Let’s get together, yeah yeah yeah
Why don’t you and I comb-ine?
Let’s get together, what do you say?
We can have a swingin’ ti-me
We’d be a cra-a-zy team
Why don’t we ma-a-ake a scene…
This verse from “Let’s Get Together” pretty much sums up the premise of The Parent Trap. Sharon and Susan end up meeting and getting together in a joint effort to reunite their parents. They want to stay together, they want their parents to get together and they don’t want their dad to get together with a young gold digger named Vicky.
After a kicky stop motion animation puppetry sequence which, combined with Tommy Sands and Annette Funicello’s rendition of the title song, “The Parent Trap,” the audience is fully aware of the premise of the film. Through animation and song, it is illustrated and explained that two sisters meet and scheme to reunite their divorced parents–so that they can be a complete family.
At the beginning of the film, Sharon (Hayley Mills) is being dropped off by her chauffeur. She quickly befriends two other girls and they become a clique of sorts. During her first few hours at camp, Sharon comes across another girl, Susan (Hayley Mills), who bares a remarkable resemblance to her. They look identical, except Susan has short hair whereas Sharon’s hair is long. To put it mildly, the two girls do not get along.
SUSAN’S ROOMMATE (about Sharon): “The nerve of her (Sharon), coming here with your face!”
SUSAN’S OTHER ROOMMATE: “What are you gonna do about it?”
SUSAN: Do? What in heaven’s sake can I do, silly?”
SUSAN’S OTHER ROOMMATE: “I’d bite off her nose, then she wouldn’t look like you.”
Susan has her own group of friends that she pals around with and the two groups of girls take turns terrorizing each other.
Sharon and her friends (one of which is LaRue from Sally Field’s Gidget TV series!) flip Susan and her friends’ canoe. In retaliation, Susan and her friends booby trap Sharon and her friends’ cabin–complete with honey, string, straw, the works. It makes a massive mess. While Sharon and her friends try to clean up, Camp Director Miss Inch and her assistant Miss Hathaway from The Beverly Hillbillies, come around for cabin inspection. Of course, Sharon & Co.’s cabin is a disaster. As a punishment, the girls are prohibited from attending the co-ed dance that is being held that evening. Sharon and Susan’s disdain for one another comes to a head at the dance.
Banished from the dance because of Susan, Sharon waits for Susan to come outside with her date. As Susan leans up against the deck railing, Sharon and her friend cut the back of Susan’s skirt off. When Susan returns to the dance, the back of her panties are exposed to everyone at the dance. For whatever reason, Susan doesn’t notice until her friends come to her aid and tell her that her panties are showing. Mortified, Susan goes outside and ends up confronting Sharon. The two girls end up brawling and ruining the dance and Miss Inch’s cake.
Sharon and Susan are punished for their unladylike behavior and are banished to the “Serendipity Cabin.” This cabin is still in camp, but is secluded from the other cabins. Miss Inch, tells the girls that they will: “eat together, sleep together and play together.” Susan and Sharon eat meals together at the “Isolation Table.” It begins to seem like Susan and Sharon are fated to be miserable for the rest of the summer until a fateful afternoon rainstorm.
After a funny scene involving Susan hanging up her Ricky Nelson photos:
SHARON: “Who’s that?”
SUSAN: “Are you kidding? Ricky Nelson?”
SHARON: “Oh your boyfriend.”
SUSAN: “I wish he was! You mean you’ve never heard of him? Where do ya come from? Outer Space?!”
A gust of wind and rain sweeps into the girls’ cabin and blows all the photos of Ricky Nelson around. Sharon rushes to Susan’s aid and helps her batten down the hatches and try to salvage the photos. After getting to talking and discovering that both only have one parent (Sharon lives with her mother and Susan with her father) and have the same birthday, Sharon begins to think there is more to this series of coincidences and perhaps it’s a stroke of serendipity (hence, the name of the cabin). Susan doesn’t get it until Sharon shows her a picture of her mother, Maggie (Maureen O’Hara). Susan tells Sharon that that is her mother too. Ding! Ding! Ding! The girls have figured out that they are actually twins, split up at birth.
