Pollyanna (1960)

pollyanna poster 1960 movie hayley mills
7.5 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 7/10

Darker than you'd expect

A little long

Movie Info

Movie Name: Pollyanna

Studio: Walt Disney Productions

Genre(s): Drama/Family

Release Date(s): May 19, 1960

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

pollyanna hayley mills agnes moorehead

No seriously…just wiggle your nose…you can do all sorts of crap

Orphaned child Pollyanna Whittier (Hayley Mills) is taken in by her aunt Polly Harrington (Jane Wyman) and finds herself in the town of Harrington named after her family.  While Polly and her money keeps the town in her sway, Pollyanna begins to work her way into the lives of those around her.  See the good in everything, Pollyanna and her “glad game” could change Harrington forever and bring light to the town.

Directed by David Swift, Pollyanna is a live-action Walt Disney picture.  The film adapts the 1913 Eleanor H. Porter novel and received positive reviews though the film underperformed at the box office.

Pollyanna was one of those Disney films that was in high rotation on the Wonderful World of Disney and other Disney related TV shows.  It is saccharine and sweet, but there are aspects of the story that are slightly darker than expected.  I think Pollyanna manages to hold up over the years despite the super-sweet nature surrounding it.

pollyanna karl malden hayley mills

I just came to tell you that you are a corporate sell-out

Despite being all about happiness and things you can be glad about, Pollyanna is wrapped in tragedy.  You have orphaned children, a woman who has become cold to love, a woman obsessed with death, bitter old men, a broken minister, and a town completely under the control of a tyrant…it all turns around through the course of the movie, but it is still pretty dark.  It of course also ends dark with Pollyanna’s tragic fall (ok, it isn’t as bad as Bridge to Terabithia…but it is still kind of shocking).  It is implied that Pollyanna will get better, but I can’t imagine spinal surgery at that time was very successful.

The film works due to the personality of Hayley Mills.  What is interesting about the character is that she is rather impertinent.  Like Alice from Alice in Wonderland, she often speaks out of turn, talks about things you shouldn’t talk about (like money), and plays games with people by pretending to be innocent of her actions.  Mills gets the character and overall her intentions are good, but there is a devilish nature to Pollyanna that seems to contradict a bit of her innocence.

pollyanna hayley mills falls doll

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade pretty much recreated the ending of Pollyanna

The movie in general has a great cast to back Mills.  Jane Wyman is solid as Pollyanna’s aunt who has a chilly side to her and Karl Malden continues to be great as downtrodden characters as the minister who puts town politics before his flock.  Agnes Moorehead is great as the hypochondriac Mrs. Snow while Nancy Olson plays the first person Pollyanna wins over.  Donald Crisp is the mayor who has no power and Richard Egan plays the cool and collected Dr. Chilton.  Adolphe Menjou is the typical hermit in a house that is “revived” by Pollyanna’s personality and even Kevin Corcoran is as Pollyanna’s friend (and he also appeared with Hayley Mills’s father in Swiss Family Robinson that year).

Pollyanna is an enjoyable (if not a little long) live action Disney film.  The movie skirts being just too perfect with the darker side of the story, but you often have to seek out the tragedy of the tale to find it (besides the obvious ending).  While it doesn’t play on TV all the time anymore, Disney+ and DVDs make Pollyanna an easy find.  Disney remade Pollyanna as a made-for-TV musical called Polly starring Keshia Knight Pulliam and Phylicia Rashad in 1989.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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