Then & Now: Sodas and secrets

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The Independent Online
1960: Hayley Mills starred in 'Pollyanna'. In 'The Real Walt Disney', by Leonard Mosley, she remembers the man who made her a child star.

'He had a small movie theatre in his home, and he used to show us films. He had this soda bar in the theatre and all through the film you could hear the squirts and hisses as he would make those wonderful ice-cream sodas while we were watching. Then he had this big model train in his garden and he would take us for rides in it, driving it himself . . . He even took us to his private apartment at Disneyland . . .

'He was so mild and nice and so eager to anticipate what would be pleasant for a young girl to see or experience. But then, of course, he could be a very tough person too. Once while I was there he fired somebody on the set, and it shocked me because it was so sudden. He was wandering around in such a relaxed way, and he knew everybody there, Dick, Chuck, Wally, Fred, everybody. Then someone came up to him, and said: 'Hi, Walt,' and he replied: 'Hi, Jim, you're fired.' I never did find out what the man had done, or why he sacked him. It was done so abruptly and so casually. But I felt sure Walt had done it for the right reasons. I never felt he could be unjust. I always felt you could trust him.'

May 1993: a new biography, 'Walt Disney: Hollywood's Dark Prince', by Marc Eliot, reveals he was a secret FBI informer for more than 25 years, feeding the bureau information about actors, writers, producers and others deemed subversive.