As a child I saw the movie Pollyanna starring Haley Mills and never forgot it, especially the scenes where prisms created rainbows on the walls. As an adult, I used to frequent antique stores looking for a lamp just like the one I saw in the movie. I wanted pretty rainbows to dance on my walls, too.
Recently, I rented the film in the children’s section of the library. I’ve watched it twice. Even better than I remembered because the moral of the story clearly seemed directed at adults. In the film, Pollyanna Whittier’s parents die, so she goes to live in a huge Victorian with her wealthy, spinster aunt Polly Harrington in the town of Harrington. Polly treats her in a cold manner, even giving her a small, dusty room way up in the attic. But Pollyanna’s grateful for the room because she’s never had her own room.
The only person that’s really nice to her is a little orphan boy named Jimmy Beam. They do lots of carefree kid stuff together like swim in the pond and break into the scariest man in town’s yard to climb the best climbing tree in town. (Foreshadowing.) Pollyanna finds herself surrounded by mopey adults who don’t seem to find much joy in life. Her aunt Polly runs the town, its politics and its minister with an iron maiden fist. Everyone in town is terrified of Aunt Polly, afraid of losing their jobs, afraid of losing their homes and refuses to speak up against her dictates.
Pollyanna changes the attitudes of the adults in Harrington one by one through the use of The Glad Game. Her father was a minister and they had little money. Pollyanna got all her too-big clothes from the missionary barrels containing supplies and other needed items. The one item she coveted was a doll. Pollyanna had wished that one of the barrels would contain a doll. Opening it, she found it contained crutches and began to cry. Her father told her that she should be “glad” she didn’t need them. From that point forward, Pollyanna looked in every situation for something to be glad about.
Her optimism soon spread across Harrington, affecting and infecting everyone but her aunt who refused to let Pollyanna talk about her father. The Mayor wanted to have a bazaar, but the folks in town were afraid to attend it. He asked the fire and brimstone, very-insecure-about-his-own-purpose Reverend Paul Ford to mention it at his Sunday sermon. He refused. Too scared of Polly’s reaction. Later that day, Pollyanna has been asked by her aunt to bring him a note with ideas for the upcoming Sunday Sermon. She finds him in a field castigating the wind in the form of his latest dreary sermon. She hands him the note and mentions a quote on her neck locket that changes his mind: When you look for the bad in mankind, expecting to find it, you surely will. – Abraham Lincoln.
The Reverend gives an apologetic speech to his flock and urges them to attend the bazaar. We watch stern Aunt Polly’s face drop into the pew.
Haley Mills received a special Oscar for the movie. It’s well deserved. She never acts sappy in the movie. She’s loving and adorable and caring, but most importantly she’s challenging. She tells it like it is to the whining adults around her. “You’re not sick!”
You really believe she’s a breath of fresh optimistic air. You want to start playing The Glad Game yourself. Then she gets injured coming home from the bazaar (carrying at long last the coveted doll she wins) and loses her ability to play The Glad Game. Her aunt realizes how much she loves the child and opens the front door to find the entire town waiting to wish Pollyanna well as the doctor carries her out of the home in search of a cure for her ailment.
I woke up this morning feeling glad about everything, seeing the world as a place filled with much beauty! Jimmy and I skipped the obligatory Easter Dinner and went on an Easter hike. I rattled on about how glad I was that I could hike and experience the forest and see a deer and eat lunch on a windy hill and have an ice cream and hang out with my loving husband.
I know it’s just a movie (and a book by Eleanor Porter) but it made me feel so good I wished every adult in the world could stop complaining long enough to watch it.
Have you seen this film? Do you play your own version of The Glad Game or could you use a Glad Game Tune-up?
Yours in gladness, G.