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Hayley Mills, what can we say about her? She was an English actress, daughter of actor John Mills, and shot to fame as a child actress in many early Disney films. She acted in a total of six theatrical films for Walt Disney, many of them being hits. After her time with Disney, she would go on to acting in more mature film roles as well as starring in the Disney Channel 80’s sitcom, “Good Morning, Miss Bliss” as the titular character.
(Fun fact: The show didn’t do well and was soon canceled. The rights were bought by NBC and then remade as the hit 90’s sitcom, “Saved by the Bell”, completely without the character of Miss Bliss. Imagine how that must have made Hayley Mills feel!)
But in today’s post, we’re going to be looking at her very first film at the Disney Studios. And that film is none other than “Pollyanna” based on the classic children’s novel by Eleanor H. Porter. I’d just like to say that I’ve never read the book, so I have no idea what’s supposed to happen. Hence I won’t be comparing the film to the book. With that said, let’s dive into the review.
And remember, SPOILERS AHEAD!
So the film opens up to
Oh boy, I can see that this movie is going to be quite unforgettable already, and not in a good way.
We then cut to the town of Harrington, a small town with a Mayberry sort of feel to it. A train has just arrived at the train station and off steps a young girl named Pollyanna, played by the aforementioned Hayley Mills.
Her parents have died, thereby making her an orphan,
and she’s come to Harrington to live with her Aunt Polly…Polly HARRINGTON, that is! Yep, the town is their ancestral town, so much so that Aunt Polly actually has quite a lot of control over the town which we’ll find out later.
Pollyanna is picked up at the station by Aunt Polly’s maid, Nancy, and gardener played by Nancy Olson and Nolan Leary, respectively.
They then drive Pollyanna to her new home.
Pollyanna, understandably, is astonished at the opulence and exquisiteness of her new home and spends much time admiring it. She then meets her new guardian, Aunt Polly, played by ex-President Ronald Reagan’s ex-wife, Jane Wyman.
What can we say about Aunt Polly? She’s extremely wealthy and feels that it’s her responsibility to look after her ancestral town. It sounds very generous of her, but she has a problem: she’s not very loving. Don’t get me wrong, she’s not a MEAN person, but compassion isn’t the basis of her actions. She does things for the town because she feels that it’s her DUTY to do it. This means that she’s put much of her money into many of the businesses of the Harrington citizens. This in turn means that she has a level of control over the town and its citizens, because they fear her wealth and power. This’ll be more apparent later on.
After Aunt Polly and Pollyanna introduce themselves, we come across the other workers in the house including the cook, Ms. Lagerlof, played by Reta Shaw,
and the grouchy upstairs maid Angelica, played by Mary Grace Canfield.
Come to think of it, even Reta Shaw guest-starred on “The Andy Griffith Show”.
Wow, 15 minutes into this movie and I already love the character actors. That’s a good sign!
Anyway, Angelica shows Pollyanna to her new room.
She shows Pollyanna to her new room.
She shows Pollyanna to her new room.
SHE SHOWS POLLYANNA TO HER NEW ROOM!
As you can see, Aunt Polly has taken special care of Pollyanna by giving her the smallest and highest room in the house near all the clutter of unwanted junk. Bless her heart!
Later on, Aunty Polly and Pollyanna get to know each other a bit more through dinner, talks, and clothes-shopping. Aunt Polly explains to Pollyanna that since she’s a Harrington, she has to dress and behave well to be an example for the whole town to follow.
After shopping for clothes one day, Aunt Polly and Pollyanna hear of bad news. Apparently the fire brigade has been called out to the Harrington House, a local orphanage that the original Harrington constructed many years ago. Oh look there’s his bust now!
Apparently, a busted pipe
Sigh, like I was saying, a busted pipe caused two boilers to explode and flood the orphanage with water, an accident causing much damage to the building and even resulting in a hand injury to one of the orphanage…workers, I guess.
Wow, we have a city that’s like Mayberry and three characters who’ve guest-starred on “The Andy Griffith Show”. Maybe this was originally meant to be a “The Andy Griffith Show” movie, but all the main actors couldn’t make it, so they padded it with some “The Andy Griffith Show” guest stars, Ronald Reagan’s ex-wife, and an up-and-coming Disney phenomenon!