The rest of camp is spent scheming. The girls decide that they cannot be separated again and want more than ever to get their parents back together, so they can be a complete family unit. Their plan is simple: they will switch places. Sharon will travel to Susan’s home in Carmel, California to meet her father, Mitch (Brian Keith) and Susan will travel to Boston to meet Maggie. Susan practices her diction (“Shan’t, can’t, aunt”) and tries to learn the blueprint of Sharon’s home. Sharon tries to learn Susan’s housekeeper Verbena’s laundry schedule and the names of her animals. Camp finally ends and the girls’ plan goes off with a hitch.
While in their new homes, Susan and Sharon try to get used to their new lifestyles while trying to keep up the facade of being the other twin. When Sharon’s grandfather (Charles Ruggles) overhears some suspicious phone conversations and Susan’s housekeeper Verbena (Una Merkel) observes the dog, Andrometer, acting weird around Susan, they begin to become suspicious. Grandpa and Verbena might not know what is going on, but they are aware that something is “off.” The jig is finally up when Grandpa overhears a phone conversation between Susan and Sharon on the phone and Sharon confides in Verbena and tells her the truth.
In Boston, Susan is struggling to keep up with Sharon’s piano lessons and the rigidity of her schedule. She is also trying to talk to Maggie to find out the truth about the relationship between her and Susan’s father. Meanwhile, in California, Sharon is in crisis mode because Mitch has announced that he is getting remarried to a young woman named Vicky. Verbena dislikes Vicky and makes it known without “sayin’ a word. Not one single word.” Verbena, while “not saying a word,” tells Sharon that she suspects Vicky of being a gold digger. Sharon calls Susan in a panic about Mitch’s impending marriage and begs her to tell Maggie the truth so that they can get the show on the road.
After the phone call between Sharon and Susan, Grandpa who overheard it, pressures Susan to tell Maggie the truth. Maggie and Susan are soon planning a trip to California, but not before this hilarious scene in the bedroom when Grandpa essentially tells his daughter, Maggie, that she looks old:
GRANDPA (after questioning Maggie’s hair and clothing and basically telling her that her style is outdated and matronly and fake encouraging Maggie’s stubbornness about updating her look):
“Stay the way you are… a nice, reliable, settled, comfortable woman, who accepts the coming of age with grace and dignity.”
MAGGIE: “That’s the most horrible thing anybody could say!”
Despite being upset with her father’s criticism of her appearance, Maggie takes his words to heart. After a short layover in New York City, Maggie and Susan are at Mitch’s glorious doorstep in California.
Mitch’s California ranch home is probably one of the greatest houses in all of movies. His house is gorgeous. The amazing stone work, the dark stained finishes, the great open areas (that you could only have in California. It wouldn’t work here in Oregon), the gorgeous stained glass, the great tile, the beautiful mid-century modern furniture, I love this house. It is much better than Maggie’s stuffy Boston townhouse. His kitchen has amazing windows that extend the entire width of the room in front of the sink. There’s also an amazing courtyard where Hayley Mills and Hayley Mills perform their “Let’s Together” song.
Back to the movie, Maggie and Susan show up at Mitch’s home, right as Mitch is entertaining his fiancee Vicky, her mother and the Reverend who is supposed to officiate the wedding–perfect time for the ex-wife to show up. The Reverend, whom I sense is not a big fan of Vicky and her mother, catches Mitch and Maggie in a compromising position and is amused by the entire situation. Maggie is dressed in Mitch’s bathrobe as she had just finished showering. Mitch is chasing her around the house trying to catch her just as the Reverend walks in. Vicky is understandably upset, but since she’s the villain and we don’t want her and Mitch to marry, we don’t care. Maggie has the best lines at the end of this scene:
MAGGIE (to VICKY & VICKY’S MOTHER): “What a shame you can’t stay for dinner with us.”
VICKY’S MOTHER: “Yes. Vicky and I have a million things to do–fittings and odds and ends to buy.”
MAGGIE: “Just charge it all to Mitch–he’s loaded.”
VICKY’S MOTHER: “Oh? I didn’t know.”
MAGGIE: “Didn’t you?”
