The Trouble with Angels (film)

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The Trouble with Angels
The Trouble with Angels (theatrical poster).jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byIda Lupino
Written byBlanche Hanalis
Based onLife with Mother Superior
1962 memoir
by Jane Trahey[1]
Produced byWilliam Frye
StarringRosalind Russell
Hayley Mills
Binnie Barnes
Gypsy Rose Lee
Camilla Sparv
Mary Wickes
June Harding
CinematographyLionel Lindon
Edited byRobert C. Jones
Music byJerry Goldsmith
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
  • March 30, 1966 (1966-03-30)
Running time
112 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$2 million
Box office$4.1 million (rentals)[2]

The Trouble with Angels is a 1966 American comedy film about the adventures of two girls in an all-girls Catholic school run by nuns. The film was directed by Ida Lupino and stars Hayley Mills (her first post-Disney film role), Rosalind Russell and June Harding.

The film's cast includes Marge Redmond (who would play a nun in the television series The Flying Nun, which premiered the following year) as math teacher Sister Liguori, Mary Wickes (who reprised her role in the sequel Where Angels Go, Trouble Follows and later played a nun in the film Sister Act and sequel Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit) as gym teacher Sister Clarissa, and Portia Nelson (who played a nun in The Sound of Music the previous year) as art teacher Sister Elizabeth. Burlesque performer Gypsy Rose Lee appears in a small role. An uncredited Jim Hutton appears briefly as the principal of a competing school.

A sequel, Where Angels Go, Trouble Follows, starring Stella Stevens, was released in 1968.


The movie is set at St. Francis Academy, a fictional all-girls Catholic boarding school in Pennsylvania, operated by an order of nuns. Rosalind Russell plays the Mother Superior, who spends the movie at odds with Mary Clancy (Hayley Mills), a rebellious teenager, and her friend Rachel Devery (June Harding). The episodic story line follows the young women through their sophomore, junior and senior high-school years as they pull pranks on the sisters and repeatedly get into trouble. Both girls almost get expelled for smoking in the basement. Although Mary spends much of her time at St. Francis resenting the authority of the Mother Superior and puzzling over why any woman would choose the life of a nun, as time goes on she is touched by examples of the sisters' dedication, devotion, kindness, love, and generosity, and begins to see that their life is one of fulfillment, not deprivation. Mary receives "the call" senior year and, after graduation, remains at the school to begin her novitiate in the order.


The Nuns:

The Girls:

  • Hayley Mills as Mary Clancy
  • June Harding as Rachel Devery
  • Barbara Hunter as Marvel-Ann
  • Bernadette Withers as Valerie
  • Vicky Albright as Charlotte
  • Patty Gerrity as Sheila
  • Vicki Draves as Kate
  • Wendy Winkelman as Sandy
  • Jewel Jaffe as Ginnie-Lou
  • Gail Liddle as Priscilla
  • Michael-Marie as Ruth
  • Betty Jane Royale as Gladys
  • Ronne Troup as Helen
  • Catherine Wyles as Brigette

The Outsiders:

Life with Mother Superior[edit]

The Trouble with Angels was based on the 1962 book Life with Mother Superior by Jane Trahey, about her own high school years at a Catholic school near Chicago, Illinois, in the 1930s. While in the memoir the school was portrayed as a boarding school outside the city, Trahey attended what is now Providence-St. Mel's High School, which was a day school. Many of the incidents mentioned in the book were based on Trahey's experiences at Mundelein College in Chicago. The character of Mary Clancy (Mills) was based on Jane's friend, Mary, who later became Sister John Eudes, a Sinsinawa Dominican nun (1922–2017).[3]

The Washington Post called it "wonderful fun".[4] The book became a best seller.[5]



In June 1962, the film rights were purchased by Ken Donnellon and Jacqueline Babbin who knew Trahey in advertising. Donnellon said he wanted the film to be seen through the eyes of one of the young nuns.[6]

They were unable to make the film. In August 1963 Ross Hunter was pursuing the novel; he wanted Loretta Young, Jane Wyman, Barbara Stanwyck and Virginia Grey to play nuns and Patty Duke and Mary Badham to play students.[7]

In September 1964, the film rights were acquired by Columbia Pictures. The film was assigned to producer William Frye who had a multi-picture deal with the studio.[8] Greta Garbo, Frye's original choice for the role of the Mother Superior, rejected the producer's offer of $1 million to star in the film.[9] In November 1964, Frye approached Hayley Mills to appear and she eventually signed on the following May.[10] The role of the Mother Superior went to Rosalind Russell, who said: "I have been around nuns my whole life and I wanted to do justice with them".[11]

Frye hired Ida Lupino to direct; at the time Lupino was mostly working on action and suspense programs for television. This was the first time she had ever directed a large female cast. Lupino said "It's a change of pace".[12]


Filming began in August 1965 under the title Mother Superior.[13] The title was changed to The Trouble with Angels the following month out of fear there were too many other "nun" movies at the time (e.g. The Singing Nun).[14]

"We are shooting it in color but the prevailing colors will be stark black and white and charcoal grey. Then there will be sudden slashes of bright color – a turquoise swimming pool, a green meadow. The possibilities of color are fantastic. And the picture will be warm and funny. And it's such a nice change – no blood spilled at all, darling", said Lupino.[13]

The St. Francis Academy in the film was filmed on location at what was formerly known as St. Mary's Home for Children and is presently known as Lindenwold Castle in Ambler, Pennsylvania.