Well, it was just a thought!
Anyway this incident calls for Aunt Polly to host a town meeting of sorts at her house so that she and the other major members of the town can discuss what is to be done about the orphanage. The mayor wants to tear down the dilapidated building and erect a brand-new building with multiple improvements.
But Aunt Polly merely wants to repair the current building because she sees the orphanage as a family landmark of the town. The mayor tries hard to convince her and the others that repairing the orphanage would be more costly than building a new one, but acquiesces to Aunt Polly because nobody’s on his side.
Why is nobody on his side? Because Aunt Polly’s wealth and reputation rule the town, like I said earlier, and nobody would DARE oppose her in any matter.
Even the local Reverend, played by Karl Malden, is influenced by her, so much so that she has a say in what the topics of his Sunday sermons will be!
And what kind of things does she want woven into the Sunday sermons?
Yep, she makes the Reverend into a “fire-and-brimstone” preacher. You see, her intent behind this is to have the Reverend strike fear into the hearts of the people on Sunday and let it sink through their minds for the rest of the week.
On the Sunday after the “town hall” meeting, we receive a very long sermon from the Reverend that honestly has many good points, but they’re ineffective because of the way they’re being delivered. Now we all know that yelling and blaming can never help anyone. The purpose of a sermon is not to frighten everyone to a degree of disgust and hopelessness, but to warn and help everyone make themselves better one day at a time. Sadly, many “fire-and-brimstone” preachers of any religion don’t understand this concept. Ooh, Polly Harrington, you’re such a weird villainous non-villain!
So everyone leaves the church on Sunday extremely disgusted and/or frightened beyond their wits. After the sermon, Pollyanna wanders by the orphanage and meets a young orphan boy named Jimmy Bean, played by Kevin Corcoran.
Jimmy Bean is a bit of an escape artist and frequently escapes from the orphanage to have fun and return before anyone finds out that he’s missing. This time, he invites Pollyanna to come along with him on his “fun-filled” adventures. They go fishing
and go climbing in a tree in old Pendergast’s place. Mr. Pendergast is a bit of a recluse and doesn’t want anyone trespassing on his property. So you can imagine what his reaction is when he catches Pollyanna and Jimmy Bean in his yard.
Hey, Mr. Pendergast is played by Adolphe Menjou and in an episode of “The Andy Griffith Show”, Andy Griffith’s character compared Don Knotts’ character to Adolphe Menjou!
Alright, alright, I’ll stop!
Anyway, after calming down, the kids realize that Mr. Pendergast isn’t really a bad guy. He actually owns many antiques and is quite learned in science. This is evident when Pollyanna notices some rainbows on his wall.
They become friends and then leave the house. Meanwhile, we cut to Aunt Polly in her house as an old friend and lover has stopped by to see her. Dr. Chilton, played by Richard Egan, was in town and hadn’t seen Aunt Polly for five years.
They soon start chatting as Dr. Chilton wants to see if Aunt Polly feels the same about him as he does about her. They both seem interested in getting back together, until talk of the orphanage comes along. Dr. Chilton finds the current building inadequate for the number of children while Aunt Polly still wishes to merely repair the building using her own money. Dr. Chilton points out that people don’t like false charity, and let’s just say that they don’t end their meeting amicably.
We then cut to the next day in which Aunt Polly is doing a charity drive. What exactly does this charity drive consist of? Delivering jars of calf’s-foot jelly to all the citizens of the town.
Pollyanna and Nancy are the main helpers in this endeavor and go around delivering the jelly to every house. Finally, they get to Mrs. Snow’s house. Mrs. Snow, played by Agnes Moorehead, is a hypochondriac obsessed with dying and having everyone do what she says. But when Pollyanna visits her, she, like Mr. Pendergast, succumbs to Pollyanna’s charms and the two become friends…ummm…acquaintances of sorts. How do they bond? By making rainbows with the prisms of Mrs. Snow’s lantern.
So as you can see, much of the movie is just Pollyanna visiting and interacting with people. Is there some semblance of plot? Well, now there is. The mayor takes matters into his own hands regarding the orphanage decision and decides that a new orphanage will be built regardless of what Aunt Polly says. He decides to hold a charity bazaar to raise money for the new orphanage, and surprisingly many people like the idea and support the mayor. It’s the first time in history that the majority of the townspeople ever opposed Aunt Polly.