Boom! Maggie’s got Vicky and Vicky’s mother’s number. After this point, Sharon and Susan go to work setting their “parent trap.” First they try recreating Maggie and Mitch’s first date, based on information Susan got from Maggie earlier in the film. They enlist ranch hand Hecky to serenade Mitch and Maggie like a gypsy. Verbena cooks up a batch of veal parmesan for the meal. Sharon and Susan come out on stage with something that slightly resembles a vaudeville act, based on the theme of “getting together.”
Sharon plays a concert pianist who is in the middle of a concert, performing Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Susan comes out in a big suede vest strumming a guitar. My husband likes to point out how Susan is most definitely NOT playing the guitar each and every time we watch this. And really, he’s right. Hayley Mills isn’t even pretending to play the guitar properly. But all that doesn’t matter. Maggie and Mitch are thoroughly entertained by their daughter’s shenanigans and are touched by the lengths they went through to set up this big date…. then they start arguing and all hints of possible romance are gone.
The next morning, the morning when Sharon and Maggie are supposed to return to Boston, the twins are desperate. They decided to dress exactly alike and blackmail their parents into taking them on a camping trip. At the conclusion of the camping trip, the girls will reveal their true identities. This seems like a lame plan in that you’d think two parents who’d raised their daughters for 13 years would know who’s who, but Mitch admits that even he is not sure which twin is Susan. The plan is set into motion… then Vicky shows up.
Maggie, knowing Vicky will be completely out of her element on a camping trip, hilariously tricks her into going camping with Mitch, Hecky, and the girls instead. Vicky agrees to go, not knowing that she’s been bamboozled. While on a hike through the woods to their camp, the girls concoct multiple schemes to drive Vicky bananas. They give her sugar water stating that it’s mosquito repellent, they place a lizard on her canteen knowing she’ll freak out and they plant a fake idea in her mind that hitting two sticks together will scare away mountain lions. While at camp, the girls trick Vicky into falling into the lake by having one twin stand on the other’s shoulders and pretending that the water was shallow.
(As a side note, it seems interesting to me that Sharon is so comfortable camping as she seems to be from a pretty stuffy household in Boston. Though she did attend that summer camp, so what do I know?)
That evening, Vicky is beginning to crack. She’s disgusted by the trout dinner (and the upcoming trout breakfast). Mitch breaks the news to her that her mosquito repellent is bogus and that she’s basically inviting them to feast on her. Mitch and Hecky laugh at her when she starts trying to keep the mountain lions away by hitting the sticks together. In disgust, she goes to bed. During the evening, Susan plays her famous “let’s booby trap the tent” trick that she employed in the beginning of the film, except this time Sharon is a co-conspirator rather than victim.
The next morning, Vicky wakes up to a baby bear licking honey off her feet. Freaked out, she rushes out of the tent, no doubt getting pine needles stuck to her feet, trashes the camp and pushes Mitch into the tent. Hecky grabs Vicky her boots and she screams out this immortal line:
“Get me out of this stinking fresh air!”
Vicky flounces off into the woods, with Hecky in tow, never to be seen again.
Back at the ranch, Maggie is whipping up some beef stew. She has given Verbena the night off. As for Hecky, who knows where he is. Maybe Vicky has killed him. Maybe she forced him to drive her far from Carmel. Regardless, he’s not home. The twins are up in Susan’s room. They have apologized to Mitch for “submarining” Vicky and all is forgiven. Which is good, because nobody liked her anyway.
Mitch observes Maggie in the kitchen for awhile and decides to go gussy himself up. He showers, shaves and combs his hair. He turns some music on on the hi-fi for ambiance and also breaks out a bottle of red wine. As Mitch and Maggie talk in the kitchen, they begin to reminisce about the times they spent with one another. Soon, it is apparent that they really do still love each other, especially when they give each other a romantic kiss.
Now in bed, Sharon wakes up after having a dream about her father and mother remarrying. Remember, she’s psychic. She says as much at the beginning of the film. I choose to believe that this scene implies that the trap has worked. Maggie and Mitch are together again and the twins won’t have to endure “the six month split.”
If it isn’t already obvious, I love this movie. I just can’t with the Lindsay Lohan one. Lohan will always be a “Mean Girl” to me. She cannot fill Hayley Mills and Hayley Mills’ shoes.