Actress Hayley Mills is most famous for her teen roles in 1960s Disney Films. And seeing as how her plucky teen comedy The Parent Trap just turned 60. It’s about that we take a closer look at her life and career while reflecting on how she managed to rise to the top only to essentially lose everything; she had worked so hard for and come crashing on down. In this video, we’ll also discuss her personal relationship with Walt Disney and what being a young Disney icon was really like.
In September 2021, Mills unveiled her new memoir ‘Forever Young’ which chronicles her early years being the daughter of the British screen star. Sir John Mills, and how she found her way to America where she made a career for herself in Hollywood.
While her wholesome public image made her adored by many; Mills still desired to transform herself into something more than just a child star. Throughout her journey, she learned quite a few life lessons – some of them the hard way. And now she’s ready to share what she’s learned with the rest of the world.
We’ll touch on her memoir in a bit, but first, let’s see how she managed to make – and subsequently lose – her $17 million fortune.
Hayley Mills Early Life And Career
Hayley Mills was born on April 18, 1946. Her father was, as we already mentioned. Prolific English actor Sir John Mills and her mother was actress and playwright Mary Haley Bell. The acting bug must have infected the whole family because her older sister, Juliet Mills, was also a gifted actress.
Hayley Mills began her acting career when she’s still a child and heralded by the media to be a promising young up-and-coming actress from a very early age. In fact, after appearing in the British crime drama Tiger Bay in 1959. She honored with a BAFTA Award for Most Promising Newcomer. The following year, she received the Academy Juvenile Award for her role in Disney’s 1960 feature Pollyanna. For that portrayal, she also awarded a Golden Globe for New Star Of the Year.
In the early days of her acting career, Mills appeared in six films produced by Walt Disney – most notably in the dual role as the twin sisters Susan and Sharon in the 1961 film The Parent Trap.
In 1961, Hayley Mills gave a powerful performance in the film Whistle Down The Wind. Which earned her another BAFTA Award nomination for the category of Best British Actress.
Mills eventually left Disney to take on more mature roles.
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And be sure to stick around for a bit. In a moment, we’ll touch on Haley Mills’ personal account of what it was like working for Walt Disney and what sort of man she thought he was.
Learning About Taxes: The Hard Way
After spending the majority of her childhood acting in and promoting Disney films, Mills fully expected a sizable payday. But as it turned out, the money that she earned from her years with Dinsey had put into a trust that she told that she only gain access to once she turned 21.
But once it came time to collect her money, Mills hit with a bit of a reality check. The money that she had made heavily taxed by the British Revenue Service at an unheard-of rate of 91%. In her memoir, Forever Young, Mills described the moment when she realized that most of her money already gone.
She said that once her lawyer informed her of the situation with the Revenue service. And how they were essentially gobbling up all of her earnings. She felt all of the blood drain from her face. Her lawyer then informed her that there was essentially nothing she could do about the situation and that. In his opinion, she might as well leave the country. He also told her that she could have repudiated the trust before she turned 21. But at that point, it was already much too late for that.
Mills Fought Back
So apparently, the Revenue service hit her with such a high tax rate because the money meant to used to rebuild England after World War II. While Hayley Mills advised by her legal counsel to either sue her attorney or her father over the lack of proper financial advisement with the fund, Mills chose to do neither of these things.
Instead, she applied for a tax appeal, and after waiting nearly two years after making the submission, a judgment ruled against her. Not backing down quite yet, Mills appealed the ruling three years later but yet again. In 1971, she received another judgment that wasn’t in her favor.
In October 1972, however, Mills finally got a lucky break when her tax case came before the Master of the Rolls, Lord Denning. After her lawyer explained that she had already paid taxes on her earnings and shouldn’t be required to pay a surtax. Lord Denning ruled that the money did, in fact, rightfully belong to her.
Mill’s Celebration Cut Short
While Mill’s likely walked out of that courtroom feeling victorious. The House of Lords ultimately decided to appeal Denning’s ruling in 1974 and ruled that it was null and void. Mills claims in her memoir that she lost around £2 million, which adjusted for inflation comes out to about $17 million today.
In her book, she likened the state to a ‘horde of pirates’ who ‘plundered’ her trust. The Disney money all dried up before she even got a chance to see it. She always knew it was there waiting for her and one day she expected to have it. But in the end, it was all just a dream – and one day she woke from that dream and it was all gone.
In Forever Young, Mills says that while she does occasionally mourn the loss of the freedom that her ‘small fortunate’ might have afforded her. She doesn’t actually miss the money itself.
Mills’ son Crispian Mills who helped write his mother’s memoir. Told the Los Angeles Times that the way that his mother describes the experience of losing all of that money as being very innocent. From her perspective, it seems silly to feel sad for something you never really had.
Mills’ Relationship With Walt Disney
Talking to Vulture back in August 2021, Mills revealed that Walt Disney often visited the sets of the films he was producing. He’d visit all of the sets and soundstages and introduce himself to the cast and crew.
Mills further shared that Walt had a very personal investment in every one of his movies and did his best to stay involved with the productions and all of the actors. He was in love with the entire process of filmmaking. And was intricately involved with every single frame and aspect of his films. Not only did he always know what was going on, but he was also always very encouraging to everyone involved.
Mills had a tremendous amount of respect for Disney, and he ultimately turned her into a star. Despite the less-than-stellar reputation that Walt has received in recent years. Mills has described him as a ‘lovely, friendly, warm, sweet, and genuine human being’.
While the world’s all too familiar with the horror-stories told by former Mouse House child stars like Demi Lovato and Miley Cyrus, Mills says that she never felt exploited while working for Disney as a child.
Rather, he was reportedly quite protective of Mills’ image and her activities. Mills told the LA Times that Walt was in many ways like a father figure to her.
Mills Battle With Bulimia
In her memoir Forever Young, Hayley Mills discussed her dealings with the eating disorder bulimia. Talking to Fox News, she further described what it was like to go through that experience. She said that after she had reached her desired ‘skeletal weight’ she actually stopped getting her period, and she developed skin problems. She started breaking out and had to take antibiotics for several years.
At the time, she didn’t even know that Bulimia was a thing. She even quipped that she thought that she had come up with it all by herself.
Her struggles with eating started when she met a famous horse racing jockey who informed her that he would eat grass after meals to make himself throw up. So Mills started doing the same and kept it a secret from everyone that she knew.
Fortunately, she has since recovered from her eating disorder which is a blessing since it can oftentimes lead to death. Mills also says that she is happy to live in a time when people can express themselves more freely without fear of judgment.
Today, people dealing with eating disorders don’t have to hide them from others. Back in her time, there’s a great deal of stigma associated with such things, but not so much today, even though Bulimia and other eating disorders are still very common.
If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder. You can contact the National Eating Disorder Association Helpline by calling 1-800-931-2237 or by texting NEDA to 741741.
While Mills created a post-Disney adult acting career for herself. She will always be best remembered for her roles as that cheeky little girl with a mischievous streak.
Today, Mills still acts occasionally. Her most recent role was in a 2019 episode of an Acorn TV drama called ‘Pitching In’. But more than anything, Mills is mostly interested in spending as much time as she can with her five grandchildren.
Anyway, we’re just about out of time for this video, so that means now it’s your turn to let your voice be heard. In the comments section below, let the world know what your favorite Haley Mills film role was. Are you a fan of her titular role in Pollyanna, or do you fancy yourself more of a Parent Trap fan? Either way, let us know!
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