Monday, October 28, 2019

Hayley Mills in The Truth About Spring

Hayley as Spring Tyler.
When naming the biggest stars of the 1960s, Hayley Mills may not spring to mind. But the young actress had a remarkable decade, starring in huge Disney hits (The Parent Trap), scoring critical raves (Whistle Down the Wind), and making future cult films (The Chalk Garden). One of my favorite Hayley pictures of this period is the seldom-shown, but highly entertaining The Truth About Spring (1965).

Hayley plays Spring Tyler, a tomboyish teenager who lives with her father Tommy (John Mills) aboard a small boat in the Florida Keys. Tommy is a sly hustler--and a very successful one. In the opening scene, he passes his daughter off as a boy dying from thirst so an ocean liner will provide enough provisions to last a week (including some juicy steaks!). 

Spring's world gets turned upside down when Tommy invites William Ashton, a handsome Princeton grad (James MacArthur), to spend a few weeks aboard the Sarah Tyler to do some fishing. There's an instant attraction between Spring and Ashton, but neither one quite knows how to handle it.

A scruffy John Mills as Tommy.
Meanwhile, Ashton quickly gets caught up in Tommy's latest scheme to recover $250,000 in gold from a sunken wreck with the help of his "partners." Tommy's pals (Niall MacGinnis and Lionel Jeffries) would just as soon murder him except that Tommy knows the location of the loot. Meanwhile, some playful frolicking between the young folks takes a serious turn when Ashton gives Spring her first kiss (and gets promptly slapped).

The Truth About Spring is a breezy lighthearted affair with John Mills having a grand time as a crafty old dodger. Excluding Hayley's appearance as a baby in So Well Remembered (1947) and John's cameo in The Parent Trap, she and her father made five movies together. They seem to be having a ball playing off each in The Truth About Spring. John gets the better role, hamming it up as Tommy and playfully threatening to marry a "good woman, clean and antiseptic" if Spring continues to defy his (questionable) parental authority. 

James MacArthur as Ashton.
The film gets a huge lift from the breathtaking locations off the Spanish coast, which double for the Caribbean. Additionally, almost every scene appears to have been shot aboard a boat or on the beach. 

Director Richard Thorpe was surely one of the most prolific filmmakers in the history of Hollywood, with over 180 credits to his name and a career that spanned the silent film era to the late 1960s. He was versatile as well, working comfortably in costume pictures (Ivanhoe and the underrated Quentin Durward), musicals (Fun in Acapulco with Elvis), and Thin Man mysteries.

If The Truth About Spring seems like a Disney film at times, it's likely because of the cast and the ultimately harmless villains. Hayley Mills, John Mills, James MacArthur, and David Tomlinson (who plays Ashton's uncle) were under Disney contracts at various times during the 1960s. John and James work together earlier on Swiss Family Robinson in which they played father and son. Incidentally, Niall MacGinnis, who plays a crook here, was a much more chilling villain as Karswell in Curse of the Demon.


  1. This looks pretty good. I checked on Amazon and it is only available there on DVD. Do you know of any streaming services where it is available? I assume the new Disney+ will have it, but I really don't want to pay for that.

    1. Eric, despite the presence of a lot of Disney performers, it's not a Disney movie, so unlikely to even be on the new streaming service. As Patrick mentioned below, it is on YouTube--at least, for now.

  2. I have no memory of this at all. So, thanks for the overdue introduction. I know I will get a kick out of this someday.

  3. Eric - a poor quality version is out there on Youtube. I do have a bit of a soft spot for this one, lighthearted and Haley is good.

  4. Hayley Mills became my first crush after watching "Parent Trap." I was disappointed to learn later there weren't two of her. And John Mills had a cameo? I've watched PT many times and missed it every time.

  5. I, too, miss that John Mills cameo in The Parent Trap in spite of 10+ viewings. It's been years since I've watched The Truth About Spring but after reading your review I'm anxious to rewatch it.