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. In honor of her birthday, here are our five favorite Hayley Mills roles for Disney in chronological order. Which is your favorite?
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.
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.
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.
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.