THE ROUND PLACE IN THE MIDDLE is a website devoted to several topics, one of which is movies—mostly older movies. Blog host/chief-cook-and-bottle-washer John Ross seems to love every kind of movie ever made and writes eloquently and enthusiastically about them. His articles and reviews regularly have me borrowing DVDs from the library.
His most recent post is titled “How She Was Made” and addresses a recent interview that Hayley Mills did with film critic Leonard Maltin. Looking at the two photos that John included—Hayley on a date with George Harrison in 1964 and one that looks a few years later (in both she looks fetchingly adorable or adorably fetching)—reminded me of the crush that I had on her as a boy. It was a crush shared by millions of other boys at the time.
There’s nothing new here about Hayley Mills or Janet Munro—just me waxing nostalgically over two lovely lasses I had a crush on in my youth.
I became aware of Hayley Mills in 1960 when my grandparents took me to see the Rockettes and Pollyanna at Radio City Music Hall. I don’t remember the former but I do remember crying during the latter. (I was just shy of 10-years-old at the time and paralysis seemed like something out of a horror movie.)
It was around this time that I became aware of girls—who we used to call “the opposite sex” but I’m no longer certain that term is allowed—and they started becoming a mild distraction to my formerly undivided attention on the Civil War and military aircraft of the First World War.
Janet Munro in the 1958 British movie The Young And The Guilty. A year later she would star with Sean Connery in Disney’s’ Darby O’Gill And The Little People and become an international star.
Disney’s 1-2 punch
A few years later, I saw Disney’s Swiss Family Robinson as part of a Saturday matinée at one of the many older theaters in the area that could no longer afford to feature first-run movies. It was probably double-billed with something like Earth Vs The Flying Saucers and cost no more than a quarter to get in.
I would have been around 13 at the time and left the theater enamored of the glorious Janet Munro. She had been thrown into the plot to distract impressionable young viewers like me as much as she distracted the two Robinson sons in the story.
Munro and Mills were Disney’s 1-2 punch of delightful young actresses in the early ’60s, starring in nine feature films between them. While Mills was occasionally dressed in jeans for her roles, she never came across as a tomboy. She certainly had spunk and the type of poke-her-nose-in-everything inquisitiveness that one normally associates with boys, but she was just too much of a girl to put across tomboyishness.
Munro, on the other hand, fit in jeans just right and seemed to always have a little tomboy in her. Oddly, she also had a sexiness that occasionally bordered on sauciness, something that Mills did not project.
Both grew into lovely women. Mills is still active on the stage. Munro died from a heart attack caused by ischemic heart disease (IHD) in 1972 when she was only 38-years-old.
The 1960 Disney movie Swiss Family Robinson is one of several adaptations to film and television of the 1812 novel Der Schweizerische Robinson by Johann David Wyss. It was the most successful version and, almost sixty years later, remains the most popular.
Coconut hand grenades?
It’s difficult to put into words the differences between young actresses like these two women and the actresses we have today. Technically and artistically, today’s actresses are head and shoulders above the actresses of fifty years ago. But there was something in them then that was a reflection of the times, the era, the culture, that we have lost—someting that may not be extreme enough to call ineffable but cannot be captured in words.
It’s probably one of the things that aging white Rep*blicans pine for but can never have again (along with all-white neighborhoods, closeted gays, and Lawrence Welk on television).
A few years ago, Berni and I watched Swiss Family Robinson for the first time in decades and enjoyed it all over again—especially the clever ways they defended themselves from the pirates (like the coconut grenades)! But watching it now I couldn’t help but think that, as enjoyable as it was to watch Janet Munro again, the movie might have been even better had Hayley Mills played the Bertie/Roberta role.
Oh, well, we’ll never know …
FEATURED IMAGE: The lovely photo at the top of this page is of Hayley Mills, although I was unable to find a year for it. Based on the haircut and her still very youthful appearance, I would guess the late ’60s.