Airing on TCM November 27 at 8 PM EST
Throughout the early sixties, Hayley Mills became one of the most popular young actresses in the country. Under contract with the Walt Disney Studios, she played teens in such wholesome family films as “Pollyanna” and “The Parent Trap”. 1966’s “The Trouble with Angels” was the first film twenty-year-old Mills made after leaving Disney, although it finds her doing what she does best: playing a mischievous teenager in a family comedy.
“The Trouble with Angels” follows two girls, Mary Clancy (Mills) and her friend Rachel (June Harding), who are reluctantly sent off by their families to attend a Catholic boarding school. From the moment they reach the school, Mary and Rachel start causing trouble for the nuns with their pranks, going by false names, smoking in the school basement, and setting off fire alarms, severely testing the patience of the Mother Superior (Rosalind Russell). But over the course of three years, the girls come of age, and their experience at St. Francis Academy leads Mary to make a life-changing decision.
“The Trouble with Angels” was directed by Ida Lupino, an actress who turned to directing in the 1950s with several independent films, including the well-received drama “The Bigamist”. After 1953 Lupino left feature films to direct for television, and among her credits are such classic shows as “Bewitched” and “The Twilight Zone”; she was the only female to direct the latter show. “The Trouble with Angels” was the first feature film Lupino had directed since 1953, and was the last in her career. She handles the story well, maintaining the proper balance between comedy and drama.
Mills and Russell, meanwhile, got along off screen as poorly as their characters did onscreen, but the film is still a delight, with Russell—a devout Catholic in real life—creating one of her best characters with the strict Mother Superior, and Mills playing her most prankish character in a role that’s both funny and heartfelt. The film was such a success with audiences, a sequel, called “Where Angels Go, Trouble Follows”, was made in 1968. Russell returned as the Mother Superior, as did many of the actresses playing nuns in supporting roles, including Binnie Barnes and Mary Wickes.
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