Pollyanna is a 1920 melodrama/comedy starring Mary Pickford, directed by Paul Powell, and based upon a Eleanor H. Porter novel. It was Pickford's first pictured for United Artists. It became a major success and would be one of Pickford's defining pictures; capturing the 'little girl' the audiences loved her to play. The film grossed $1.1 million (about $10 million in 2008).[1]


The film opens in Appalachia where a distraught Pollyanna (Mary Pickford) is comforting her father the Reverend John Whittier (Wharton James) as he dies. After his passing Pollyanna is sent to live on a New England Plantation with her Victorian Aunt Polly (Katherine Griffith).

Aunt Polly is cold and uncaring to Pollyanna: not picking her up at the station, giving her a sparse room in the attic, and scolding at her every chance she gets. As the days pass Pollyanna's antics amuse the servants; but not Aunt Polly.

One day while playing on the plantation Pollyanna gets in trouble with a Slave woman and runs to hide in a haystack. There she meets Jimmy Bean (Howard Ralston) an orphan her age. Taking pity on him Pollyanna is certain eventually Aunt Polly will let him live with them. So she hides him in the cellar. One day Aunt Polly insists in going in the cellar despite Pollyanna's pleas for fear Jimmy will be discovered. Jimmy is asleep and Pollyanna believes there in the clear; until Jimmy starts shouting in his sleep, having a bad dream about turnips chasing and trying to eat him. Pollyanna is amused but Aunt Polly is not. After some pleading Aunt Polly relents and tells Pollyanna to bring some good quilts for Jimmy.

One day as Jimmy and Pollyanna play with the other children they decide to try and steal some apples from John Pendleton's (William Cortleigh) tree. John catches Pollyanna in the act but forgives her; realizing she is the exact image of her mother, a woman he once loved deeply but left him to be with Pollyanna's father. He tells Pollyanna this as he shows her a painting of her mother. Meanwhile Jimmy fights his way in fearing that Pollyanna is in danger. He tries to defend her but fines everything is okay.

As Pollyanna settles in she seems to bring optimisim to those she meets. Shes insistent on playing a game her father taught her called, 'The Glad game' where one counts the things they are glad for. One example of this would be when she visited an old shut in who was supposedly greatful for nothing. Pollyanna brought along an old blinde and deaf friend who played the accordion. Upon discovering the women was blind and deaf the shut in proclaimed her greatfulness for still having her sight and hearing.

One day after a fight with Jimmy in which he 'wishes she would die' Pollyanna heads into town. She notices a little girl playing in the middle of the road, oblivious to a car coming. Pollyanna leaps in front of the car, throwing the girl, being hit herself. Jimmy and John both take her back to her Aunt's place. Aunt Polly becomes frantic and places her in her own lavish bedroom. Realizing the error of her ways Aunt Polly declares how attached to Pollyanna she is; even giving her a kiss on the forehead much to Pollyanna's delight.

Realizing they could have lost the little girl forever many succumb to her wishes for them to be happy. John promises to adopt Jimmy the next day. Aunt Polly refuses to call Dr. Tom (Herbert Prior) who broke her heart years before. Pollyanna pleads to send for him but she refuses bringing another doctor. After several days they discover Pollyanna is paralyzed from the waist down. Pollyanna becomes distraught; however Jimmy comforts her insisting she play the glad game.

Months pass and Pollyanna is wheelchair bound. One evening with Aunt Polly she pleads one last time for her to send for Dr. Tom and Aunt Polly finally relents. With the help of Dr. Tom Pollyanna is eventually able to walk again.

With the success of her walking comes the success of her wishes. Aunt Polly reunites romantically with Dr. Tom; and Jimmy is happily living with John. One day she asks for Jimmy and he comes to wheel her around the garden. He gives Pollyanna a ring and promptly runs off out of fear not realizing Pollyanna is able to walk. She's excited at the ring and eventuallys gets up to find him and eneds up chasing him.



The film was first released in 1920. It had a budget of $300,000 and grossed $$1,160,962 Worldwide on its first theatrical run.[2] It was extremely popular; becoming the role that defined Pickford's 'little girl' movies. Pickford was 27 and forced to play a 12 year old (albeit convincingly).[3]

The Pickford Corporation owns the copyright. A complete print of the film survives in mostly good condition. It was released on VHS in 1996 but has yet to see a DVD release of its own. It was released on DVD as part of a silent films collection titled, The Golden Age of Silent Films in 2007.




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