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13. Pollyanna (1960), dir. David Swift

One of those films I didn't really 'watch', so much as be in the room while it was on. My attention was primarily focussed on writing Doctor Who reviews on my laptop - but the plot is hardly difficult to follow, so I think I can be said to have seen the film as well.

The main reason I let it play, rather than switching to some other channel, is that the Pollyanna phenomenon is a cultural trope, and I wanted to be clear what it was all about. I pretty much knew it revolved around cheesy sentimentalism, and that's true. The version I watched was a Disney film, and it's no surprise they picked it up, as it oozes with favourite Disney themes such as patriotism, sugary piety and chaste romance.

Above all, though, Pollyannaism is about the Power of Optimism. Pollyanna, a little blonde orphan, wins the hearts of a small town by always looking for the bright side in everything (the 'glad game'). Then, when she is paralysed in an accident and loses her sunny outlook, they give it right back to her by coming to show their support and appreciation for all she's done for them. Wrongs are Righted, the miserable and misanthropic become kind and loving human beings, and all is right with the world.

It's easy to be cynical, and I think you'd be hard-pressed to find even a child nowadays who would swallow this film entirely. But there's a place for stuff like this, and I hope that never ceases entirely to be the case. And at least I'll now be able to 'get' all those references which used to puzzle me.

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( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 1st, 2008 09:11 pm (UTC)
I've never caught this one, but it's on my list because one of the characters is played by Ed Platt, Get Smart's Chief of CONTROL.

I see I missed it again.
Nov. 1st, 2008 11:54 pm (UTC)
I wouldn't worry too much! Even if you like the actor, I don't think you can possibly be missing out on a subtle and multi-layered performance, here. ;-)
Nov. 1st, 2008 11:26 pm (UTC)
I only have a vague memory of the film, but I had the book (still do somewhere) which I seem to recall being superior to the film. Even as a child, I recognised it as an Anne of Green Gables rip-off but considerably more twee. I still liked it, but never really took to Pollyanna as a character.
Nov. 1st, 2008 11:53 pm (UTC)
Indeed - and there's a What Katy Did element in there too, because of Pollyanna's accident. I've no idea which order the three come in chronologically, though.
Nov. 2nd, 2008 01:34 am (UTC)
Just checked on Wikipedia. Katy is 1872, Anne is 1908 and Pollyanna is 1913. So yes, I think definite use of themes from other popular girls books.
Nov. 2nd, 2008 01:22 pm (UTC)
Ah - thanks for checking that out. Yes, then - it's like the logical extreme that those other books were going towards.
Nov. 3rd, 2008 09:50 am (UTC)
I read the novels as a child (though have never seen the film') and was recounting the basic plot to my cynical partner recently (some recession-time reference on my part to the Missionary Barrel), whereupon he felt moved to comment that if she'd played the Glad Game where he grew up, someone would probably have rammed one of her crutches where the sun didn't shine.
Nov. 3rd, 2008 11:15 am (UTC)
I thought for a moment that we were being treated to an unusually bleak ending for a Disney film, since the credits rolled right after she had got on a train to go off to 'hospital' for an 'operation' that would 'make her all better'. To me the strong implication was that she was actually going to die - but as you say, a quick Google revealed that there are indeed novels in the plural, and she seems to survive to go on to greater things. Whether she ever gets to walk again, I don't know - can you remember?
Nov. 3rd, 2008 05:50 pm (UTC)
I think so, though I'm vague on the details. Yes, she must do, as the only thing I remember about the sequel, which I think was called 'Pollyanna Grows Up' is that she has to go and live with some rich lonely woman in a city because her aunt is abroad. And plays the glad game like mad over said rich woman's sorrows etc etc.
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )

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