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Film / Pollyanna (1960)

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Pollyanna is a 1960 Disney live-action movie, based on the novel of the same name. Written and directed by David Swift, it stars Hayley Mills as the heartwarming orphan Pollyanna Whittier.

This film contains examples of:

  • Adaptation Name Change:
    • Mr. Pendelton becomes Mr. Prendergast.
    • Thomas Chilton becomes Edmund Chilton.
    • The town was Beldingsville in the book, and becomes Harrington Falls in the film.
  • Adaptational Nationality: Pollyanna is implied to be half-British in the film, where she's played by the English Hayley Mills. It's said that her father was a minister in the British West Indies and she is seen teaching Nancy the English folk song "Early One Morning" at one point.
  • Age Lift: The other way around. Aunt Polly and Dr. Chilton are younger in the Disney movie than in the book, and in the book have not spoken in fifteen years (as opposed to just five in the movie).
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  • Because You Were Nice to Me: Nancy becomes Pollyanna's friend because the little girl doesn't tell Aunt Polly about them running into George in town.
  • Beneath the Mask: After Dr. Chilton gives Polly a "The Reason You Suck" Speech, the servants note that it didn't faze her at all. Cut to Polly in her room, where her Proper Lady façade breaks and she cries into her mirror.
  • Beta Bitch: Mrs. Tarbell acts as this to Aunt Polly.
  • Bitch Alert:
    • Angelica the maid.
    • Mrs. Tarbell, whose first scene is her complaining about the arrangements on the train.
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: The women in Aunt Polly's household — Nancy (blonde), Polly (brunette), Angelica (redhead).
  • Break the Cutie: Well, the Universe seems to be trying... At the end, almost succeeding.
  • Brick Joke: When Pollyanna and Jimmy are in Mr. Pendergast's house he randomly feels Jimmy's hair and says "don't they ever cut your hair in that orphanage". This then shifts to a dramatic scene with Aunt Polly and about 20 minutes later we see Jimmy and Prendergast in the barber shop.
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  • Canon Foreigner: The Disney film adds a sour maid called Angelica in Aunt Polly's house, as well as a cook called Tilly. Likewise Nancy is given a sweetheart called George that Polly wishes to suppress.
  • Can't Get Away with Nuthin': Pollyanna falls off the roof and paralyzes herself while sneaking back into the house from a town festival Aunt Polly forbade her from attending. Crosses over with Too Dumb to Live because she was safe, but went out to fetch a prize she won at the fair only to fall off the roof.
  • Creator Cameo: The director has one as a fireman shooing a boy off a ladder, after the boiler accident at the orphanage.
  • Cheerful Child:
    • Pollyanna.
    • Jimmy Bean the orphan.
  • Decoy Protagonist: It's been argued that although Pollyanna appears to be the lead, it is actually Aunt Polly who is the true protagonist of the story. She goes through the most Character Development, with Pollyanna acting more as a catalyst for it. Given that Pollyanna precedes a certain other Disney film by only a few years, it's quite easy to think of Aunt Polly as a proto-version of Mr. Banks.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen:
    • Mrs. Snow, the crabby old woman convinced she's ill and who is rude to everyone.
    • Angelica, the cynical maid in the house.
    • Aunt Polly.
  • Floating Head Syndrome: The "Vault Disney Collection" edition's DVD case.
  • For Happiness: Pollyanna likes everyone and wants them to be happy. She seems to accomplish this goal without realizing the size of her role.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Pollyanna's father taught her the Glad Game when a missionary barrel they received contained a pair of crutches instead of a much-wanted doll. He said she could be glad she didn't need to use them. Near the end of the movie she finds herself severely crippled — after she dropped a doll she won, and overreached herself trying to retrieve it — with warnings that she may never walk again...
    • Aunt Polly allowing Pollyanna to kiss her goodnight is foreshadowing that she does have a sweet side after all.
  • Hair-Contrast Duo: Pollyanna is blonde, cheerful and optimistic, while Aunt Polly is brunette and cold.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Pollyanna. Hair colour isn't mentioned in the book and she's been portrayed by brunette actresses in other adaptations.
  • Happily Adopted: In the last scene, Mr. Pendergast reveals he's adopted Jimmy Bean.
  • Happy Ending
  • Heel–Face Turn: Pollyanna can make this happen to anyone. Most notable is Aunt Polly. It's downplayed but the first person Pollyanna sees in the crowd of well-wishers is also the snobby Mrs. Tarbell — who had been opposing the bazaar. This time, Mrs. Tarbell sincerely wishes Pollyanna a recovery.
  • Henpecked Husband: Mr. Tarbell, whose wife is a crony of Aunt Polly's.
  • Heroic BSoD: When this happens to Pollyanna, just about the whole town tries to help. She eventually gets past her BSOD.
  • Horrible Judge of Character: Pollyanna herself, in the most winsome possible way. She sees everyone as a potential friend, assumes everyone's motivations are all good — and instead of being victimized, she transforms the town as everyone tries to live up to the good she sees in them.
  • Kissing Cousins: Not literally, but Nancy lies saying her lover George is actually her cousin Frank. Pollyanna is not fooled when she sees them kissing.
  • Large Ham: Karl Malden as a preacher butchering Jonathan Edwards' "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God".
