UltimateDisney.com's Top 30 Live Action Disney Movies Countdown
9. Pollyanna (1960)

Hayley Mills is an amazing actress. Because her best-known roles were playing seven different characters in six Disney films as a teenager and because her adult career was never well-managed, she has always been remembered as a charming child actor. But in watching in her in Pollyanna, for which she was honored with a special Academy Award, as well as her other Disney films, it is clear that she was always more than a pug-nosed kiddie who could mug for the camera and act charming. She was a true actor in a little body.

For a lesser actress, characters such as Mary Grant in In Search of the Castaways or Patty Randall in That Darn Cat! would have been the same perky young woman, but with all her characters, it is clear that Mills is making skilled and deliberate decisions in developing them. It is a testament to her talent that every single one of her Disney characters was freshly created for each film. Pollyanna was probably her most difficult character among these early Disney films. Not only could the character have become syrupy and as sweet as the glad game itself, but Mills found the right balance in realizing the character as a realistic child who impacts the people around her purposefully without a full understanding of the ramifications of her actions.

In the commentary on the Vault Disney DVD release of Pollyanna, director and screenwriter David Swift highly praises Mills for her natural ability, highlighting the many scenes in which she needed little or no direction to bring the rich character of Pollyanna to life. Whatever guidance she received, there are many stunning scenes with Mills in the film, such as when she tells the men organizing the bazaar that no one can own a church or when she first tells her Aunt Polly's household help about the glad game. Even the scene in which she first meets Jimmy Bean, calling him "little boy" in snobbish tone, is so skillfully executed on her part.

Everything about Pollyanna, from its beautiful cinematography, its extremely talented cast, and its excellent script and direction, is like a beautiful sold gold ring, but the monumentally talented Hayley Mills is the large, beautiful diamond that tops the whole production.

-Jim Miles

No words that I could write could ever fully express how I feel about this most magnificent motion picture achievement, nor ever do it justice. Simply put, this is movie making magic at its' best! Not only is this one of the best live action features that Disney ever made, it is also one of the finest feature films to have ever graced a cinema screen in the whole history of motion pictures!

Beautifully filmed, lovingly told. This movie weaves it wonders in a most unassuming and natural way. Never forceful, nor manipulative. All thanks to the super script and deft direction of David Swift, in this his feature film directorial debut. The impeccable attention to detail, the genuineness of the performances, the richness and depth of the characters, the immense love and great care, that have been poured into this project, shows and radiates through in every single frame of film. It is has a richness of heart, and an honesty and integrity about it, that is rarely found in movies these days.

Featuring the most impressive cast ever assembled for a Disney feature. This film is filled to overflowing with outstanding performances and rich, believable, fully developed characterizations. Hayley Mills shines in the title role, deservedly winning the Oscar for the Most Outstanding Juvenile Performance of 1960. Her performance is brimming with brilliance and believability. Completely captivating, she is most convincing and constantly charming. Jane Wyman's portrayal of Aunt Polly is every bit as powerful as her Oscar winning performance in "Johnny Belinda." The whole cast is exceptional! Among the first rate performances are Donald Crisp as Mayor Warren, Adolphe Menjou as Mr. Pendergast, Karl Malden who revels in his role as Reverend Ford, Agnes Moorehead as crotchety old Mrs.Snow, and Anne Seymour as Mrs. Tarbell, just to name a few. Not forgetting Kevin Corcoran, who delivers a delightful performance as the irrepressible, yet irresistible rapscallion, Jimmy Bean.

The period is perfectly portrayed, capturing all the charm, atmosphere, elegance, and nostalgia of the turn-of-the-century. Evocative of the era, the stunningly stylish, colorful costume designs were provided by wardrobe wizard wonder, Walter Plunkett, whom Disney had hired from MGM specifically for this project. With expert art direction by Robert Clatworthy and Carroll Clark, and set decoration being lovingly lavished by Emile Kuri and Fred MacLean, the film is gorgeously grand with magnificently majestic looking sets. All being further complimented and enhanced by Paul Smith's superb musical score, capturing perfectly the personalities and spirit of the movie.

