Pollyanna (1960 film)

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Pollyanna (1960 film) poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by David Swift
Produced by Walt Disney (uncredited)
Associate Producer:
George Golitzen
Written by Novel:
Eleanor Porter
David Swift
Based on Pollyanna by Eleanor Porter
Starring Hayley Mills
Jane Wyman
Karl Malden
Richard Egan
Adolphe Menjou
Agnes Moorehead
Music by Paul Smith
Cinematography Russell Harlan
Edited by Frank Gross
Distributed by Buena Vista Distribution
Release dates
May 19, 1960 (1960-05-19)
Running time
134 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $2.5 million[1]

Pollyanna is a 1960 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 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.

Plot and cast[edit]

Pollyanna (Hayley Mills) is the 12-year-old orphaned daughter of missionaries who arrives in the fictional small town of Harrington to live with her rich and strict aunt, Polly Harrington (Jane Wyman), early 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 (Agnes Moorehead) and the acidic recluse Mr. Pendergast (Adolphe Menjou).

Aunt Polly's wealth controls most of the town, and, when Harrington citizens want a derelict orphanage razed and rebuilt, Aunt Polly opposes the idea. The townspeople defy her by planning a carnival to raise funds for a new structure; however, because of the control Aunt Polly asserts over every facet of the town, many people feel reluctant to show their support. Aunt Polly becomes furious about their audacity, and she forbids Pollyanna to participate.

A group of citizens, led by Dr. Edmond Chilton (Richard Egan), tries to persuade the town's minister, Reverend Mr Ford (Karl Malden), to publicly declare his support for the bazaar by reminding him that "nobody owns a church". Mr Ford is reminded of the truth of that statement while conversing with Pollyanna, who delivers a note from Aunt Polly with recommendations about his sermon content.

At church the following Sunday, in defiance of Aunt Polly, the preacher declares his support for the bazaar and encourages all to attend. On the evening of the carnival Pollyanna is coaxed out of the house by playmate Jimmy Bean (Kevin Corcoran), who reminds her that she will lead "America, the Beautiful" at the high point of the event. With misgivings she slips away and has a wonderful time at the carnival.

After returning home she avoids Aunt Polly by climbing a tree to her attic bedroom. When she reaches her bedroom window, she falls and is severely injured, losing the use of her legs. Her spirits sink with the calamity, jeopardizing her chances of recovery. When Aunt Polly hears that, she feels sad, realizes that she loves her niece very much, and feels a strong sense of guilt over Pollyanna's injury, believing that it was her fault for not allowing Pollyanna to go to the carnival in the first place. When the townspeople learn of Pollyanna's accident, they gather en masse in Aunt Polly's house with outpourings of love. Pollyanna's spirits gradually return to their usual hopefulness and love of life. She leaves Harrington with Aunt Polly and Dr. Chilton (Who has fallen in love with Aunt Polly) for an operation in Baltimore that, it is hoped, will correct her injury.

Subplots include one about the return of Aunt Polly's girlhood sweetheart, Dr. Edmond Chilton, to the town; another, the freeing of Reverend Ford of himself from Aunt Polly's dictates; and another, the union of Aunt Polly's maid (Nancy Olson) with her sweetheart (James Drury).

Secondary roles are filled by a host of veteran film and television performers. Servants in Aunt Polly's home include Reta Shaw as the cook, Tillie Lagerlof, and Mary Grace Canfield as the sour upstairs maid, Angelica. Leora Dana plays Reverend Ford's wife, and Gage Clarke plays the mortician, Mr. Murg. Townspeople include Donald Crisp as Mayor Karl Warren and Edward Platt and Anne Seymour as Ben and Amelia Tarbell. Ian Wolfe plays Mr. Neely, and Nolan Leary portrays Mr. Thomas. Director David Swift plays a fireman in an early scene.

  • Although the original book had a sequel, the film did not.

Production notes[edit]

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.


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.""[2]


Hayley Mills won the 1960 Academy Juvenile Award for her performance, and also received a BAFTA nomination for Best Actress.


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.[3]

Comparison with the book[edit]

  • The book's town of Beldingsville, Vermont, becomes the film's town of Harrington.
  • The book's Mr. Pendleton and Thomas Chilton become Mr. Pendergast and Edmund Chilton in the film, with definite shifts in character. Nancy's film sweetheart, George Dodds, does not exist in the book.
  • The book's Aunt Polly and Dr. Chilton are older than in the movie, and they have not spoken in 15 years rather than five. In the film Dr. Chilton has spent the last few years working in Baltimore, but the book's Dr. Chilton is one of the two town physicians, and he has lived and worked there for years.
  • In the book Pollyanna has a tree outside her attic window but uses it only once – on the day when she arrives in town. Shortly thereafter Aunt Polly has her niece moved to a bedroom close to her own when Pollyanna negligently allows flies to enter the house through her unscreened attic window. In the film, however, Pollyanna remains an inmate of the attic bedroom until the day after her tragic accident.
  • The film ascribes Pollyanna's injuries to a fall from her attic window; the book ascribes her injuries to an automobile accident.
  • The book contains some satirical and pointed criticism of the charity-minded ladies' aid societies of the early 20th century. Aunt Polly's film friend Amelia Tarbell sports something of the snobbishness associated with the "ladies aiders" of the book.
  • Unlike the film Nancy, the book Nancy is a relatively unlettered country girl given to grammatical errors, slang, and repetitive phrasing, such as, "It 'tis, it 'tis!" The book Nancy is not engaged in a romantic affair Aunt Polly wishes to suppress (as in the film), nor does she have a sweetheart.
  • Unlike the film aunt, the book Aunt Polly does not control the town with her wealth, nor is there a bazaar. The book's plotlines about John Pendleton are mostly absent in the movie except the prisms and the adoption of Jimmy Bean.
  • The film's characters of the cook (Tillie) and the maid (Angelica) do not exist in the book, along with several of the town characters, including the mayor. Mr. Thomas, Aunt Polly's gardener-driver in the film are Ol' Tom, the gardener, and his son, Timothy, the driver, in the book.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Swift Comes Back for Loot, Not Art Smith, Cecil. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 29 Nov 1963: C32.
  2. ^ New York Times: Pollyanna, Ex-Bubblehead
  3. ^ 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.... "

External links[edit]