Pollyanna (1960 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||David Swift|
|Produced by||David Swift|
|Screenplay by||David Swift|
|Based on||novel Pollyanna by Eleanor Porter|
|Music by||Paul Smith (Score)|
|Edited by||Frank Gross|
|Distributed by||Buena Vista Distribution|
|May 19, 1960|
|Box office||$3.75 million (US and Canadian rentals)|
Pollyanna is a 1960 live action drama Walt Disney Productions feature film, starring child actress Hayley Mills, Jane Wyman, Karl Malden, and Richard Egan, in a story about a cheerful orphan changing the outlook of a small town. Based on the novel Pollyanna (1913) by Eleanor H. Porter, the film was written and directed by David Swift. The film marks Mills's first of six films for Disney, and it won the actress an Academy Juvenile Award.
Pollyanna, a 12-year-old orphaned daughter of missionaries, arrives in the small town of Harrington to live with her rich and strict aunt, Polly Harrington, in the 1900s. Pollyanna is a very cheerful, talkative and radically optimistic youngster who focuses on the goodness of life and always finds something to be glad about, no matter the situation. In doing so, Pollyanna's positive outlook on everything results in her making a wide variety of friends in the community, including the hypochondriac and grouchy Mrs. Snow and the acidic recluse Mr. Pendergast.
Aunt Polly's wealth controls most of the town. When the citizens want a derelict orphanage razed and rebuilt, Aunt Polly opposes the idea, arguing that her father donated the building to the town and, as such, it is an important landmark. The townspeople defy her by planning a carnival to raise funds for a new structure. Because of the control Aunt Polly asserts over every facet of the town, however, many people feel reluctant to show their support.
A group of citizens led by Dr. Edmond Chilton, Aunt Polly's ex-boyfriend, tries to persuade the town's minister, Rev. Ford, to publicly declare his support for the bazaar by reminding him that "nobody owns a church." Rev. Ford is reminded of the truth of that statement when Pollyanna delivers a note from Aunt Polly with recommendations to his sermon content.
At church the following Sunday, having gained the gumption to defy Aunt Polly, Rev. Ford declares his support for the bazaar and encourages all to attend. Aunt Polly becomes furious about their audacity, forbidding Pollyanna to participate. On the evening of the carnival, Pollyanna is locked in her attic bedroom by Aunt Polly, but is "rescued" by playmate and fellow orphan Jimmy Bean, who reminds her that she will lead "America, The Beautiful" at the high point of the event. With Jimmy's help, she slips away and has a wonderful time at the carnival, winning a doll.
Upon returning home, she avoids Aunt Polly by climbing a tree to her attic bedroom. When trying to reach her bedroom window, she drops her new doll; Pollyanna then falls out of the tree and is knocked unconscious before being discovered by Aunt Polly and her maids. After realizing her legs are paralyzed and that she may not walk again, Pollyanna develops severe depression, jeopardizing her chance of recovery. Meanwhile, Aunt Polly feels extreme guilt when she realizes how her behavior has isolated her from the town and Pollyanna. While talking to Dr. Chilton, she admits that her niece needed love and it was something she never gave her. Dr. Chilton tells Aunt Polly that they can give Pollyanna the love together and help mend the isolation she put on the townsfolk. When the townspeople learn of Pollyanna's accident, they arrive at Aunt Polly's house with outpourings of love. Dr. Chilton carries the reluctant girl downstairs, where, one by one, the neighbors wish her health. Pollyanna's spirit gradually returns to its usual hopefulness and love of life, and she also learns that Jimmy has been adopted by Mr. Pendergast. Pollyanna is embraced by her aunt before they leave Harrington with Dr. Chilton for an operation in Baltimore, which will correct her injury.
- Hayley Mills as Pollyanna Whittier
- Jane Wyman as Polly Harrington, Pollyanna's aunt
- Kevin Corcoran as Jimmy Bean, an orphan who is eventually adopted by Mr. Pendergast
- Richard Egan as Dr. Edmond Chilton, Polly Harrington's ex-boyfriend
- Karl Malden as Reverend Ford, the church minister
- Agnes Moorehead as Mrs. Snow, a hypochondriac
- Jenny Egan as Mildred Snow, Mrs. Snow's daughter
- Adolphe Menjou as Mr. Pendergast, a recluse who eventually opens his heart and adopts Jimmy
- Reta Shaw as Tillie Lagerlof, the cook
- Mary Grace Canfield as Angelica, the upstairs maid
- Nancy Olson as Nancy Furman, the downstairs maid and Pollyanna's new best friend
- James Drury as George Dodds, Nancy's boyfriend
- Leora Dana as Mrs. Ford, Reverend Ford's wife
- Gage Clarke as Mr. Murg, the town mortician
- Donald Crisp as Mayor Karl Warren, Dr. Chilton's uncle
- Edward Platt as Ben Tarbell, Amelia Tarbell's husband
- Anne Seymour as Amelia Tarbell
- Ian Wolfe as Mr. Neely
- Nolan Leary as Mr. Thomas
- Edgar Dearing as Mr. Gorman
Director David Swift cameos as a fireman in an early scene.
