- Hayley Mills as Pollyanna
- Jane Wyman as Aunt Polly Harrington
- Karl Malden as Reverend Ford
- Richard Egan as Dr. Edmond Chiltern
- Nancy Olson as Nancy Furman
- Adolphe Menjou as Mr. Pendergast
- Agnes Moorehead as Mrs. Snow
- Kevin Corcoran as Jimmy Bean
Based on the timeless children’s book, Pollyanna is a beautifully realised portrait of the indomitable spirit of one person raising the dour spirits of those around her featuring stunning cinematography and winning performances. Sure it may be a little sentimental, but it doesn’t fall into full on schmaltz thanks to the talent on show.
Pollyanna is the sweet-faced orphan of the title who is sent to live with her rich Aunt Polly in a Vermont town named Harrington in the early 1900’s after the death of her parents. The town is a dour place of no fun because of Polly’s severe hold over the place and the way no one will question her. Pollyanna on the other hand is a cheerful young girl with an optimistic outlook on life no matter how grim it appears, even in this place where children should be seen and not heard. This stems from her late father’s ‘Glad Game’, which consists of finding happiness in the things around you and not taking for granted what you have. The young girl soon begins to change the town around her with her sunny disposition and acts of kindness that win over the occupants of the town, even the reclusive Mr. Pendergast and the hypochondriac Mrs. Snow . The other residents of the town who have been cheerless for years begin to see the goodness of life and how there is always something to be glad about because of the ray of light that comes with Pollyanna. Yet can Pollyanna’s infectious charm reach her Aunt just like it has everyone else?
Director and writer David Swift brings the story to life with engaging characters and adventures that will surely raise a smile from many audience members. Glorious Technicolor brings the town of Harrington to life, as the young Pollyanna brightens the lives of those around her. A prime example of this is the bazaar in which the town raises money for a new orphanage. Smiles, glorious lights and stunning camerawork give the scene a childlike sense of wonder and the innocence of life that will no doubt stir nostalgic feelings. The music score for Pollyanna captures the initial austerity of the town and later the thawing sadness in favour of joy. Yes, Pollyanna may get sugary at times and the pace may get a little uneven, but these are minor flaws in this beautiful fable about the joy of a child and the far-reaching effects of it.
The cast all contribute stunning work to this heartfelt and classic story. Hayley Mills is the perfect choice to play Pollyanna. With large expressive eyes and a smiley face, Mills imbues the title character with effervescent pluck, charm and love. The role could easily have become annoying and cloying, but thanks to Mills, Pollyanna remains a breath of fresh air in grim surroundings who can find the good in almost everything in around her. Jane Wyman is suitably stern as Aunt Polly, who can’t seem to tolerate happiness and rules over the town with a severity that clashes with Pollyanna’s optimism. Karl Malden is uptight as the local reverend whilst Richard Egan provides emotional honesty as a former lover of Aunt Polly’s. Nancy Olson is charming as the housemaid who is the first person to be won over by Pollyanna. Adolphe Menjou and Agnes Moorehead are crusty and no-nonsense as two of the town’s residents, whose defensive behaviour begins to thaw as they rediscover the joy of life. And not forgetting Kevin Corcoran as Jimmy Bean, an orphan who befriends Pollyanna and often leads her into mischief.
Timeless, charming and emotionally satisfying, Pollyanna is a feel good film if ever there was one that the whole family can enjoy time and time again.