  • Letting Her Hair Down: Dr. Edmund Chilton says that Aunt Polly was so much nicer when she used to wear her hair down. After an emotional conversation with him, Aunt Polly goes upstairs and lets it down for a moment.
  • Licked by the Dog: Some people find Pollyanna's friendliness to be this, at least at first.
  • Literal-Minded: Pollyanna, as the innocent that she is.
  • Matte Shot: Used to add two stories to the exterior shots of Aunt Polly's house. The real house (the McDonald Mansion in Santa Rosa, California) is a single story.
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • Reverend Ford says this after talking to Pollyanna. He realises how silly he was for listening to Aunt Polly and making people feel horrible at the sermons every week. He resolves to read from 'the happy texts' in the Bible every week from then on.
    • Aunt Polly, after Pollyanna is crippled while climbing back into her room. Her attic room, which Polly gave her. Sneaking back from a bazaar that Polly forbade her from attending, and actually refused to attend with her.
      "That child lies up there because of me!"
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Pollyanna is the American heroine of an American novel, but she has Hayley Mills' English accent in the movie. This is Hand Waved by saying that she was previously living with her missionary father in the British West Indies. In the original novel, her missionary father was based in the western U.S. instead.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: We see an early moment of Pollyanna's cheerful disposition slipping when she finally calls out Mrs. Snow for wasting all her time planning for her death when she should be enjoying life. When she runs out of the room clearly distraught over what just happened, both Mrs. Snow and the undertaker with whom she was having a discussion feel terrible after seeing the look of despair on Pollyanna's face. This snaps Mrs. Snow out of her fatalist mindset.
  • Plucky Girl: Pollyanna merges this with her own trope and manages to transform an entire town of sourpusses into happy people.
  • The Pollyanna: She's more layered than most examples, however; it's strongly hinted that she's holding onto the Glad Game because it's all she has left.
  • Pre-Approved Sermon: Aunt Polly coaches Reverend Ford on what to say to his congregation.
  • Race Lift: A 1989 Walt Disney Presents Made-for-TV Movie titled "Polly" that was also a musical starring Keisha Knight Pulliam and Phylicia Rashad as Polly and Aunt Polly, respectively.
  • Remaster: A featurette on the DVD of the Disney version reveals that during The '90s, Disney's film preservation team discovered two problems with the original film elements: the negative suffered color crush due to a faded yellow layer, and the reel containing the Shopping Montage only had separation masters in red and blue, as opposed to red, blue, and green. In order to restore the colors as close as possible to their original appearance, the team had to create their own green separation master, from the un-faded green layer of the negative.
  • Slice of Life: The first two acts of the story don't have much of a plot. It just involves Pollyanna going around meeting various people in the town and winning them over with the Glad Game. The Nostalgia Chick points out that this is all very important build-up for Pollyanna's crippling accident and Heroic BSoD, as well as Aunt Polly's Heel–Face Turn.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Heavily on the idealistic side.
  • Spoiled Sweet: Aunt Polly deconstructs this. She doesn't flaunt her wealth and does try to use it to do good things. However, she only does good things out of a stuffy sense of obligation, because she's the wealthiest woman in town. As such, the people resent the 'false charity' and it's seen as just another way for Polly to control them. Polly does however learn the true meaning of kindness and is arguably a proper example by the end.
  • Stepford Smiler: While Pollyanna's cheerfulness is mostly genuine, she occasionally shows signs of struggling to maintain that cheerfulness, most notably when she cries while praying to her dead father about how hard it is to be glad all the time and when she gets crippled in an accident and learns that she may never walk again.
  • Sugar-and-Ice Personality: Angelica the maid. Although Pollyanna does defrost her, she still remains slightly aloof with the occasional Pet the Dog moment.
  • Think Happy Thoughts: Pollyanna's "game" involves finding a bright side to even the saddest situations.
  • Tsundere: Mrs. Snow and Mr. Prendergast are harsh and cold initially, but eventually become good friends with Pollyanna.
  • Villainy-Free Villain: Aunt Polly never does anything evil in the story. At first she merely scolds Pollyanna for her behaviour. She does oppose the town bazaar, but not maliciously. Ultimately the entire story is setting up a Heel–Face Turn.
  • When She Smiles:
    • Mrs. Snow is initially grumpy and cantankerous. But after Pollyanna tells her off, she goes to work on a patchwork quilt for the bazaar. When her daughter catches her doing it, Mrs. Snow just smiles at her, and Millie doesn't quite believe what she's just seen. We see Mrs. Snow smiling a lot more at the bazaar too.
    • Mrs. Tarbell spends most of the movie acting as a snobby Proper Lady. As such it's a huge contrast when she's smiling sincerely at the end.
    • Aunt Polly smiles plenty of times in the movie, but it's always slightly vapid and just another relic of her Proper Lady image. However, there's a big difference when she sincerely smiles at Pollyanna in the end.

Alternative Title(s): Pollyanna


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