The mission of The Department of Afro-American Research Arts and Culture to identify the global significance of the creative contributions pioneered by an international diaspora of Blackness
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Monday, March 6, 2023

Polly (1989, TV Movie)

"Polly" (1989) is a made-for-television musical that aired on NBC's "Magical World of Disney." Disney adapted the movie from the 1913 novel by Eleanor H. Porter, "Pollyanna," which Disney originally made a version of the novel in 1960 under the same title. The 1989 version comprises a majority black cast, and Debbie Allen is responsible for the film's direction. Due to the immense popularity of "The Cosby Show" during the mid to late 80s, the actors saw remarkable success in roles outside of their norm. So naturally, Cosby kids was a rating boost for any network that featured them in TV movies or shows. But, this time, Keshia Knight Pulliam and Phylicia Rashad led an excellent cast of actors in one of the most underrated musicals.

This film isn't just any type of musical. It's brilliantly performed and well-made. All the leading actors and actresses get to sing and dance. Debbie Allen colorfully illuminates every scene with beauty and grace with her choreography, which the Emmys nominated her for "Outstanding Choreography." Included with Pulliam and Rashad are Dorian Harewood, Barbara Montgomery, T.K. Carter, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Brandon Quintin Adams, Larry Riley, and Brock Peters. Notable guest stars also include Butterfly McQueen ("Gone with the Wind") and Celeste Holm ("Oklahoma"). 

Joel McNeely is responsible for the soundtrack score, which Harold Wheeler ("The Wiz") also supervised. Debbie and her husband, Norm Nixon, composed one of the music numbers called "Stand Up." Some of the tracks are "Shine a Light" (sung by Dorian Harewood and Larry Riley), "Honey Ain't Got Nothin' on You" (Vanessa Bell Calloway), "Something More" (Phylicia Rashas), and "Sweet Little Angel Eyes" (Bandon Adams and TK Carter).

I recommend this movie. The music is excellent, and the attire is beautiful. The story is a cheerful one with many feel-good moments. The actors have experience in performing arts, and many came from Broadway. This film has all the essences of Broadway and then some. 

Director: Debbie Allen
Writers: William Blinn (teleplay), Eleanor H. Porter (novel "Pollyanna")

Starring Keshia Knight Pulliam, Phylicia Rashad, Dorian Harewood, Barbara Montgomery, T.K. Carter, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Brandon Quintin Adams, Ken Page, Larry Riley, Butterfly McQueen, Brock Peters, Celeste Holm, George Anthony Bell, Michael Peters, Vickilyn Reynolds Vickilyn Reynolds

Set in 1955, in times of racial segregation, a mythical all-black Alabama town called Harrington is owned by the non-sense Aunt Polly (Phylicia Rashad). She believes life is a serious matter and frowns upon any joyful noise. However, things change when Polly (Keshia Knight Pulliam) arrives as an orphan from Detroit. She is a ray of sunshine to a stoic Aunt and a town torn between their affliction between each other.