Hayley Mills plays Mary Clancy, a teenager sent to the St. Francis Academy for Girls by her uncle. Her parents were killed and he's her guardian. On the train up, she meets several other girls bound for the academy and convinces them all to lie about their names. Of course, the mother superior (played by Rosalind Russell) catches them out and two of the other three girls she talked into it quickly cave.
This event sets the tone for Mary's entire tenure at the school. She's the hellion, the troublemaker and she brings her best friend along for the ride. If there's trouble brewing, Mary is behind it. Leading other students on a tour of the nuns' quarters, which are off limits--Mary. Putting a plaster cast around another girl's head, one that won't come off--Mary. Sneaking away to smoke--Mary.
But while Mary and the reverend mother are constantly butting heads, Mary also sees things that make her wonder. The reverend mother comforts an old woman at a nursing home whose children promised to be there for Christmas and then didn't show up. She puts on a stoic face for her students, but privately mourns the death of another nun. And there are other things she says and does that Mary witnesses, raising her respect for the mother superior even though she continues to cause trouble. The story covers about three or four years and culminates with Mary's graduation.
I've seen this movie on TV more than once and I rented it to watch it uncut and without commercials because I like it. It's fun and sweet, and aside from the smoking, very innocent. Rosalind Russell and Hayley Mills are both believable in their roles as Mother Superior and student and their scenes together have some priceless moments.
Because of the year this movie was made, there are a few things that are a bit dated, but overall, it survives the test of time amazingly well. Also, because this movie is from 1966, it's pretty much safe for the entire family. (Take this with a grain of salt since I don't have children, but there was no sneaking off to have sex with boys, no drinking or drugs, and while the girls might be in trouble, it's always something relatively innocent. None of their pranks are ever mean-spirited.)
I found the film amusing, although I didn't think it was laugh out loud funny. (I did when I was a kid.) There were also a few moments that touched me and teared me up. Like when the old woman was crying on the reverend mother's shoulder about her children.
I enjoyed this movie as much as I did when I was a kid and saw it on television. 4.5 stars.