It takes two, baby…
There’s much more to The Parent Trap than meets the eye. While it might seem like the beloved 1961 Disney film is the original, and in a way it is, it’s actually a remake of a 1950 German film, Das Doppelte Lottchen, which was based on a novel of the same title by author Erich Kastner, which, as legend has it, was based on an idea Kastner pitched to Josef von Báky during the Second World War. Well, that’s technically not a remake, but it’s apparently where the story began.
Kastner, however, wasn’t allowed to develop his idea, as all of his books had been burned by the Nazis and he was actually banned from writing during the Nazi regime. After the war was over, the ban was lifted and he is now considered one of the most prolific writers of German literature. Das Doppelte Lottchen, or The Double Lottery was his fourth children’s book and came out in 1949. The next year it was made into a film, which Kastner himself introduced.
The plot of the novel and 1950 film are pretty familiar, at least at the outset. Luise from Vienna and Lotte from Munich meet at summer camp and quickly realize they’re twins. They switch places, their parents discover the mixup, and finally meet after many years. The biggest difference between Lottchen and the Disney versions is that Lotte gets sick after she finds out her dad is going to remarry. The idea of the twins actively working to get their parents back together isn’t as much of a thing, either. In all, it’s fairly somber for a film made for children, but probably fit the mood of postwar Germany.
Or at least it seems somber when one doesn’t understand German. Internet Archive’s copy has no English subtitles and neither do the clips on YouTube.
Lottchen was remade in 2017. It’s pretty cute and much brighter than its predecessor, although again, it seems to only be available without subtitles. Ergo, it takes a bit of doing to dope out the story. There are, however, dancing mushroom men. Yep. They exist.
For Americans, obviously, the Hayley Mills version is the one most people remember, and in my opinion it’s one of the nicest films of the nineteen-sixties. Hayley Mills, of course, plays a wonderful double role as Sharon McKendrick and Susan Evers and the whole thing is a wonderful mix of madcap comedy, early sixties culture, heartfelt moments, great writing, and great acting. It’s also got great special effects, namely Hayley Mills and double Susan Henning, who present an almost seamless performance as the twins.
That’s why, when the remake came along in 1998, I felt kind of iffy at first because there’s always the chance that a remake will be a total turkey. Like the supremely boring Parent Traps II, III, and Parent Trap: Hawaiian Honeymoon. I remember watching II on TV with my nose in a book the whole time. Don’t ask me about the other two because I don’t remember a thing about them.
One viewing of the trailer, though, and I was hooked, because it not only looked like a sparky Nancy Myers and Charles Shyer film, but a faithful nod to the 1961 movie. Plus it featured a promising newcomer, Lindsay Lohan, who seemed to bring her own style to the role instead of trying to imitate Hayley Mills.
And the movie didn’t disappoint in the slightest. It’s a lot of fun. Dennis Quaid as dad Nick Parker is an absolute goofball, Natasha Richardson is elegant as Elizabeth James, and Martin (Simon Kunz) and Chessie (Lisa Ann Walker) as their respective help are an awesome comic couple.
Lindsay Lohan was also wonderful–who doesn’t remember how people predicted great things for her once the movie came out? I also enjoyed the trademark Myers-Shyer humor, which tended to carry over from movie to movie in a brilliant-beyond-brilliant fashion.
If you know, you know. 🙂
There’s also plenty of homage to the 1961 film, although some of it is subtle. Lindsay sings “Let’s Get Together” while she walks to the elevator in the hotel, for instance, and a lot of the lines echo the earlier film at least somewhat.
Now, the 1998 movie does get over the top sometimes. The scene when the tree lizard goes into Meredith’s mouth, for one, is a little uncomfortable, but on the other hand it’s rather apt because she’s so pretentious.
And I think the 1961 version seems a little more believable because Maggie and Mitch seem to have more of a history, so the idea of them working as a couple is less far-fetched. It’s not that far-fetched in the 1998 version either because Nick and Elizabeth have great chemistry, but because they had a whirlwind courtship the foundation is a little thinner.
In the end, though, that’s neither here nor there because I like both versions and like going back to them. It would be interesting to see if the film is ever remade again, but if anyone ever does, I hope they stick to what made the previous Parent Trap movies work.
For more remake goodness, please see Annette at Hometowns To Hollywood. Thanks for hosting this, Annette–it was great! Thanks for reading, all, and hope to see you on Friday for Gill and Barry’s Devilishly Delightful Donald Plesance Blogathon…
The 1961 version of The Parent Trap (Blu-ray and DVD) and the 1998 remake (Blu-ray and DVD) are available to own from Amazon. Das Doppelte Lottchen (1950) can be seen on Internet Archive and the 2017 remake is available on YouTube.
~Purchases made via Amazon Affiliate links found on this site help support Taking Up Room at no extra cost to you.~
If you’re enjoying what you see on Taking Up Room, please look for additional content on Substack, where you’ll find both free and subscriber-only articles. I publish every Wednesday and Saturday.