So last weekend I was doing some channel surfing and stumbled upon Pollyanna Man, that took me back. I remember seeing this in our elementary school auditorium decades ago. What was most vivid in my recollection were the scenes at the carnival, in particular the images of food. I didn’t try very hard to find the remote and ended up spending a very pleasant couple of hours watching the movie. I was really pleasantly surprised by the thing. The book–at least as I remember it, was sickly sweet, and I recalled the movie being in a similar vein.
Really, though it’s not a half bad little film. The cast is excellent: Jane Wyman, Hayley Mills, Karl Malden, Richard Egan, Agnes Moorehead, and the usual complement of well-known character actors doing their thing. Although, I have to say, every time I see Richard Egan, I flash to A Summer Place. Here, as in that glorious old turkey, he plays a character whose action and dialogue suggest that the “repressed” lady would be a lot happier if she’d just stop insisting on being so independent, and start letting the man take charge—the way it’s supposed to be, darn it all! Romance (and implied sex) will cure all that ails the little lady. Not the kind of subtext you expect to find in a Disney film.
The carnival scenes are still vibrant and I might add, as I remember them. I suspect this has something to do with the fact that the setting is so impossibly perfect. It’s the kind of carnival that we’d die to go to. Everyone’s having a good time. Nobody’s kids are screaming. Money’s not a consideration; in fact, we don’t see anyone paying for anything. The prizes are fantastically opulent in a way that they never are in real life. There’s no litter. And the food . . . succulent slices of watermelon, huge pieces of cake, corn on the cob—glistening with butter—you could almost taste it. Like Disney’s overhaul of Times Square, here’s an America that never really existed, but one which we inexplicably yearn for.