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Mary Poppins (film)

Mary Poppins is a 1964 American musical film starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke and produced by Walt Disney, based on the Mary Poppins books series by P. L. Travers with illustrations by Mary Shepard. The film was directed by Robert Stevenson and written by Bill Walsh and Don DaGradi, with songs by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman. It was shot at Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California. It is hailed as being one of Walt Disney's greatest films.

Plot

The film begins with the young and pretty Mary Poppins perched on a cloud high above London in Spring 1910. The action descends to earth where Bert, a Cockney jack-of-all-trades, introduces the audience to the well-to-do, but troubled, Banks family, headed by the cold and aloof Mr. Banks, who has formed the idea that a British household ought to be run with the strict authority of a British bank. His wife is the loving but highly distracted suffragette Mrs. Banks.

The Banks' latest nanny quits out of exasperation after the Banks children, Jane and Michael run off in pursuit of a wayward kite. Angered at the children and convinced they are unruly, she leaves despite Mrs Banks asking her to stay. Mr Banks returns home from a good day at the bank, but his glee is short-lived when Mrs Banks reveals the children are missing. Shortly a policeman arrives with the Banks children, Jane and Michael, who are in fear of their father. Mr Banks' grief quickly turns to anger and he disciplines his children severely. The children ask their father to help repair their damaged kite, but he dismisses them and advertises for an authoritarian nanny-replacement. Jane and Michael draft their own advertisement asking for a fun, kind-hearted and caring person, but the disgusted Mr. Banks tears up the paper and throws it in the fireplace. Unnoticed, however, the note's remains float up the chimney.

The next day there is a queue of old and disagreeable nanny candidates waiting at the door. However, a strong gust of wind literally blows the queue away, and Mary Poppins flies down with her umbrella to apply. Mr. Banks is stunned to see that this calmly defiant new nanny has responded to the children's ad despite the fact he destroyed it. As he puzzles, Mary Poppins hires herself and begins work. The children face surprises of their own: Mary possesses a bottomless carpetbag, and makes contents of the children's nursery come to life and tidy themselves. The magic continues with a countryside outing via one of "screever" Bert's chalk pavement drawings, and a tea-party in midair with Mary's "Uncle Albert", who floats uncontrollably whenever he laughs.

Mr. Banks grows uncomfortable with his children's stories of their adventures, but Mary effortlessly inverts his attempted dismissal of her services into a plan to take his children with him to the bank where he is employed. Unfortunately, Mr. Dawes, Mr. Banks' extremely elderly employer, aggressively tries to persuade Michael to invest his money in the bank. When Michael protests, the other customers misunderstand, and start a run that forces the bank to suspend business. The children flee and wander into the slums of the East End of London. Fortunately, they run into Bert, now employed as a chimney sweep. He takes them safely home, explaining that their father does not hate them, but that he has problems of his own, and that unlike the children, has no one to turn to but himself.

A departing Mrs. Banks hires Bert to sweep the family's chimney and mind the children. Mary arrives back from her day off to caution the children about the hazards of this activity, and sure enough, the children are sucked up to the roof. Bert and Mary follow them and lead a tour of the rooftops of London that concludes with a joyful dance with Bert's chimney-sweep colleagues. A volley of fireworks from the Banks' eccentric neighbor, Admiral Boom, sends the entire gathering back down the Banks' chimney. Mr. Banks arrives home, forcing Mary to conclude the festivities. Banks then receives a phone call from work ordering him to return immediately for disciplinary action. As Mr. Banks gathers his strength, Bert points out that while Mr. Banks does need to make a living, his offspring's childhood will come and go in a blink of an eye, and he needs to be there for them while he can. The Banks children approach their father to apologize, and Michael gives Mr. Banks his tuppence in the hope that it will make things alright. Banks gently accepts the offering. A sombre and thoughtful Mr. Banks walks alone through the nighttime streets. At the bank, he is formally humiliated and fired for causing the first run on the bank since the "Boston Tea Party" of 1773. However, after being at a loss when ordered to give a statement, Mr. Banks invokes Mary Poppins' all purpose word "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!" to tweak Mr Dawes. He gives Dawes the tuppence, tells the old man one of Uncle Albert's jokes and raucously departs. Dawes mulls over the joke, finally "gets it" and floats up into the air, laughing... The next morning, the winds have changed direction, and so Mary must depart. Meanwhile, the Banks adults cannot find Mr. Banks, and fear that he might have become suicidal. However, Mr. Banks, now loving and joyful, reappears with the now-mended kite and cheerfully summons his children. The greatly-relieved Mrs. Banks supplies a tail for the kite, using one of her suffragette ribbons. They all leave the house without a backward glance as Mary Poppins watches from a window. In the park with other kite-flyers, Mr. Banks meets Mr. Dawes Jr., who says that his father literally died laughing. Instead of being mournful, the son is delighted his father died happy, and rehires Mr. Banks to fill the opening as CEO. Her work done, Mary Poppins takes to the air with a fond farewell from Bert.

