Friday, September 2, 2011

All Hayley the Queen

Oh, rehlly. Do buy my album.
You'll lahve it!
My post last week, in which I contemplate my newfound interest in the new crop of Disney Channel stars and compare them to some of the Disney personalities from yesteryear, got me really thinking about my unabashed adoration of Ms. Hayley Mills. Of all of the old school Disney stars, she is without an ounce of hesitation my favorite. Just the sound of her voice makes my soul giggle.

Since I already discussed the reissue of her Let's Get Together album in that other blog post (Bottom Line: Get it if you ever find it. It's completely adorable and worth it to hear her sing "Jeepers Creepers" and a swingin' 60's version of "A Tisket, A Tasket" alone. The fact that you get to hear the verb-tense-twisting lyrics to the Pollyanna theme is just a bonus. "I'm as happy as a little clam. I am. I am. I am in love. Just with nothing in particular. I are. I are. I are in love." Charm bonanza!), I decided that I would gush over her a bit more this week and share some amazeballs videos that I have culled from the interwebs for all of you to enjoy.

Still don't have The Three Lives of Thomasina
or The Sword and the Rose on DVD, dangit.
I would be hard pressed to pinpoint when my love affair with Hayley began. I remember back in the day when we started building a collection of Disney live action films on VHS. Yes, kiddies. Before DVDs and streams and Hulus and Netflixes we had these bulky plastic contraptions that allowed you to play movies off of magnetic tape housed in cardboard slip covers! Strange, but true. Every weekend when we would go to Sam's Club to stock up on necessaries in bulk, I would beg and plead for Mama to buy one of the tapes that I didn't already have. From these trips my love of Disney beyond animation was born. Even as a child, my collecting/hoarding nature reared its ugly head, resulting in a pretty sizable collection. I remember the bright-colored cover designs and especially the trailer that played in front of the film which showed the other available titles while a synthesized jam blared raucously in the background. I. Wanted. Them. ALL!

Just recently, while I was home in Tallahassee, Mama and I gathered a bunch of the VHS tapes that have been taking up space since we don't even have a VCR anymore and donated them to a local school. I'm not gonna lie. It was sad to see them go. Hopefully there are a bunch of kids out there who are now rooting for Herbie to win the race, puzzling over where the treasure is hidden at Candleshoe, and wondering how Mrs. Andrews will survive the Aquacade.

My fave was without a doubt The Parent Trap (followed very closely by Freaky Friday, but that's another blog). I wore that tape out. The story is funny, the cast is fantastic, there's a little bit of rad music, plenty of hijinks ensue, and it's empowering to kids. Now, I question what the fact that the twins' shenanigans actually bring the parents back together does for false hopes in broken families, but I was, and am, too busy loving every second of the movie to quibble. My parents have been together for decades, so in my case it reminded me that just because I was a kid it did not mean that I powerless in situations. But yeah, mostly it was just a heckuva good time.

I actually think I picked this mannerism
up from Hayley. No lie.
When you're a kid, you don't much analyze why you are drawn to a character or actor, but looking at Hayley now, I am still rather bowled over by how fantastic she really is in those early movies. Tom and I have watched both The Parent Trap and Pollyanna recently and not only do they hold up as great films, but her performances are just as fantastic now as they ever were. Her accent may be sketchy, but her instincts as an actor were there from go. She was also able to take her Hayleyisms and incorporate them seamlessly into her performance. She was always essentially Hayley Mills, but she brought out the aspects of her self that fit the character she was playing. And that, my friends, is just as impressive when you do it well as actors who completely disappear into a role. The light that she brings to the screen in her early Disney roles is unmatchable. Those big blue eyes. That adorably impish voice. She felt like a real, flawed, interesting girl on film rather than a pre-packaged, cutesy, creepily precocious child star.

Trendy hat, Hayley. Who's that creepy old
dude smelling your hair?
Watching her later Disney output, it was interesting to watch how she blossomed as a performer. She herself talked about how her childhood was prolonged uncomfortably by her stardom. As she grew into a woman, she did some of her most interesting work. The Moonspinners is centered around that time in a girls' life when she (sing it Brit Brit) is not a girl and not yet a woman. It's notable for the adventure, Grecian locale and its depiction of burgeoning (PG-rated) sexuality. It's a fascinating and unexpected performance from Hayley. You can tell that, just like her character, she is struggling to grow up.

The third Hayley head from the bottom has hardcore crazy eyes,
bless her. And there's that tongue again on the top Hayley head! 
In That Darn Cat, you see a more maturely formed sense of humor in Hayley's acting. She was always funny and had impeccable timing, but as she grew, she was learning how to harness it. The whole movie is an amusing lark, but her performance is especially impressive. (Please avoid the remake at all costs. It hurt our eyes and ears so much that we turned it off after about ten minutes and haven't ventured back since. It co-stars someone named Doug E. Doug. 'Nuff said.)

