Walt Disney once called actress Hayley Mills “the greatest movie find in 25 years.” Indeed, her unaffected and naturally expressive acting style made her an instant favorite among audiences when she made her American film debut in Disney’s Pollyanna, for which she earned a special Oscar® in 1960. Among her numerous Disney credits, however, Hayley is probably best remembered for The Parent Trap, in which she played twin sisters who scheme to reunite their divorced parents, played by Brian Keith and Maureen O’Hara.
The daughter of famed British actor Sir John Mills and playwright and author Mary Hayley Bell, she once recalled her first meeting with Walt Disney, who at the time was seeking the perfect youngster to star as Pollyanna. Said Hayley, “I went to Walt’s suite at the Dorchester Hotel, in London, along with my parents, my younger brother and our Pekingese, Suki. Walt laughed a lot as he spoke, in rather a shy way, which I found very endearing. I think that’s what made me warm to him. That, and the fact that he liked childish things—I remember he and I were crawling around the floor after Suki, who was eating potato crisps off of the carpet.”
Born on April 18, 1946, in London, England, Hayley made an auspicious screen debut at 13, portraying a frightened little witness alongside her father in Tiger Bay.
Her able performance caught Walt Disney’s attention, and he signed her to a five-year contract in 1960. Among her Disney credits are In Search of the Castaways, starring Maurice Chevalier; Summer Magic, with Burl Ives; The Moon-Spinners, with Eli Wallach; and That Darn Cat, starring Dean Jones.
Hayley also released a Buena Vista record album, Let’s Get Together, named after the hit song she performed in The Parent Trap. As songwriter Richard Sherman recalled, “‘Let’s Get Together’ was just a scene in The Parent Trap, but kids were going into the movie house with little tape recorders and taping it!” The recording was re-released in 1997 as part of Walt Disney Records’ Archive Collection.
Beginning in 1967, Hayley moved on to star in such non-Disney films as The Trouble With Angels, Endless Night, and Deadly Strangers. She returned to the Disney fold in 1981, hosting the television special Disney Animation: The Illusion of Life, as well as acting in three Parent Trap sequels and the series Good Morning, Miss Bliss for The Disney Channel. She also appeared in the Disney Channel Premiere Film Back Home in 1990.
In 1997, Hayley Mills made her America stage debut as the prim governess Mrs. Anna in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The King and I, which she performed in theaters across the country. She has made a number of stage appearances in Britain and America, and has been repeatedly featured in British television productions.