Cheers to you, Haley Mills, Kurt Russell, and Maureen O’Hara.
Nothing takes your mind off your troubles like watching a good movie in a darkened theater. And if you’re a Southerner of a certain age, you can recall a time when there were no mega-cineplexes—and no Netflix. Going to a movie was an event. Kids would eagerly await every new Disney release, which we couldn’t wait to see in the South’s grand old movie houses back in the day. Some of those movies have been remade so many times that they’re always with us—Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Beauty and the Beast, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, The Jungle Book . . . But others might’ve slipped your mind. Let’s swing by the concessions stand, grab some buttered popcorn, and revisit some of the movies that sent us flocking to the big screen.
The Aristocats (1970)
A tomcat voiced by Phil Harris and his lady love, voiced by Eva Gabor, outwit an evil butler to make it back to Paris and claim the kitties’ inheritance. The butler, Roquefort, was played by Georgia native and official Disney Legend Sterling Holloway, who also voiced Winnie the Pooh.
The Parent Trap (1961)
Where do we start? Twins Susan and Sharon—both played by Disney icon Haley Mills—are separated as infants when their parents—Brian Keith and Maureen O’Hara—divorce. Reunited at summer camp, the girls scheme to switch places and get their parents back together. Let’s get together, yeah, yeah, yeah! (PS. Are we hallucinating or was Miss Jane Hathaway of The Beverly Hillbillies one of the camp counselors?)
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954)
Kirk Douglas, Peter Lorre, and James Mason—in a Disney flick? It happened, ladies and gentlemen. It happened.
Lady and the Tramp (1955)
It’s pure magic when Lady and Tramp share that plate of spaghetti and meatballs to the strains of “Bella Notte.” And when Tramp nudges the last meatball to Lady—hey, if that’s puppy love, sign us up.
That Darn Cat! (1965)
A mischievous cat comes home wearing a wristwatch. Call the FBI—clearly, the kitty has found a hostage in need of rescue. You won’t believe the cast of this flick: Haley Mills, Dean Jones, Roddy McDowell, William Demarest of My Three Sons, Frank Gorshen (The Riddler in TV’s Batman series), and Elsa Lanchester, who starred with Boris Karloff in Bride of Frankenstein (and was brilliantly parodied by Madeline Kahn in Young Frankenstein).
The Absent-Minded Professor (1961)
The invention of “flubber,” a substance with phenomenal bounce, wreaks havoc for movie legend Fred McMurray, also of TV’s My Three Sons fame.
Son of Flubber (1963)
The flubber sequel—featuring the Pentagon and the IRS. Just go with it.
The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (1969)
Total baby doll Kurt Russell—those blue eyes, that smile!—gets a shock that turns his brain into a computer, and . . . oh, who cares? We would’ve paid to see Kurt tap dance with a talking giraffe if Disney wanted us to.
The Barefoot Executive (1971)
See, Kurt Russell’s working in the mailroom of a TV station when he discovers that his girlfriend’s pet chimpanzee can predict the success or failure of new shows. A cute boy and a chimp—what more could a girl ask for? (Aside: This little flick marked the movie debut of John Ritter, later of Three’s Company fame.)
Now You See Him, Now You Don’t (1972)
See, Kurt Russell plays a science-loving college student who accidentally discovers a formula that makes him invisible. (Walt, honey, on behalf of all Southern girls, we’re not sure it was such a good idea to make dreamy Kurt invisible.)
The World’s Greatest Athlete (1973)
Another Disney dreamboat, Jan-Michael Vincent, plays . . . okay this one takes a bit of a leap . . . Nanu, a Tarzan-type from Africa. He is recruited to come to the U.S. and compete in track and field events. (Thank goodness Disney had the smarts not to make Jan-Michael invisible.) The cast included Tim Conway, John Amos, and sports broadcasting legends Howard Cosell, Frank Gifford, and Jim McKay.
Can you think of more little gems from the Disney vault? Tell us about your favorites.