When Eleanor H. Porter wrote Pollyanna, she created a character with an irresistible optimism that appealed to people the world over. When the book was published in 1913, Pollyanna was sensationally successful in pre-World War I America, and its heroine's name rubbed off on countless babies, businesses and even a brand of milk. A series of 'Glad clubs' and 'Glad books' soon followed. Then came a play and countless movie and television adaptations that took the story to California and England, translated it to Japanese and Turkish, left out the words entirely and translated them into music and lyrics.
The name has also found a place in the dictionary, with a faintly and unfairly pejorative nuance. "Pollyanna: a person regarded as being foolishly or blindly optimistic," says one modern reference work.
This adaptation timeline proves that Pollyanna's gladness is indeed timeless.
Pollyanna is published.
Composer Catherine Chisholm Cushing's play based on Porter's novel opens in New York on September 18th. Helen Hayes stars in the two-year run.
1920 "America's Sweetheart" Mary Pickford stars as Pollyanna Whittier in this silent reel, the first film adaptation of Porter's story by Frances Marion, an Oscar-winning writer and one of Pickford's best friends.
1958 In Brazil, Pollyanna is adapted into the television series Pollyana Moça, 'Pollyanna, Young Woman.'
1960 Young actress Hayley Mills received a special Academy Award for her performance as Pollyanna in this Walt Disney adaptation set in California. Jane Wyman (All That Heaven Allows, The Lost Weekend) played Aunt Polly Harrington, too concerned with appearances, propriety, and local politics to appreciate her niece. The film was 20 minutes too long, but Walt Disney himself would not allow further cuts. Watching the dailies, he had fallen in love with the film, and soon America had too.
To capitalize on its success, Roy Disney, brother to Walt and head of studio business, issues thousands of Pollyanna photo locket necklaces containing a quote attributed to Lincoln in the movie: When you look for the bad in mankind expecting to find it, you surely will. When writer/director David Swift discovers the necklaces in a gift shop while on vacation, he immediately calls the studio to have them recalled; he had made the quote up.
The Turkish film Hayat Sevince Güzel is based on Pollyanna's story.
This six-episode BBC series, starring Elizabeth Archard as Pollyanna and Elaine Stritch (A Farewell to Arms) as Aunt Polly, transplants Pollyanna to the British countryside.
The Walt Disney company makes its second adaptation, a television movie The Adventures of Pollyanna, with Patsy Kensit (The Great Gatsby, Lethal Weapon II) as Pollyanna and Shirley Jones (The Music Man, The Partridge Family) as Aunt Polly.
A Japanese animé studio turns Pollyanna's story into the cartoon series, Tale of Pollyanna, Girl of Love. The show ran fifty-one 24-minute episodes.
1989 + 1990
In Polly and Polly: Comin' Home, Keshia Knight Pulliam and Phylicia Rashad (both known for The Cosby Show) star as Polly and Aunt Polly in a television movie featuring Broadway-style songs. The story is transposed to 1956 Alabama and expands to include Pollyanna's effort at matchmaking and interracial harmony.
The 1990 movie is nominated for two Emmy Awards, one for Outstanding Achievement in Choreography by Debbie Allen and one for Isidore Mankofsky for Outstanding Cinematography for a Miniseries or a Special.
Masterpiece Theatre's Pollyanna stars young Georgina Terry (The Big Read, Tooth) as an orphan sent to live with her gloomy Aunt Polly, played by Amanda Burton (Forgotten). Also appearing are Kenneth Cranham as the morose millionaire Mr. Pendleton, Aden Gillett as the depressed Dr. Chilton and Pam Ferris as the shut-in cynic Mrs. Snow.
A 'Golden Age' of Children's Literature
Beginning in the mid- to late-1800s children's literature entered a golden age. Between 1865 and 1930 many of the most well-known and most beloved children's books were published, both in the United States and abroad. These included Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island, L. Frank Baum's Wizard of Oz books, J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan, Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows, Francis Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden and A.A. Milne's Winnie-the-Pooh books.
For more information about this first 'golden age' of children's literature and the authors who contributed to it, visit Masterpiece Theatre Online's site for The Railway Children, a book also adapted for television by Pollyanna screenwriter Simon Nye.
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