Pollyanna herself gets involved and is excited about all the preparation for the fantastic day. She manages to get people to make things to sell at the bazaar. For example, she convinces Mrs. Snow to knit patchwork quilts and Mr. Pendergast to sell prisms on a string and call them “Rainbow-makers”.
Ok, isn’t that a bit…cheating? Can you sell something that does what it’s supposed to do and patent it with a fancy name? I mean, it’s like if I got a bunch of rocks and sold them as “Water-splashers”. It just seems ethically wrong.
But there are still a few townspeople that are afraid to upset Aunt Polly, hence don’t support the bazaar. In order to quell their fears, Dr. Chilton and the mayor talk to the Reverend and ask him to promote the bazaar in his upcoming sermon. If the Reverend shows his support to the project, then the rest of the townspeople will be less afraid to support the project too. But, as we said before, Aunt Polly herself has control over what the Reverend preaches and does, hence he declines respectfully.
The men leave disappointed, and the Reverend too seems to be torn by the decision he made. As he plans his next sermon in private, Pollyanna approaches him and talks to him about her father. Apparently, her father was a fellow minister and he too used to get discouraged and upset at times.
One thing that he used to do to pick himself up was to remind himself to look for the good in people. He would even search through the Bible with Pollyanna for what he called the “glad passages”. These are the verses not about punishment and sin, but the verses about happiness, rewards, and rejoicing.
This story resonates deeply with the Reverend and he realizes that he needs to change. He’s been preaching whatever Aunt Polly wanted him to preach and became a puppet to Aunt Polly’s strings, so much so that he too was frightened to promote the bazaar for fear of Aunt Polly’s backlash. That’s when he finally realizes a very important lesson.
He then decides to make his next sermon be about the “glad passages” and he also mentions his support for the upcoming bazaar. This shocks our dear Aunt Polly.
Anyway, the night of the bazaar finally arrives. Everyone’s there except Aunt Polly (of course) and Pollyanna, who’s been forbidden to attend (by Aunt Polly, of course). But Jimmy Bean climbs up a tree into Pollyanna’s window and convinces her to disobey her aunt and come to the bazaar. Pollyanna listens to him. Shock.
Once there, Pollyanna has a wonderful time eating watermelons,
and eating corn.
Even the Reverend enjoys himself by dunking one of the members of his church into a tub of water via a baseball toss.
At the end of the bazaar, Pollyanna, along with a few other girls sing “America, the Beautiful” while wrapped up in cloth to look like the American Flag.
Pollyanna then heads home and climbs back up the tree to get into her window, but alas, she falls!
Ok, she doesn’t die, but her legs are paralyzed and she can’t walk. This incident causes Aunt Polly’s heart to soften a bit and she learns her lesson in developing love and not being quite so controlling in other’s affairs.
Dr. Chilton suggests taking her to Baltimore where he may be able to perform an operation on her to get her walking again. He asks Aunt Polly to come along with him and they head to the train station after all the townspeople (many of whom I didn’t talk about) wish Pollyanna, the girl who changed their lives, luck.
Did she ever regain her ability to walk? We don’t know, the movie ends here. Did they raise enough money to build a new orphanage via the bazaar? We don’t know, the movie ends here. Do Aunt Polly and Dr. Chilton ever get together? We don’t know, the movie ends here.
And thankfully it does, not because it’s bad or anything, but because there’s nothing else really to talk about (well besides those few loose ends that I just mentioned).
The film itself has a charm to it, like much of the early live-action Disney films had. Hayley Mills is extremely likable and an amazing actress, so much so that she earned a special Academy Award for her performance in this film.
Most of the other actors do well in their parts as well including Adolphe Menjou, Agnes Moorhead, Karl Marden, and Jane Wyman, of course. The weakest actor was probably Richard Egan, but he wasn’t horrible.
The film albeit has very little plot, or at least not in the beginning. But then again, the film is SUPPOSED to be like that. The film isn’t really about Aunt Polly’s control over the town, but it’s about Pollyanna’s interactions with the people and how she affected each of their lives. It’s similar to “Mary Poppins” in that sense.