Production history

The first book was the main basis for the Walt Disney film Mary Poppins, a musical with mixed live action and animation which premiered on August 27, 1964. It was the Sherman Brothers, who composed the music and song score, and who were also involved in the picture's development, who suggested that the setting be changed from the 1930s to the Edwardian era. Julie Andrews, who was making her movie acting debut after a successful stage career, got the prime role of Mary Poppins soon after being passed over by Jack Warner and replaced with Audrey Hepburn for the role of Eliza Doolittle in his screen version of My Fair Lady, even though Andrews had originated the role on Broadway. Ironically, Andrews beat Hepburn for the coveted Best Actress Awards in both the Golden Globes and Academy Awards for their respective roles.

Disney cast Dick Van Dyke in the key supporting role of Bert, thanks to his work on The Dick Van Dyke Show. Van Dyke also played the senior Mr. Dawes in the film. Although he is fondly remembered for this film, Van Dyke's attempt at a Cockney accent (lapsing out of it at times) was nonetheless widely ridiculed and is still frequently parodied. It is still often cited as one of the worst attempts at a British accent by an American actor, a fact acknowledged with good humour by Van Dyke himself on the 2004 DVD release of the film.

According to the 40th Anniversary DVD release of the film in 2004, Walt Disney first attempted to purchase the film rights to Mary Poppins from P.L. Travers as early as 1938 but was rebuffed because Travers did not believe a film version of her books would do justice to her creation. In addition, Disney was known at the time primarily as a producer of cartoons and had yet to produce any major live action work. For more than 20 years, Disney periodically made efforts to convince Travers to allow him to make a Poppins movie. He finally succeeded in 1961, although Travers demanded and got script approval rights. The process of planning the film and composing the songs took about two years. Travers objected to a number of elements that actually made it into the movie. Rather than original songs, she wanted the soundtrack to feature known standards of the Edwardian period in which the movie was set. She also objected to the animated sequence. Disney overruled her, citing contract stipulations that he had final say on the finished print. Much of their correspondence is part of the Travers collection of papers in the Mitchell Library of New South Wales, Australia. The relationship between Travers and Disney is detailed in Mary Poppins She Wrote, a biography of Travers, by Valerie Lawson, The biography is the basis for two documentaries on Travers, The Real Mary Poppins and Lisa Matthews'The Shadow of Mary Poppins.

A number of other changes were necessary to condense the story into feature length. In the movie, there are only two Banks children, Jane and Michael. The satirical and mysterious aspects of the original book gave way to a cheerful and "Disneyfied" tone. Mary Poppins' character as portrayed by Andrews in the film is somewhat less vain and more sympathetic toward the children than the rather cold and intimidating nanny of the original book. Bert, as played by Van Dyke, was a composite of several characters from Travers' stories. Travers demanded that any suggestions of romance between Mary and Bert be eliminated, so lyrics were written for "Jolly Holiday" that clearly indicated that their friendship was purely platonic (some subtle hints of romance remain, however).

As mentioned above, Van Dyke played two roles in the film. Andrews did at least three: she provided the robin's whistling harmony during "A Spoonful of Sugar", and was also one of the Pearly singers during "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious". David Tomlinson, besides playing Mr. Banks, also provided the voice of Mary's talking umbrella as well as numerous other voice-over parts (including that of Admiral Boom's first mate). During the "Jolly Holiday" sequence, the three singing Cockney geese were voiced by Marni Nixon. Nixon would later play one of Julie Andrews' fellow nuns in The Sound of Music; she also provided the singing voice for Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady.

Cast and characters

Mary Poppins

"Practically perfect in every way". She comes down from the clouds in response to the Banks children's advertisement for a Nanny. She is not only firm in her use of authority, but kind and gentle as well (a major departure from the original books).

She was played by Julie Andrews. The film was very popular with the public, and Andrews won a Best Actress Oscar award for her role.

Bert

Bert, portrayed by Dick Van Dyke, is a jack-of-all-trades and Mary's closest normal friend who is notable in that he is completely accustomed to her magic. Their interaction, such as in the song "Jolly Holiday", makes it clear they have known each other for a long time, and that this kind of story has repeated itself many times. When she sails away at the end of the film, he asks her not to stay away too long.