All interior shots were filmed at Columbia Studios at Sunset & Gower in Hollywood. Most exterior shots were filmed at the Greystone Mansion, which at the time was being leased by the City of Beverly Hills to the American Film Institute. The exterior track-side train/depot scenes (at the opening and closing of the movie) were shot at the former Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway depot in Monrovia, California featuring ALCO PA's. The station is now a stop on the Los Angeles Metro Gold Line. However, the opening establishing shot of the train station was filmed at the Merion Train Station in Merion, Pennsylvania. The film was budgeted at $2 million.[15]

Camilla Sparv made her debut as a nun.[16]

Before shooting began, Rosalind Russell was asked by an old school friend, now a mother superior in St. Louis, to attend a fundraiser for a Catholic girls' school she was starting. Russell proposed that her upcoming film would be "the ideal fundraiser" and convinced Columbia to hold the premiere in St. Louis. The world premiere and a reception were held at St. Louis's Fox Theatre with ticket proceeds going to the school's building fund.[17][18]

At the time of filming, Mills was 19 years old, while Harding was 28. Both characters would have aged from 14 to 17 during the three years covered in the plot.

In October 1965 Jerry Goldsmith signed to do the music.[19]


The film marked a departure for Mills, who was attempting to emerge from her juvenile leads in Walt Disney-produced teen comedies as a comedic actress.


The Trouble with Angels enjoyed good reviews, although Variety was critical: "An appealing story idea—hip Mother Superior nun who outfoxes and matures two rebellious students in a Catholic girls' school—has lost impact via repetitious plotting and pacing, plus routine direction....Graduation finds Mills in character switcheroo to which Catholic audiences will long since be alerted".[20]

Box office[edit]

The film earned enough box-office success to warrant a sequel (Where Angels Go, Trouble Follows).[21] Russell said: "I think it proves there's a place for the family picture, the sort of picture you can take the kiddies to and which isn't pure corn".[22]

However, Hayley Mills opted not to reprise her role as the progressive protagonist in the sequel and was replaced by Stella Stevens, who played Sister George, a new foil to Rosalind Russell's Mother Superior.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Schiro, Anne-Marie (April 25, 2000). "Jane Trahey, Ad Executive And Author, Is Dead at 76". The New York Times. Retrieved June 18, 2016.
  2. ^ "Big Rental Pictures of 1966", Variety, 4 January 1967, pg 8.
  3. ^ "Sister who was inspiration for 'The Trouble With Angels' character dies". Crux. Catholic News Service. January 5, 2018. Archived from the original on August 8, 2018. Retrieved January 6, 2018.
  4. ^ Pens P.S. To H.S. Diploma By Amber Eustus. The Washington Post, Times Herald 28 Oct 1962: F7.
  5. ^ Life with Jane Trahey Is One Comedy After Another Kramer, Carol. Chicago Tribune 28 Feb 1971: e2.
  6. ^ LOCAL SCENE: 'OH DAD' By A.H. WEILER. New York Times 3 June 1962: 125.
  7. ^ Looking at Hollywood: Ross Hunter Makes Millions for Studio Hopper, Hedda. Chicago Tribune 5 Aug 1963: b3.
  8. ^ Advertising: Woman's Wit in a Man's World By SAL NUCCIO. New York Times 3 Sep 1964: 38.
  9. ^ Zierold, Norman J (1969). Garbo. Stein and Day. p. 131.
  10. ^ Stark Party Opens Gay Holiday Season - Hopper, Hedda. Los Angeles Times 28 Nov 1964: B7.
  11. ^ Roz Is Glad They Never Saw Her as Sexily Symbolic By Bob Thomas. The Washington Post, Times Herald 12 Sep 1965: G3.
  12. ^ Nun's the Word in Movie Trend Los Angeles Times 2 Nov 1965: c9.
  13. ^ a b Bart, Peter (March 7, 1965). "Lupino, the Dynamo". The New York Times. pp. X7. Retrieved May 3, 2022.
  14. ^ Looking at Hollywood: Elvis Shows His Gratitude to Filmdom Hopper, Hedda. Chicago Tribune 27 Sep 1965: b4.
  15. ^ Archived May 27, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ MOVIE CALL SHEET: Columbia Buys 'Good, Evil' Martin, Betty. Los Angeles Times 30 July 1965: D11.
  17. ^ Dick, Bernard F. (18 September 2009). Forever Mame: The Life of Rosalind Russell. University Press of Mississippi. p. 232. ISBN 978-1-60473-139-2. Retrieved 6 January 2018.
  18. ^ Roz Reunited With College Classmate Shaw, Robert. Los Angeles Times 31 Mar 1966: d17.
  19. ^ 'Waterloo' Set Next Year Martin, Betty. Los Angeles Times 7 Oct 1965: D16.
  20. ^ "The Trouble with Angels". Variety. Retrieved January 6, 2018.
  21. ^ "Profit Marks Set By Campbell Soup". The New York Times. May 27, 1966. p. 61. Retrieved May 3, 2022.
  22. ^ Roz Russell: A Peripatetic Happening: PERIPATETIC ROZ RUSSELL Lilliston, Lynn. Los Angeles Times 16 June 1967: c1.

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