The special effects, I have to say, were a bit disappointing, and I’d be lying if I said that EVERY scene in the film seemed necessary or enjoyable, but for what the film was worth, I quite enjoyed it, much to my surprise, although I wouldn’t defend it as a good film!
(You can click on the image below for an enlarged version of my rating sheet.)
So my final rating for this film is 20/35 = 57.14% (F) !
And what WAS up with that butt-naked kid in the beginning?
34 thoughts on “Pollyanna (1960)”
You missed something very important…the whole movie, Pollyanna finds happiness in everything (even in a stuffy room under the roof). But when gets hurt towards the end, she looses this ability, seeing only the negative in live. She basically doesn’t even try to get better because she is convinced that her life is ruined. That’s why the solution of the movie is not the orphanage or her getting to walk again (she does in the book, btw…the movie is on my “perhaps” list for the By the book series), but her feeling this optimism again.
Yeah, you’re right. I completely neglected to talk about her optimism and ability to find good in everything, although I did hint to it. I just couldn’t find a way to incorporate it flawlessly into my review. Thanks for reading!
What do you think of the movie?
It’s good for it’s time…which naturally means that it is totally outdated by now, like most movies made in the 60s. The romantic subplot doesn’t really work, and it introduces some themes which don’t really add that much to story. I think it would have been better if it had concentrate more on the relationship between Polly and Pollyanna, and on the question why Polly is the way she is. With more showing and less telling.
It’s not a bad adaptation though. It does bring the main theme of the book on screen, and it is certainly something you can watch if it just happens to pop up on screen during a boring afternoon. Which is more than I can say about a lot of other movies.
It’s very true. I like to say that many of the older live-action Disney films (especially from the ’60s) had a sort of charm to them. And even though the films themselves weren’t good, the charm was enough to keep you happy.
For example, I was very pleased and smiling throughout this entire film, but when I had to rate it, the rating came to be a 57% which is an F.
But you’re right. Had the movie focused on Pollyanna and Aunt Polly, it’d have been much more memorable.
It’s not just Disney movies (btw, I recently reviewed Swiss Family Robinson and I also did The Parent Trap and 20,000 league under the sea in the past…perhaps you want to read this before you tackle the movies yourself), most movies from the 1960s fall into this category. It was just another kind of movie making back then.
You’re probably right. I’m not very familiar with movies from the ’60s that were NOT Disney movies.
Cool, I’ll check those posts out before I do my reviews on those movies. I try to alternate between older Disney movies and newer Disney movies every week.
Just to let you know, I do check your fanpop site and love reading your articles! I wish you had a blog though, lol!
I also have a livejournal (mostly used for Sherlock and White Collar posts) and a fanfiction account….there is a point where you have to draw the line. I don’t even have enough time for my fanfictions anymore.
I understand, you can only do SO much. Never even heard of livejournal before.
It used to be a big thing, with a lot of communities…but it became pretty silent there since it was take over by a Russian company. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s deliberate, because LJ is a platform for people who have problems with the Russian system. But most fanfiction memes are still hosted there.
Great review as always. I did not watch this movie (or a lot of the live-action ones), but I am going to support you.
This film seems mediocre by the way you described it, especially with the plot. It seems like you only found it okay.
Much of the older live-action Disney films (especially in the ’50s and ’60s) had very mediocre plots. What made many of them successful were the amazing acting of actors back-in-the-day (at least, that’s my opinion) and the amount of heart and charm thrown into each movie.
I actually really enjoy watching this movie. I think that this has a really important message/theme throughout the entire film. It teaches us that we can find good in every situation and that people can change. I think this was a very strong message to be said when the film came out and I believe the message is still important today. We need to understand that something good can come out of every situation and that with time everyone has the power to change someone’s life. Pollyanna is a young girl who had kind, generous, and loving heart and she was able to affect many people in a positive way who may not have been so kind themselves. She teaches many citizens in the town to be “glad” and even when her own life wasn’t greatest, she always found something to be “glad” about.
Yeah, I regret not mentioning this lesson in the review and I too enjoyed the movie. I actually was quite surprised at the grade this movie ended up receiving from me.
🙂 I totally understand just thought I would share what I got out of watching the movie a lot as a child.
