Monday, August 27, 2012

The Moon-Spinners

My best friend, Nicole, and I have had many mischievous adventures together over the past two decades.  We have never lacked reasons to play detective or sharpen our reconnaissance skills (referred to by some as stalking).   So when her mom made a trek down from France for a visit, it should have come as no surprise that she channeled her inner Nancy Drew and had the urge to play sleuth as well.

Our conversations of ancient Greek mythology, Venetian architecture, biblical history, and infamous WWII battles, soon led to movies and TV shows filmed in the area.    Being a Disney buff, she knew the 1964 movie The Moon-Spinners was filmed on the island of Crete.   I had never seen the movie nor had I read the preceding Mary Stewart suspense novel on which it was based, but I’m a sucker for a challenge. Plus, I had watched Pollyanna and Parent Trap religiously as a child (clearly there was no cable in my house growing up) and I couldn’t imagine the movie that made everyone fall in love with Hayley Mills could be a complete disappointment.  Having names like Walt Disney and Eli Wallach attached to the movie didn’t hurt either.  Terri and I found ourselves spending a morning scouring over blogs, forums, and web-pages in search for any information we could find concerning the exact location of various scenes and seeing if we could match it up to a location on our map.   This proved to be difficult as we ran into a shortage of available information on the filming sites. This could be because the movie was filmed almost 50 years ago, and a contributing factor might be that the movie was never a box office hit. Luckily, we caught a major break when we stumbled across a blog posting by a guy from Tennessee named Jerry Maloy

Jerry had an advantage. For one, he had actually seen the movie, but also he had spent quite a bit of time researching prior to his visit to the Eastern coastline of Crete. His hard work paid off, and arrived in Greece with the movie’s shooting schedule in hand, thanks to a favor from the Walt Disney Archives staff. To give credit where credit is due, Jerry’s enthusiasm and hard work were pivotal in our journey’s inspiration and success.

Armed with a map and anticipation that would rival that of a treasure hunter we set out on the 2 ½ hour drive along the coastline of Crete towards Agios Nikolaos. Thanks to our new BFF Jerry, we knew for certain that Walt Disney himself, and the cast and crew stayed in Agios Nikolaos at the Minos Beach Art Hotel while filming.  We stopped by this hotel, and the gracious staff gladly pointed us to a table with several leather-bound guest books dating all the way back to the 60s.  Just a handful of pages into the very first book lay the signature of Walt Disney himself, and a few pages later a signature and inscription from Hayley Mills as well. 

Just a few kilometers outside of Aghios Nikolaos is the charming town of Elounda, where the majority of the movie was filmed.   The site of the Moon-Spinners Inn is now the Vritomartes Taverna, and after watching the movie I can tell you it, to this day, very much resembles the Inn.   While in Elounda we stopped for a smoothie and showed the waiter a picture of the three windmills from the opening credits.  He smiled and said something in Greek while motioning towards the sky, then in broken English said, “Moon Spinner.”  Ahhh, “yes!” we exclaimed and asked him if he knew where they were located.   He pointed us towards the east, we walked about a mile and… there they were, we beheld what is left of the remaining windmills.

Below are some photos of the locations we found from the 1964 movie, The Moon-Spinners.


  1. I just HAD to thank you for posting this! I am only a teenager, but a big fan of this movie, and I hope some day to travel to Greece to see the filming sites, as you did. I'm so glad that someone else appreciates it too!

  2. Thanks for doing the research! I too watched Pollyanna and The Parent Trap as a kid, but didn't discover The Moon-Spinners till I was an adult. I visited Crete in 1994, and went to Greece again in 2009...but not Crete. Greece is probably one of my favorite places in the world. Now I have another reason to go back. Not that I need a reason...See you in 2014.

  3. I loved the Moon-Spinners, actually every movie Hayley Mills was in. I plan on going to Crete someday with my daughter.

  4. As an commercial american sailor, have sailed in and out and past Crete for years, always wondering, always remembering the immortal boyish childhood lines of this film, "No time for make love!"

    He will always be my uncle Walt. We never met, yet as a child, I recognized him, and still do, as the man whose depth was tethered to the bounty of God's imaginations. Thanks for the posting, as this film, though not having seen it in fifty years, to me has always held a singular memory of youth, beauty and the indescribable mystery and joy of life.
    Again, thanks,

  5. I love all the movies that starred Hayley Mills and especially liked the Moonspinners. Really want to visit Agios Nickolaos, Minas Beach Art Hotel and the other sites mentioned. Thanks for doing the background work on this and for the pictures. It's nice to know that other people want to visit this area as well and be taken back in time to see where the movie was made.

  6. Visited Elounda this past June 2016. Stopped at Melissos for lunch and the proprietor chatted with me about the film: now 52 years ago almost to the date it was first released.
    A charming and nostalgic visit to a stunning landscape. Plan on watching the film again to capture my trip.

  7. I have loved this movie since I started watching this as a child 30 years ago, I do own it on DVD and watch it from time to time. Great article and addition to my bucket list!

  8. Thanks so much for sharing this. Me and my family have moved to Crete, so I will try and relive some childhood film memories with your help. This is magic.

  9. Moon spinners and In Search of the Cast aways were two of my favorite movies, I am planning an anniversary trip with my husband and want to visit the sites from Moon Spinners. Thank you for your research and pictures, I can't wait to go and see it all in person!

  10. We are here at Minos Beach Art Hotel and with your post have found the sites you referenced. Taverns owner in Elounda indicated visitors asking about the film has diminished.