The History of Mr. Polly
Dir: Anthony Pelissier
****Anthony Pelissier may not have made that many films as such but he was always at the forefront of progression. There weren't many people, in my opinion, who could have developed H.G. Wells's 1910 novel The History of Mr. Polly as brilliantly as he did. It is an incredibly difficult thing to authentically adapt any type of novel but one where the language itself is so vital to the overall style of the book makes it incredibly so, almost impossible, and yet Mr. Polly comes through loud and clear. John Mills clearly understands the character too and he and Pelissier make quite a pairing. The History of Mr. Polly is a comic tale but with incredibly dark areas scattered about it. This is present in the film and handled with just the right level of subtlety so that it is clear but not unacceptable, much like the book. Although not initially obvious, Mr. Polly is something of an antihero. He makes poor and shocking decisions and does things most people would agree were amoral, however, most people will agree (but not admit) that they might just do the same as him, if they thought they could get away with it. There is something very Charles Dickens about Mr. Polly, and his inability to conform and his lack of focus can be understood by many who can relate to him. He's well-spoken and intelligent but feels out of sorts in the life he finds himself in. I totally know the feeling and I'm sure his diagnosis would be completely understood today after the developments of psychology in the last 100 years. That said, you don't have to be a psychologist to understand that some people don't suit the lives that they find themselves in, back then you made do and if you didn't like it you had to lump it, but not Mr. Polly. Mr. Polly is a gentlemen rebel with a vivid imagination and wavering confidence. I like him very much, more so in the film as he is played by Mills, one of my favourite actors of all time. Filmed in 1949, it hasn't really dated at all, the story is still valid by today's standards and in many respects this tale is regularly told within film and has been told ever since the year it was published. Mr. Polly is the original Walter Mitty, although Pelissier's adaptation came out two years later, H.G. Wells's novel is clearly an inspiration. I love the story, the adaptation is incredibly authentic and the performances and direction are wonderful. It's unlike many post-war films of the time and is something of an unsung gem.