I always thought it was Carlsford Jelly!
No, not according to the subtitles, at least.
Gostei da sua resenha sobre o filme. Muito divertida!
Na minha opinião o filme é “bonitinho” e serve como um passatempo de tarde quando não há nada a fazer, mas, infelizmente, tem pouco a ver com o livro, exceto pela mensagem de alegria e positivismo que Pollyanna dá para as pessoas, mudando a vida de praticamente todos os moradores da cidade. No entanto é realmente válido pela interpretação de Jane Wyman e da querida Hayley Mills.
Infelizmente, a Disney mudou quase toda a história do livro, então ficam essas pontas soltas que você mencionou. É realmente uma pena porque é um livro bonito e muito mais intenso do que foi proposto pela Disney.
Enfim… Se você quiser assistir a uma versão mais fiel do livro de Eleanor H. Porter, sugiro o filme Pollyanna filmado em 2003 e produzido no Reino Unido, com Amanda Burton como tia Polly e Georgina Terry como Pollyanna . Obrigada!
Thanks for commenting! I had to use Google Translate to convert it into English, but I’m glad you liked the review!
I’ll have to check out that 2003 adaptation sometime!
I liked your review of the movie . Very fun!
In my opinion the film is “cute” and serves as an afternoon hobby when there is nothing to do, but, unfortunately, has little to do with the book, except by the message of joy and positivism that Pollyanna gives to people, changing the lives of virtually all city residents. However it is really valid for the interpretation of Jane Wyman and dear Hayley Mills.
Unfortunately, Disney changed almost the entire history of the book, so are these loose ends you mentioned. It’s really a shame because it’s a beautiful and more intense book that was proposed by Disney.
Anyway … If you want to watch a more faithful version of the book by Eleanor H. Porter,suggest the movie Pollyanna filmed in 2003 and produced in the UK, with Amanda Burton as Aunt Polly and Georgina Terry as Pollyanna. Thank you !
I didn’t realize you put an English version here, lol. Thanks again!
This is a favorite of mine. You really would give it an F? I was surprised because it seemed like in the review you had a lot of nice things to say.
I love particularly the interactions with the Reverend and think Karl Madden elevates the material. You really feel him change and come to realize the error in his ways. It’s just lovely to see what a positive attitude will do in simple ways to make people happy. I know its corny but I thought it was subtle enough to really effect me.
To me Pollyannna is kind of like Anne Shirley. Her situation has forced her to behave in a sort of storybook way and the ending when she loses that spirit it is very devastating. As far as the special effects it is such a brief inconsequential moment it doesn’t hurt it for me.
It would be my 2nd favorite live action Disneys. Oh well. I can see why it might not be for everyone.
This is the only movie that I reviewed on this site that I personally was shocked at the grade I gave it!
I really really liked this movie a lot when I saw it, but after I filled out my form, I was super shocked that it got an F! Up to now, I don’t understand why exactly. But trust me, I was more shocked about this
grade than anyone else, lol.
Is Anne Shirley the Anne from Green Gables?
Yes Anne Shirley is Anne from Anne of Green Gables. They are both orphans and very positive and imaginative.
I guess that’s the reason why I go with my gut on my grades instead of the rubric because some things cant be quantified of qualified.
But I see the appeal too of the grading rubric
I feel my gut is too biased and that my grading rubric is more trustworthy. And it’s been reliable and only surprising on this movie…well, this movie and The Love Bug.
Whatever works for you.
“SHE SHOWS POLLYANNA TO HER NEW ROOM!”
I’m sure you didn’t intend it, but that’s a surprisingly Confused Matthew-esque joke.
Lol thanks, yeah I definitely didn’t intend it as I still haven’t gotten around to watching a Confused Matthew video even though you keep recommending them to me. I gotta remind myself.
No, you don’t need to. He’s very hit or miss. I just find him a fascinating person.
You should know most of his videos are gone now, because he took down his website and then Blip.tv which still housed the majority of them was shut down. So there are very few left.
Oh, has he stopped making videos altogether now?
Yes, he retired late last year but he still is quite active on Facebook.
If you still want to watch one, I recommend his Man of Steel review, which can be found here:
My review of your writing: It sucks.