Pollyanna

Pollyanna

If there is one thing that a little girl named Pollyanna taught the world, it was to never underestimate the power of positive thinking. Granted, it’s often easier said than done, but perhaps if everyone were to become better versed in “The Glad Game,” the world would be a happier place.

Based on a best-selling 1913 novel by Eleanor H. Porter, this 1960 Disney adaptation wasn’t the first, but it is certainly the most remembered, and managed to turn young actress Hayley Mills into a household name. Disney managed to keep true to the original and created a film that has long been considered a classic.

Pollyanna is a girl living in New England around the turn of the century. Sent to live with her wealthy, yet perpetually dreary Aunt Polly, the girl does what she does best, remaining unceasingly positive, thanks to “The Glad Game,” an invention of her father, who has taught the little girl that there is always something positive to be found in any circumstance.

All that optimism can be a little overbearing at times, however, especially from a young girl, and Pollyanna manages to get on everyone’s nerves just a little. But rather than change her ways or get sucked into the dour mood of the household, cheerful little Pollyanna sets out to find some friends in the local town.

First, she comes across Jimmy Bean, an orphaned boy who she befriends. Her next target is Mrs. Snow, a self-absorbed hypochondriac who, although she puts up a fight, is ultimately unable to fend off the positive power that is Pollyanna. Later, when her and Jimmy trespass on the property of an old codger named Mr. Pendergast, she uses the glad game to dissolve his grumpiness. Even the town preacher isn’t immune to her seemingly never-ending supply of optimism.
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But while the town is decidedly perkier from Pollyanna’s travels, things are still decidedly dour at Aunt Polly’s place. Sensing that the woman just needs a companion, Pollyanna takes on the role of matchmaker, bringing Polly and her old flame, Dr. Chilton together. The lovefest is short-lived, however, when Polly voices her objections to a fundraiser that Dr. Chilton is organizing to build a new orphanage.

Later, and without her Aunt’s knowledge, the girl sneaks out of the house to attend the fundraiser, an evening that ends in tragedy. On her way home, Pollyanna slips and falls, and finds herself paralyzed. These events manage to send the girl into a depression, one that even the glad game doesn’t seem to be able to fix, and only her friends have the power to inject some of that perky positive energy back into Pollyanna’s life.

Walt Disney had his own high hopes for Pollyanna, but it proved to be a little too sugary for the general public when it was originally released, not to mention the fact that the film was almost instantly labeled a “chick-flick” – which kept most men and boys from the theater. Still, it benefited from a stellar cast that included Agnes Moorhead, Jane Wyman, Richard Egan, Karl Malden and (in his last screen appearance) Adolphe Menjou as the curmudgeon, Mr. Pendergast. The film would catapult the career of young Hayley Mills who would go on to star in such Disney classics as That Darn Cat and The Parent Trap.

Walt would be happy to know that history has been kind to Pollyanna, now considered a classic Disney film, thanks to numerous showings on television. The power of positive thinking lives on, thanks to a precocious little girl who never met a lemon that couldn’t be turned into lemonade.

IF you are a fan of this classic Disney offering, we hope you’ll take a moment to share all of your Pollyanna memories with us in our comments section below.

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