Pollyanna is the title of a 1913 book by Eleanor H. Porter about an overly-optimistic young orphan named Polly Whittier who goes to live with her cantankerous Aunt Polly. Having learned a game from her late father wherein the objective is to find the silver lining behind every cloud, Polly's life-affirming charm soon wins her a place in the hearts of many. The book was received with immediate praise, and Porter went on to write a sequel in 1915 called "Pollyanna Grows Up". The original book was turned into a movie in the 1920 Mary Pickford silent film by the same name. In 1960, Hayley Mills starred in the title role in a Hollywood remake that is today the most famous and well-known version, and ostensibly the reason for the advent of the word "pollyanna" in colloquial English.
At least five western TV versions were made, including most recently a UK release in 2003. In 1989, a musical version called "Polly" starring Keshia Knight Pulliam and Phylicia Rashad (Rudy and Clair Huxtable from TV's 'The Cosby Show') was aired, and followed up in 1990 with another similar production called "Polly: Comin' Home!" Both were set in segregated 1956 Alabama, some 43 years after the original book was written.
Non-western culture was also quick to adopt the story both before and after the success of the Mills version. A Brazillian TV series with the original name was made in 1956, followed by another in 1958 entitled "Pollyanna Moça," both starring Verinha Darci as the lead. Produced during a period of imitation of US film, a 1971 Turkish version entitled "Hayat sevince güzel" ('Life Joy Love', or 'Life is beautiful when you love') featured a parallel story about a young girl named Ayse. In Japan, a half-hour animated series called "Ai shôjo Porianna monogatari" ('Tale of Pollyanna, Girl of Love') ran for 51 episodes starting in 1986.
Today, the word "pollyanna" generally describes a person who is saccharine sweet to the point of being an annoyance. In the book version, oddly enough, miserly characters were enlivened by her infectious charm, which seems to indicate either that the book is miserably out of date, or we're just too darn cynical to take a sweet li'l country gal at face value.