The Moon-Spinners

The Moon-Spinners is a 1964 American mystery film starring Hayley Mills, Eli Wallach and Peter McEnery in a story about a jewel thief hiding on the island of Crete. Produced by Walt Disney Productions, the film was based upon a 1962 suspense novel by Mary Stewart and was directed by James Neilson. The Moon-Spinners was Mills' fifth of six films for Disney, and featured the legendary silent film actress Pola Negri in her final screen performance.

The Moon-Spinners
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJames Neilson
Produced byRon Miller
Walt Disney
Written byMichael Dyne
Based onThe Moon-Spinners
by Mary Stewart
StarringHayley Mills
Eli Wallach
Peter McEnery
Music byRon Grainer
Distributed byBuena Vista Distribution
Release date
  • July 2, 1964 (1964-07-02)
Running time
118 minutes
Box officeest. $3,500,000 (US/ Canada)[1]


A young English woman named Nikky Ferris takes a trip with her folk musicologist aunt Frances to the village of Elounda, Crete on the island of Crete during a wedding. They rent a room at the Moon-Spinners inn, the innkeeper Sophia initially refusing them until her teenage son Alexis and Aunt Frances persuade her. Sophia's older brother Stratos, having told her to not welcome anyone into the inn, questions Aunt Frances over why she chose the Moon-Spinners before reluctantly allowing her and Nikky to spent a night before leaving the village. During a wedding party at the inn later that evening, Nikky meets an Englishman named Mark Camford invites her and Aunt Frances to have dinner with him as he hints Stratos is more than he appears. At end of the evening, Nikky promises to meet up with Mark in the morning to go for a swim in the Bay of Dolphins. Mark then follows Stratos when he goes out for night fishing along the Bay of Dolphins, only to be attacked while spying on the man.

The following morning, Nikky learns that Mark abruptly checked out of the inn and does not buy the story Sophia gives her. While taking a walk, Nikky follows a blood trail to a church basement where Mark is hiding. Mark refuses to explain his the details of his gunshot wound to Nikky, asking her to fetch some supplies for him. Nikky later returns with her aunt's first aid kit, a bottle of brandy, and a travel rug. Mark still refuse to explain his injuries while urging her to go to the nearby town of Agios Nikolaos with her aunt for safety. On her way back to the inn, Nikky runs into Stratos, who is looking for her after learning of the missing items from Aunt Frances. Nikky tries to lie to cover up for Mark, but Stratos sees through her and searches the church with Mark no where to be seen. Stratos assumes Nikky is a liability and ties her up in a windmill while enlisting his associate Lambis to search for Mark, who later rescues Nikky with Alexis's help. After Nikky and Mark take refuge in an abandoned temple inhabited by numerous cats, Mark reveals he was a bank employee who the handled the jewelry of the Countess of Fleet who lost his job when he was attacked on route with jewels stolen from him. Mark assumes Stratos to be his attacker who hid the jewels somewhere in the Bay of Dolphins. The duo spend the night there and Stratos attempts to track them down, only to be scared away by the resident cats.

The next morning, Nikky and Mark are discovered by a British gentleman named Anthony Gamble and are taken to his summer villa in Agios Nikolaos where his wife Cynthia looks after them. But it turns out Anthony is partners with Stratos, assuring Stratos that he will handle the interlopers so he can make the deal without trouble. Nikky later learns from the Gambles that a rich woman named Madame Habib is traveling Greece on her yacht, Mark realizing that Stratos intends to sell the jewels to her. But Mark is revealed to be drugged by Cynthia, with the couple making preparations to send him to Athens to receive medical care. On the way to the hospital, Mark wakes up and tells Nikky he has to go and stop Stratos before it is too late. Nikky attempts to stop Mark before he kisses her and leaves, deciding to reach Madame Habib's yacht as Mark fails to prevent Stratos from escaping with the jewels.

She tells Madame Habib that Stratos is a thief and that the jewels she intends to buy from him were stolen from the Countess of Fleet, who happens to be an old friend of Habib's. Stratos shows up to sell the jewels, but so do Mark, Frances, and Alexis. A fight ensues. In the end, Madame Habib has police take Stratos off the yacht, and returns the jewels to Mark. The final scene shows Alexis leaving by boat, waving at Mark and Nikky, and implying that they will soon get married by the time they return to Crete.



The lead character is somewhat younger than in the novel. Traveling alone in the book, she is accompanied by her aunt in the film. The film is somewhat dark, similar to other Disney live-action features made in the 1950s and 1960s for more mainstream audiences such as Treasure Island (1950) and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954). It was Walt Disney's penultimate live-action film in which he was credited as producer while alive.

Disney persuaded silent film actress Pola Negri, who had been retired for two decades, to return to the screen for this, her final film. Both Mills and Wallach were interviewed extensively about their work with Negri in The Moon-Spinners for the 2006 biographical documentary film Pola Negri: Life Is a Dream in Cinema.

See also


  1. "Big Rental Pictures of 1964", Variety, 6 January 1965 p 39. Please note this figure is rentals accruing to distributors not total gross.
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