Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Pollyanna, by Eleanor H. Porter

Raise your hand if you grew up thinking of Haley Mills as Pollyanna? I know in my world, Haley Mills was the ultimate "Glad Girl" who was charming and endearing. I was unaware of the fact that there were several movie adaptations of Pollyanna. The first was produced in 1920 and starred Mary Pickford. However, the Pollyanna that shall live in infamy (at least in my mind) will be Mills in Disney's 1960's adaptation of this well-loved children's classic.

I grew up watching Haley Mills exude happiness so when I stumbled across a 1913 edition of Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter, well, I just had to pick it up and read it! I love old books. I love imagining the other readers who have owned and loved the book before my grandparents were even born! Old books possess such history. It's fascinating imagining who read this particular copy, hot off the press, some 95 years ago.The book Pollyanna was such a hit that Porter wrote a sequel in 1915 entitled, "Pollyanna Grows Up." (I found an early edition of that book as well, but unfortunately some very rude soul tore out the first few pages of the book so I'm not exactly sure what year this edition is.) Soon a whole series of Pollyanna books were born, subtitled, "The Glad Books." There would appear to be (as far as I can tell) 13 Glad Books total, but only the first two (Pollyanna and Pollyanna Grows Up) were penned by Porter. "Glad Clubs" sprung up around the nation and someone even produced a "Glad Game" for a time. People were on fire to be glad! (I think we might need some of those clubs around today, no?)

It had been a long time since I had seen the Disney movie of Pollyanna and I spent last week rewatching parts of it. I had forgotten a lot of the story line so I happily dived into the book. I found stark differences between the book and the movie. Frankly, I like Haley Mills better. (This might be a good argument for those who request that their children read books before seeing the movie adaptations.) The Pollyanna in the book was a bit weepy, a bit clingy and a bit too much like Anne Shirley in her inability to stop talking. (I don't mind this personality quirk in Anne. I just mind it when other characters "steal" from Montgomery in shaping their own girl characters.) In the movie, Pollyanna seems to use her intuition when speaking to the other characters whereas in the book she just spouts off with whatever random thought runs through her head, leading to no end of mischief.

The nice thing about the book is that there is greater detail surrounding Pollyanna's accident which causes her paralysis. In the book, we find conclusion in her healing. The movie implies that she'll get better, but doesn't explicitly say so. I thought both the movie and the book were about the same when it came to explaining Aunt Polly's feelings towards the young girl. I much preferred the movie version of Nancy, Aunt Polly's maid, to the book version. She's a bit more refined and genteel in the movie!

I think there are things to like in both the book and the movie. Although Wikipedia makes the claim that the 1960's movie adaptation is true to the book, I couldn't disagree more. Yes, there was a Jimmy Bean, an Aunt Polly, a Mr. Pendergast and a Dr. Chilton but beyond that I found very little resemblance between the two. Disney followed a generic story and took great liberties in adding scenes that do not exist at all in the book! (The biggest example would be, I suppose, that in the book Pollyanna is hit by a car, causing her paralysis, while in the movie her injury is caused as a result of her falling out of a tree!) They definitely are not alike. But each Pollyanna is likable in her own way. For me though, I think Haley Mills still wins, hands down, against all other would-be or have-been Pollyanna's. Including, I'm sorry to say, Porter's. (Not that I didn't like it, mind you...I just found it more enjoyable all Disneyfied.)

So, there you have it! I should definitely read the books before I watch the movies, I know! I know!


Stephanie Kay said...

I love Haley Mills in Pollyanna. And don't forget The Parent Trap!! I read Pollyanna as a child but barely remember any of the story. I can't wait to read/watch these with my daughter.

Emily said...

I have actually probably only seen Pollyana once! I remember watching it but I can't recall the storyline at all. I think I saw it at my grandma's house when I was around 4...

Beth F said...

I loved Haley Mills! I haven't read the book. Thanks so much for reviewing it.

What was the Haley Mills movie in which she became a nun?

Framed said...

Haley Mills played a nun??? The Disney "Pollyanna" was a favorite at my house when my kids were young. It was only recently that I learned it was based on a book. So I bought it and it has been sitting faithfully on the shelf ever since.

Carrie said...

The movie everyone is referring to is The Trouble With Angels and Hayley Mills played a troubled young girl who goes to an all-girls school run by nuns.

It's an ok movie....more rebellious Hayley than I personally care for. =D

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