The novel had been filmed before, notably with Mary Pickford in 1920 and by the late 1950s was still selling 35,000 copies a year. In June 1959 Disney announced he would make the film with Hayley Mills, Jane Wyman and Karl Malden, with David Swift to write and direct.
Swift was best known at the time for his work in television. "It was the first time anyone would take a $2.5 million chance on me," he said. "Trust Disney to do it."
Disney cast Mills after seeing her in Tiger Bay. He watched this because he wanted to see the most recent performance by John Mills, who was going to be in Swiss Family Robinson for Disney; Hayley was also in the film, and Disney ended up offering her the lead in Pollyanna. Her accent was explained by turning Pollyanna's parents into missionaries from the British West Indies.
Disney said the cast was the most important in the studio's history, including names such as Wyman, Malden, and Richard Egan.
"The cast scared me," said Swift. "Veterans of scores of movies, some of them. I was afraid they'd say 'TV man, go home'. But they didn't. It was a happy set; everybody worked his head off for me."
Swift said in working on the script, in order to work against the "saccharine" nature of the material, he would spent a few hours every day first working on a horror play called The Deadly. He would then work on Pollyanna.
Swift said "in the book Pollyanna was so filled with happiness and light that I wanted to kick her. In the old days she came on like Betty Hutton. Now she is shy. We have an adult drag advice out of her."
Swift also decided to remove a key plot point of the book, where Pollyanna was hit by a car and had to learn how to walk. He called this "too coincidental. Too pat."
Swift added, "instead of making her the 'glad girl' of the book we've simmered her cheerfulness down to merely emphasize the things-could-be-worse attitude."
Filming started in August 1959.
Pollyanna was filmed in Santa Rosa, California with the Mableton Mansion at 1015 McDonald Avenue in Santa Rosa serving as the exterior and grounds of Aunt Polly's house. Other California locations include Napa Valley and Petaluma. Interiors were filmed at the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California. Although the movie was filmed in California, in the book (written by Eleanor Porter) Harrington was set in Vermont. However, in the Disney movie, Harrington is located in Maryland as Baltimore is mentioned several times throughout the script. At the end of the film, Aunt Polly and Pollyanna take the train to Baltimore, probably headed to Johns Hopkins Hospital due to the delicacy of the operation needed. (Johns Hopkins opened in 1889 and the story takes place in the 1900s.) 
Jerry Griswold of San Diego State University wrote in the New York Times of October 25, 1987: "An attempt was made to resuscitate Pollyanna in 1960 when Walt Disney released a movie based on the book. Time, Newsweek and other major reviewers agreed that such an enterprise promised to be a disaster – a tearjerker of a story presented by the master of schmaltz; what surprised the critics (their opinions were unanimous) was that it was his best live-action film ever. But few had reckoned the curse of the book's by-then-saccharine reputation. When the movie failed to bring in half of the $6 million that was expected, Disney opined: 'I think the picture would have done better with a different title. Girls and women went to it, but men tended to stay away because it sounded sweet and sticky'".
Awards and honors
The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:
The film generated a trickle of juvenile merchandise including a Dell comic book, a paper-doll collection, an LP recording, an illustrated Little Golden Book, and a 30" Uneeda character doll in a red and white gingham dress, pantaloons, and boots. As part of a merchandise promotion, Disney was selling photo lockets with the quote claiming to be from Abraham Lincoln on them: "If you look for the bad in mankind expecting to find it, you surely will." Discovering the necklace in a gift shop while on vacation with his family, director/screenwriter David Swift called the studio to have the item recalled immediately, as it was not a quote from Lincoln, but actually a paraphrasing of a line from Eleanor Porter's original 1913 novel that was written for the film.
- Swift Comes Back for Loot, Not Art Smith, Cecil. Los Angeles Times 29 Nov 1963: C32.
- "Disney". Variety. January 18, 1961. p. 24. Retrieved April 27, 2019.
- 2 PRODUCERS CITED FOR ACHIEVEMENT New York Times 6 June 1959: 13.
- OUT WEST WITH NEW ENGLAND'S 'POLLYANNA' New York Times 30 Aug 1959: X7.
- Free-Lancers Top 'Best' Disney Cast: 'Pollyanna' Players Select; 'Bay of Naples' Boasts Find Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times 16 Sep 1959: A11
- NEW POLLYANNA WILL BE SUBTLE New York Times 9 June 1959: 44.
- Harde, Roxanne; Kokkola, Lydia, eds. (2014). Eleanor H. Porter'sPollyanna: A Children's Classic at 100. University Press of Mississippi. ISBN 9781628461329. JSTOR j.ctt9qhmd2.
- Disney Productions Says Fiscal 1960 Loss Was About $1,350,000: Deficit Is Ascribed to $5 Million Write-Down of Film Library; profitable Fiscal '61 Expected Wall Street Journal 29 Nov 1960: 7.
- Griswold, Jerry (1981-10-25). "Pollyanna, Ex-Bubblehead". The New York Times. Retrieved 2018-08-23.
- "AFI's 100 Years...100 Cheers Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-14.
- Four Color #1129 (August 1960)
- https://www.epubbooks.com/book/392-pollyanna - chapter XXII - "When you look for the bad, expecting it, you will get it. When you know you will find the good—you will get that.... "