Pollyanna continues to remain my favorite film of all time. As time has passed, this movie has only improved with age, and will continue to do so for generations to come. It is a movie that celebrates life. And more importantly, shows us how to live. In this day and age of hustle and bustle, chaos and confusion, the message that lies at the heart of the film is as timely and important as ever. And one that we all need to be reminded of. A perfect gem of a movie and a pure joy, Pollyanna will gladden your heart, lift your spirit, and win your heart.

-Davy Rosengreen

A certain Walt Disney classic, Pollyanna is set around the turn of the last century in small town America. With the story being set in 1912, it gave the filmmakers a chance to put together cast, costumes, scenery, and sets with a touch of class that you do not find anymore, and that Disney of that time did so incredibly well. With the lead of Pollyanna being played by Hayley Mills you understand very quickly why she is truly a Disney Legend. Even now 44 years later it stands the test as timeless entertainment that can be shared with the entire family and even more enjoyable thanks to the commentary track on the DVD by Hayley Mills and writer and director David Swift.

-Jeff Schilling

A common reaction among adults who watch Pollyanna for the first time seems to be surprise. I certainly expected a much more vapid and syrupy treatment of the (somewhat vapid and syrupy) classic childrens' story, and was thrilled to have my prejudices challenged. Disney's Pollyanna is as sweet and natural as a green apple. It's a sunny little story on the surface, but pretty dark if you think about it, and the Disney version manages to show both aspects with admirable skill and courage. There's nothing syrupy about it. Sure, it's idyllic and slow-paced, but there's an honesty to it that makes those aspects absolutely believable. Hayley Mills is probably one of the most consistently excellent child actors Hollywood has known, and every character in the film, down to the smallest bit-part, is cast with care and intelligence. The pace and arc of the story are way better than in the book, the settings and costumes just as pretty as they should be and the dialogue is a lot funnier than one would expect. Pollyanna is one of the movies that make me realize how good the old Walt Disney Co really was. Seemingly without effort - a skillful illusion, of course - they blended nostalgia and fantasy, with a pinch of tragedy, into a film that almost perfectly balances what we know to be true with what we dream of. An extra plus or two for the ambitious and well executed DVD-transfer. The movie looks and sounds brand new, and the extras are better than average. Pollyanna is one of the best issues in the great Vault Disney series.

-Marten (banjoboy)

Pollyanna is a film that, based on its themes and elements, has the potential to fail completely. A little girl's optimism in a hard town melts the heart of everyone she meets. It all sounds too cliche and contrived to be taken seriously. Yet it works. It works because there the characters are not caricatures of themselves. Each person is fleshed out and human thanks to the excellent ensemble cast. Haley Mills in the title role of the glad girl accomplishes making Pollyanna sweet but not annoying or sickening, which is something most child actors would not be able to accomplish. The film realizes its potential to be horrible, so it takes great care in developing everyone, including Pollyanna herself, in a gentle but realistic way. Despite being very nostalgic, Pollyanna holds up well today and is truly one of the finest of Disney's live action canon.

-Kelvin Cedeno

Pollyanna is a film that works on many levels. It can be a sweet little children's film, while adults may find it thought-provoking. Or it can simply be appreciated and enjoyed for its beautiful recreation of the time period. Whichever way you look at it, Hayley Mills is a find as the main character.

A film critic I once knew came out with a book in 1984 where he reviewed more than 2,500 films on video. Barely a handful were awarded a perfect score of 5 stars. Pollyanna was one of them.

-Anders M Olsson

DVD Details
Given the deluxe 2-disc Vault Disney treatment, Pollyanna glows on DVD, with first-class sound and picture, plus hours of rich bonus features.
Buy Pollyanna (2-Disc Vault Disney)
Read the complete Pollyanna DVD review
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