The History of Mr. Polly (film)

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The History of Mr. Polly
"The History of Mr. Polly" (1949).png
Directed by Anthony Pelissier
Written by Anthony Pelissier
H.G. Wells
Produced by John Mills
Starring John Mills
Betty Ann Davies
Megs Jenkins
Moore Marriott
Finlay Currie
Cinematography Desmond Dickinson
Edited by John Seabourne
Music by William Alwyn
Distributed by General Film Distributors
Release dates
  • 1949 (1949)(UK)
  • 1951 (1951)(U.S.)
Running time
95 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom

The History of Mr. Polly is a 1949 British film based on the 1910 comic novel The History of Mr. Polly by H.G. Wells. [1] It was directed by Anthony Pelissier (who is also credited with the script) and stars John Mills, Betty Ann Davies, Megs Jenkins, Moore Marriott and Finlay Currie. [2] It was the first adaptation of one of Wells's works to be produced after his death in 1946.



Following his dismissal from a draper's shop, where his father had placed him as an apprentice, protagonist Alfred Polly (John Mills) finds it hard to find another position. When a telegram arrives informing him of his father's death, he returns to the family home.

With a bequest of £500, Polly considers his future; and a friend of his father's, Mr Johnsen (Edward Chapman), urges him to invest it in a shop - an idea that Polly dislikes. Whilst dawdling in the country on a newly-bought bicycle, Polly has a brief dalliance with a schoolgirl, Christabel (Sally Ann Howes); but later marries one of his cousins, Miriam Larkins (Betty Ann Davies). Fifteen years later, Polly and his wife are running a draper's shop in Fishbourne, and the marriage has descended to incessant arguments and bickering.

While walking in the country, Polly decides to commit suicide. He sets his shop ablaze in the hope that the insurance will assure Miriam's prosperity. However, he botches the arson job and, instead of killing himself, rescues an elderly neighbour and becomes a minor local celebrity.

Still unhappy, Polly leaves his wife and is hired by a rural innkeeper (Megs Jenkins) as handyman and ferryman; however, he soon realises that the position was only open because the innkeeper's brother-in-law Jim (Finlay Currie) is a drunkard who bullies any other man to leave the inn. Polly clashes with him until the latter accidentally drowns in a weir while chasing Polly. Three years later, Polly returns to Fishbourne to find Miriam operating a tea-shop with her sister in the belief that Polly has drowned, and he returns to his happier life at the inn.


Critical reception

At the time of its release, Variety wrote "Faithful adherence to the original H. G. Wells story is one of the main virtues of The History of Mr Polly," with the reviewer concluding that "Director Anthony Pelissier has put all the emphasis on the principal characters, and has extracted every ounce of human interest from the classic. Every part, right down to the smallest bit, has been selected with care and there is some notable work from an experienced cast." [3]

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  1. "The History of Mr. Polly (1949)". BFI.
  2. "The History of Mr. Polly (1949) - Anthony Pelissier - Cast and Crew". AllMovie.
  3. "The History of Mr. Polly". Variety. 1 January 1949.