Hayley Catherine Rose Vivien Mills (born 18 April 1946) is an English actress. The daughter of Sir John Mills and Mary Hayley Bell, and younger sister of actress Juliet Mills, Mills began her acting career as a child and was hailed as a promising newcomer, winning the BAFTA Award for Most Promising Newcomer for her performance in the British crime drama film Tiger Bay (1959), the Academy Juvenile Award for Disney’s Pollyanna (1960) and Golden Globe Award for New Star of the Year – Actress in 1961. During her early career, she appeared in six films for Walt Disney, including her dual role as twins Susan and Sharon in the Disney film The Parent Trap (1961). Her performance in Whistle Down the Wind (a 1961 adaptation of the novel written by her mother) saw Mills nominated for BAFTA Award for Best British Actress.
During the late 1960s Mills began performing in theatrical plays, and played in more mature roles. The age of contracts with studios soon passed. For her success with Disney she received the Disney Legend Award. Although she has not maintained the box office success or the Hollywood A-list she experienced as a child actress, she has continued to make films and TV appearances, including a starring role in the UK television mini-series The Flame Trees of Thika in 1981, the title role in Disney’s television series Good Morning, Miss Bliss in 1988, and as Caroline, a main character in Wild at Heart (2007–2012) on ITV in the UK.
Mills was born in Marylebone, London. She was 12 when she was discovered by J. Lee Thompson, who was initially looking for a boy to play the lead role in Tiger Bay, which co-starred her father, veteran British actor Sir John Mills. The movie was popular at the box office in Britain.
Bill Anderson, one of Walt Disney’s producers, saw Tiger Bay and suggested that Mills be given the lead role in Pollyanna. The role of the orphaned “glad girl” who moves in with her aunt catapulted Mills to stardom in the United States and earned her a special Academy Award (the last person to receive the Juvenile Oscar). Because Mills could not be present to receive the trophy, Annette Funicello accepted it for her. Disney subsequently cast Mills as twins Sharon and Susan who reunite their divorced parents in The Parent Trap. In the film, Mills sings “Let’s Get Together” as a duet with herself. The film was a hit around the world, reaching number 8 on a US TOP TEN list. Mills received an offer to make a film in Britain for Bryan Forbes, Whistle Down the Wind (1961), about some children who believe an escaped convict is Jesus. It was a hit at the British box office and Mills was voted the biggest star in Britain for 1961. Mills was offered the title role in Lolita by Stanley Kubrick but her father turned it down. “I wish I had done it,” she said in 1962. “It was a smashing film.” Mills returned to Disney for an adventure film, In Search of the Castaways (1962) based on a novel by Jules Verne. It was another popular success and Mills would be voted the fifth biggest star in the country for the next two years. In 1963 Disney announced plans to film I Capture the Castle, from the novel by Dodie Smith, with Hayley Mills in the role of Cassandra. However, Disney never produced the film. Her fourth movie for Disney did less well though was still successful, Summer Magic (1963), a musical adaptation of the novel Mother Carey’s Chickens. Ross Hunter hired her for a British-American production, The Chalk Garden (1964), playing a girl who torments governess Deborah Kerr. Back at Disney she was in a film about jewel thieves, The Moon-Spinners (1964), getting her first on screen kiss from Peter McEnery. Mills had a change of pace with Sky West and Crooked (1965), set in the world of gypsies, written by her mother and directed by her father. It was not very popular. In contrast, her last film with Disney, the comedy That Darn Cat!, did very well at the box office. During her six-year run at Disney, Mills was arguably the most popular child actress of the era. Critics noted that America’s favourite child star was, in fact, quite British and very ladylike. The success of “Let’s Get Together” (which hit No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, No. 17 in Britain and No. 1 in Mexico) also led to the release of a record album on Disney’s Buena Vista label, Let’s Get Together with Hayley Mills, which also included her only other hit song, “Johnny Jingo” (Billboard No. 21, 1962). In 1962 British exhibitors voted her the most popular film actress in the country.