My book review of 'Forever Young' by Hayley Mills
Although I've always been intrigued by the Hollywood glamour, poise, dignity and essential Englishness of actress Hayley Mills, I hadn't prioritised picking up her memoir (which is out in paperback this week).
However I was asked to research her story ahead of her visit to Norfolk in October.
And I found it a delight! It is a charming and entertaining memoir which details a bygone era of Hollywood, Disney and stardom. It's beautifully told. There's an innocence, almost bewilderment in her recollections, as if she still can't quite believe that this is her life, her experience.
Hayley Mills is the daughter of the actor John Mills and his wife, the writer, Mary Hayley Bell. They had three children and, while their eldest, Juliet, was determined to follow her father and become an actress, it was Hayley who landed all the best parts initially with a six film contract to Disney while she was still a child.
She was the star of such films as 'Tiger Bay', 'Whistle Down the Wind', 'The Parent Trap' and 'Polyanna'. They're films I recall watching in my childhood, old films then, but hugely memorable.
Hayley Mills talks about family life, boarding school, meeting the Beatles, and how she eventually sought her independence. As the book progresses there are fewer details of the work or the people she met as she makes more sweeping statements. It's the early years that hold the appeal, the fascination, the intrigue, and where she has the unique perspective. In the latter pages of the book, there's a sense of melancholy, perhaps. And it's certainly quite shocking that the fortune amassed by her childhood roles was lost through mismanagement or bad advice of a trust set up in her name.
I very much enjoyed reading this account. The sense of nostalgia and innocence and simpler times made it a welcome escape.