The History of Mr. Polly (film)

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The History of Mr. Polly
"The History of Mr. Polly" (1949).png
Directed by Anthony Pelissier
Produced by John Mills
Written by Anthony Pelissier
H.G. Wells
Starring John Mills
Betty Ann Davies
Megs Jenkins
Finlay Currie
Music by William Alwyn
Cinematography Desmond Dickinson
Edited by John Seabourne
Distributed by General Film Distributors
Release date(s) 1949 (UK)
1951 (USA)
1960 (UK re-release)
Running time 95 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English

The History of Mr. Polly is a 1949 British film, based on the 1910 comic novel The History of Mr. Polly by H.G. Wells. It was directed by Anthony Pelissier (who is also credited with the script) and stars John Mills, Betty Ann Davies, Megs Jenkins and Finlay Currie. It was the first adaptation of one of Wells' works to be produced after his death in 1946.


Alfred Polly (John Mills) is a day-dreamer with his nose in books rather than keeping his mind on his work. Following his dismissal from a draper's shop, where his father had placed him as an apprentice, he finds it hard to find another position. When a telegram arrives informing him of his father's death, he returns to the family home. With a bequest of £500, Polly starts to think about what he should now do with his life, and a friend of his father's, Mr Johnsen (Edward Chapman), urges him to invest it in a shop - an idea that Polly hates.

Whilst dawdling in the country on a newly-bought bicycle, Polly meets, and has a brief dalliance with, a schoolgirl, Christabel (Sally Ann Howes). It can't last, and eventually he marries a cousin, Miriam Larkins (Betty Ann Davies), whom he met at his father's wake. It is not a marriage of love, but one of convenience.

15 years pass and Polly and his wife are running a drapers in Fishbourne. Polly hates the shop and the marriage has descended to incessant arguments and bickering.

Whilst walking in the country to get away from his wife, Polly decides to commit suicide but also sets his shop ablaze in the hope the insurance will set Miriam straight. He botches the arson job and instead of killing himself, rescues an elderly neighbour and becomes a minor local celebrity.

Still unhappy, Polly decides to simply leave Miriam; he walks out and finds his way into the country where he comes across an inn on a riverside. The innkeeper (Megs Jenkins) is seeking a handyman and ferryman. Polly takes the job, but soon realises that the position was open because the innkeeper's brother-in-law is a drunkard who chases any other man away from the inn. Polly ends up having a few run-ins with Uncle Jim (Finlay Currie), who finally accidentally trips and drowns in a weir when he is chasing Polly. Polly returns to work in the inn.

Several years later, he wonders whether Miriam is getting by. He returns to Fishbourne to find that she has opened a tea-shop with her sister, in the belief that Polly had drowned (Uncle Jim had been wearing a pair of trousers with Polly's name in them when he died). He runs into his ex-wife whilst exiting the tea-shop; she thinks she recognises him and shrinks away in fear, but Polly quietly leaves and returns to his happier life at the inn.


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