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?

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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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Mydoglucky9 1 month 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.
MichaelNivens 2 months ago
The Truth About Spring , Tiger Bay, The Trouble With Angels plus top two , Pollyanna & The Parent Trap
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.
OH Yeah! The Trouble With Angels too.
Filmbuff 4 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 2 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 4 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.
I loved her in thst movie too.
PriscillaASwan 5 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 5 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 6 months ago
"That Darn Cat" was Hayley's biggest smash? I would have thought it was "The Parent Trap".
Jinghiz 6 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.
Lacey 9 months ago
Remember when Disney SHOWED Disney movies?
Now we have to search the TCM schedule as the Disney channel is too busy with sitcoms.
Mydoglucky9 Lacey 1 month ago
That's the reason why The Disney Channel is only on in my house in the early morning when my five year old nephew is staying with us Monday through Friday because they show Mickey Mouse Club House, Mickey and The Roadster Racers and PJ Masks.
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