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What's the story?
After the death of her parents, POLLYANNA (Hayley Mills) arrives in Harrington to live with her wealthy aunt, Polly (Jane Wyman), who is generous with money, but also reserved and joyless. She uses her influence to run all aspects of the town, even telling Reverend Ford (Karl Malden) to preach fire and brimstone on Sundays, which makes the congregation miserable. Pollyanna's friendliness and her expectation that everyone else will be friendly, too, endear her to everyone, even cranky invalid Mrs. Snow (Agnes Moorehead) and recluse Mr. Pendergast (Adolphe Menjou). She teaches her friends "the glad game," finding something to be glad about in any situation. When the towns people decide to hold a bazaar to raise money for a new orphanage instead of accepting Polly's charity, Polly forbids Pollyanna to go. The girl sneaks out by climbing down a tree and has a wonderful time, but falls on the way back in and is badly hurt. She stops playing the glad game, until the whole town shows up to tell her how much she means to them. She leaves for an operation, confident that she will soon be well.
Is it any good?
This film is Disney at its finest, a lavish and gorgeous fantasy of an idyllic American past. With first-rate actors and sumptuous period detail, Pollyanna is a delight for the eyes as well as the spirit. Pollyanna is best remembered for "the glad game," in which the challenge is to find something to be glad about, no matter how bleak the situation. But what really makes her special is the way that she expects the best from everyone, and the transforming effect it has on each person she meets.
Many of the mistakes people make in this movie come from trying to protect themselves from hurt. Polly, hurt by her estrangement from Dr. Chilton, relies on her sense of duty. Mrs. Snow, worried about illness and dependence, tries to blame others and achieves some sense of control (and some attention) with her contrariness. Mr. Pendergast just avoids any contact at all. Pollyanna shows them how to make sure that fear of pain and loss do not prevent opportunities for joy.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Pollyanna, like George Bailey in It's a Wonderful Life, gets a rare opportunity to have all she has done recognized and acknowledged by the community. Families can talk about the people who have made positive changes in their community, and how their efforts could be acknowledged.
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