 months ago
Pity you have not been able to see DISNEY films on the DISNEY channel for almost a quarter of a century.
RichardPniewski 28 months ago
She did an unpolished diamond of a film for her father. The British title was "Sky West and Crooked;" in America it was known as " Gypsy Girl. " It's uneven but lovely.
And, of course, her best performance of all time was "The Trouble With Angels."
AnnaRentzVandenhazel 30 months ago
I will admit, I liked the Lindsay Lohan version of "The Parent Trap", the plot was a little different but it wasn't "horrible". The original is still the best, of course.

But "That Darn Cat!" is another story. The remake was awful, even if I didn't know about the Hayley Mills version I would have hated it - I never saw such a stupid storyline! And this from a cat lover, LOL!
Thanks for the heads-up. I LOVE the original "That Darn Cat" & forgot that the remake was ever made. I usually believe in giving remakes a fair shake (controversial opinion: I like the remake of "Footloose" better than the original), but TDC kept falling off my radar. I really hadn't heard much about it. Now I have, and consider myself warned.
Mydoglucky9 33 months ago
My favorite movie was The Parent Trap, then That Darn Cat. Then Pollyanna The Moon Spinners was too suspenseful for me. I don't like movies where my favorite actor or actress is in danger.
frances3agape Mydoglucky9 17 months ago
Oh, I was rivetted by the Moon Spooners plot. And I thought the guy was sooo cute.
But, you're right - it was scary
Michael frances3agape 1 month ago
I bought the Moon Spinners on DVD. It's still good, but as an adult I see it's rather lite. This contrasts with when I saw it as a kid, under ten, where it had much more potency. It's not thatit's weakend, but it was aimed for the audience I was at the time.

At that age, Hayley Mills seemedso mature, but also she'd gush in hushed tones.

The guy, Peter McEnery, was in Disney's The Fighting Prince of Donegal, which I'd love to see again, as well as the Scarecroow of Romney Marsh.

But he's not to be confused with John Leyton, in The Great Escape and that classic adventure film, Krakatoa, East of Java.
frances3agape Michael 1 month ago
Oh, I LOVED the Scarecrow series ! It was kind of scary too. (I was less than 10 too then.) I had to look it up on imdb.com. I had forgotten it was also titled "Dr. Syn, Alias the Scarecrow". Or was that later in the reruns?
Oh, great! Now I have an earworm of the Scarecrow theme (at least the tune and lyric parts I remember).
And Patrick McGoohan's "Secret Agent Man" (British "Danger Man") and "The Prisoner" were fantastic!
Sorry for getting so far off topic - that's the way my mind works.
THANKS for the reminder, Michael!
MichaelNivens 35 months ago
The Truth About Spring , Tiger Bay, The Trouble With Angels plus top two , Pollyanna & The Parent Trap
Mydoglucky9 MichaelNivens 33 months ago
My favorite non Disney movies Hayley made are Tiger Bay,and The Chalk Garden with her father again co starring and Debra Kerr starred in it too and I also like The Truth About Spring.
Mydoglucky9 MichaelNivens 33 months ago
OH Yeah! The Trouble With Angels too.
Filmbuff 36 months ago
Summer Magic was one of my favorites. I also liked her in The Chalk Garden. Even though that wasn't a Disney movie.
Lacey Filmbuff 34 months ago
Nobody remembers The Chalk Garden. I saw it when I was much younger and the first time I saw Ms. Mills is an unfriendly (non-Disney) role. It really freaked me out.
harrylover110 36 months ago
I know it's not Disney, but The Trouble With Angels is a wonderful movie! She played Mary Clancy, the bane of the Reverend Mother's existence at a Catholic girl's school.
Love it. I don't buy a lot of movies but I have this one.
Mydoglucky9 harrylover110 33 months ago
I loved her in thst movie too.
PriscillaASwan 38 months ago
The Truth About Spring is my fav which also stared her real life day along with James MacArthur.....I love it and have it on DVD.
David 38 months ago
What about 'In Search of the Castaways' (1962)? I recently rediscovered this movie that I saw when I was about 9 years old. Hayley was young but awesome as Mary Grant in search of her missing father across the entire globe. It has that giant cinematic look that Disney did and it was a non-stop, thrill ride, action adventure, family movie! Try making that today. According to IMDB it was the third most successful film at the American box office in 1962.
Lantern 38 months ago
"That Darn Cat" was Hayley's biggest smash? I would have thought it was "The Parent Trap".
Jinghiz 38 months ago
“...Hayley Mills is probably the first actor that pops into the head of a Boomer when anyone says 'Disney movie.’"

I suspect most Baby Boomers would think of Annette Funicello. Those of us born after 1960 (who were in college before we heard that we were now included among the Boomers by some demographer and AARP) prob’ly think of Kurt Russell. Hayley Mills falls in between—most Boomers had moved onto movies with bikinis, some with Annette in them, while Generation Jones and the older Gen-Xers remember Hayley Mills from Disney’s “Wonderful World” reruns.
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