Of course, over the years I drifted away from most things Disney, including my beloved Hayley. But over the last years she has come back into my life full-force. I can't get enough. I have The Trouble With Angels and The Flame Trees of Thika on my shelf just waiting for me to give them some attention. Though I still haven't watched the whole thing through, I often put Summer Magic on while I sleep because hearing Hayley and Burl Ives as I go to sleep is like being swaddled in a blanket of vocal happiness. Tom is a fan of that movie, too. He was just saying today that practically all of the music you hear on Main Street comes from that movie. And Hello Dolly. And then he mocked me because I kept on singing "Femininity" even though I don't really know any of the lyrics and I'm pretty unclear on the melody as well. It's the enthusiasm that counts, right? I'll learn it one of these days when I'm not listening through a pre-REM haze.

There's no way that canoe has room
enough for 5 butts and 10 legs.
So here are some clips that I've found during my hours of Youtube video hopping. I think you'll get a kick out of them. The first is one of my favorite Hayley Mills movies. Parent Trap Hawaiian Honeymoon! It's the fourth film in the series. I missed number three, but this one is classic. Susan has married a man with triplets. Somehow Sharon and the girls end up coming along on their honeymoon to Hawaii. Hijinks! So many confused identities! Otho from Beetlejuice! Jayne Meadows! One of the triplets was on the fifth season of Saved by the Bell! Barry Bostwick! All that late eighties clothing! They need to release it on DVD soon (you hear that, Generations Collection?!?!) because my VHS tape is MIA and it gets really annoying watching it all pixelated in ten minute increments on Youtube, which is the only way that you can currently watch it. It's one of my most treasured guilty pleasures and is actually genuinely entertaining.

By the way, I need to go on a short tangent. I get to do that since it's my blog, right? Did you know that in the early fifties, ten years before Disney's interpretation, there was an earlier version of The Parent Trap that was made in Japan?  Well, there was and it's fascinating to watch! (This is mostly for Tom, who loves all things Japanese.)

The next is a Disney Channel movie called Back Home. It is another one of my favorite movies from childhood and another lost VHS tape. Haley Mills plays a woman who has sent her daughter to the US to keep her safe while World War Two ravaged England. But, after five years across the pond, the culture shock when she returns is intense. It's a great story and I remember the performances being really solid from Hayley and the girl who played her daughter. I make another plea to the Generations Collection to release this on DVD as well. I haven't actually sat down to watch it bit by bit on Youtube. I have too many awesome memories of this movie to do that. I want to wait until I can watch it all continuously in one sitting and in decent quality.

Did you know that before Saved by the Bell was Saved by the Bell it was a Disney Channel show called Good Morning, Miss Bliss? Zack, Lisa, Screech and Belding were there. It took place at a school. But everything else was different. It lasted for one season before it was retooled into the Saved by the Bell that we all know and love. Minus Hayley Mills as the titular Miss Bliss. Boo hiss. This is the opening credit sequence as it was originally and after it was redone in syndication to match the rest of the Saved by the Bell episodes, which is how I remember seeing it back in the dizay. You can also track down a few episodes of the show. It's fun, though I must say that the changes they made improved the show. As much as I love Hayley, it worked much better when the kids were the true focus of the story.

This is Hayley being supremely cute-tastic on the game show What's My Line? when she was promoting That Darn Cat. I love that Hayley Mills can't do a Southern accent at all without sounding like Hayley Mills doing a Southern accent, but her save sounded pretty good to me. I will say, however, that I would recognize that voice right away no matter what "accent" she was "doing". For you theatre geeks out there, this was back in the era when even huge Broadway flops like Drat! the Cat! were major enough cultural draws to warrant mention on major television shows.

And last, but sure as heck not least is a video from the phenomenal Punchy Players. A couple produces these videos. One guy does almost all of the voices and his partner does the visuals. And they are pretty uniformly hilarious. They focus mostly on classic gay icons and are spot on. This video poses the question, "If ______ auditioned for the role of Mary Poppins, what would the audition reel be like?" Fill in the blank with Sally Field, Audrey Hepburn, Judy Garland, Lady Elaine Fairchild, and of course, Hayley Mills. Please to enjoy.

I never really thought of Hayley as a gay icon, but really she is. She's the odd duck who turns into a swan. In the end, I think I loved Hayley Mills so much as a child because I related to her. She seemed smart, awkward, goofy, curious, hammy, sometimes overzealous, a little bit weird, and a completely singular individual. She was someone who was in process as opposed to someone who was a product. She made it OK for me to feel outside of the norm. And as a young soon-to-be gay, I needed someone to help me feel that way.

I love her now because she is a woman who seems to have had exactly the career that she wanted to have despite starting out and finding such intense stardom at such a young age and has come out relatively unscathed. She is iconic of a certain era in Disney's history. When you watch one of those movies, you can't help but feel all warm and gooey inside. They are comfort food. And I, my friends, am an overeater.

So, are you as much of a Hayley Mills-aholic as I am? If not, Have I convinced you of how she is brilliant beyond compare? If not, why are we still friends?

Remember that next Tuesday we have a DATE Night planned. We're going to take a stroll through the woods with Bambi. I know, I know. I'm not much of a nature boy either, but this will be worth it, I promise. The forest is all watercolored and lovely and the critters who live there are totes adorable. Just put on some hiking boots and a plaid shirt and stop moaning about it, OK?

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