Bert has at least four jobs during the movie: a one-man band, a sidewalk chalk artist (or "screever"), a chimney sweep, and a kite seller. Bert also hints at selling hot chestnuts. His various street-vending jobs meet with mixed financial success, but he retains his cheery disposition.

Bert also indirectly assists Mary Poppins in her mission to save the Banks family, as he plays a key role in helping the Banks children and Mr. Banks to understand each other better.

Mr. Banks

George Banks, played by David Tomlinson, is Mary Poppins' employer. He works at the Dawes Tomes Mousley Grubbs Fidelity Fiduciary Bank in the City of London, and lives at 17 Cherry Tree Lane with his wife, Winifred, and their children. He is a driven and disciplined man (he could be called a "Type A personality" by modern standards) who hates the women's suffrage movement and tends to treat his children, wife, and servants as assets rather than persons — a fact clearly evidenced in his song "The Life I Lead". By the end of the movie, Mr. Banks' attitude towards his family, his job, and Mary Poppins herself has changed dramatically.

Melodies in the score punctuate the children's need for their father's attention and love, and most of the dramatic tension in the film involves his journey from disconnected family autocrat to fully engaged family man.

According to the Special Edition Soundtrack Bonus Disc, Mary Poppins was George's own nanny when he was a child. Travers intended to have the script hint this strongly in a few places, but it was largely left out of the movie, except for the following words in Bert's opening song, "Can't put me finger on what lies in store. .. But I feel what's to 'appen, all 'appened before. ..!" and George's own statement to the elder Mr. Dawes that "Poppins" was "my nanny". However, in Banks' initial interview with Mary Poppins, there is little or no indication that the two have ever met before, and his description of her as "my nanny" could easily be meant in the same way as "my maid" or "my cook".

Mrs. Banks

Mrs. Winifred Banks, played by Glynis Johns, wife of George Banks and the mother of Jane and Michael. She is more fully developed in the movie than in the books. She is depicted as a member of Emmeline Pankhurst's suffragette movement and appears to neglect her children for her duties as a suffragette. Her main outfit is a blue and orange Edwardian-style dress with a white and blue sash that reads "Votes for Women" in black letters. She wears white gloves in the film (as did most Edwardian English women). Her song in the movie is "Sister Suffragette", which she sings with the other two women of the household staff.

She is more sensitive to the needs of the children than her husband is, but also finds herself starved for his attention. As with the children, it is clear she loves George very much, but he is too wrapped up in his view of the way things "ought to be" to return her love satisfactorily. She only refers to him by his name and "dear", which was common among Edwardian wives. (George only addresses his wife by her name only, common among Edwardian husbands.) Mrs Banks was originally named "Cynthia", but this was quickly changed to the more "English-sounding" Winifred.

Mrs. Banks' four "Votes for Women" sashes from the movie have all survived. One can be seen being "pulled out" of Richard M. Sherman's "special musicians' trunk" on the Musical Journey seen on the 2004 DVD release.

As an interesting side-bar, Mrs. Banks and Mary Poppins never speak to each other, at least in the movie. In the book, they do speak to one another.

The Banks children

While the Banks family in the original novel had several children, only Jane and Michael appear in the movie. They were played by Karen Dotrice and Matthew Garber. Despite Katie Nanna's stormy departure, suggesting that the children are impossibly undisciplined, the children themselves come across as mostly sweet and innocent.

All they want is for their father to love them, and they have falsely interpreted his indifference to their needs as disliking them. They have tried to live up to his demands on them, which has only left them with shaky self-esteem. Those elements come together in a bit of dialogue early in the film, in which they explain that they did not run away from Katie Nanna, their kite took them away from her. They say that the kite is not very good, because they made it themselves. They suggest to their father that if he could help them with it, it would turn out better. At that point, Banks is too wrapped up in his philosophy, that a British household should be run like a British bank, to take this strongest of hints.

After inadvertently causing a run on the bank, the children give their father their tuppence, expressing the hope that it will make things right. At that moment, Mr. Banks finally understands, and his priorities take a 180-degree turn, leading to the film's happy resolution.

Minor characters

  • Ellen, the maid (Hermione Baddeley)
  • Mrs. Brill, the cook (Reta Shaw)
  • Admiral Boom, the Banks's neighbor and a naval capain. He fires a cannon from his roof every day. He is known for his punctuality. (Reginald Owen)
  • Mr. Binnacle, Admiral Boom's first mate (Don Barclay)
  • Constable Jones (Arthur Treacher)
  • Katie Nanna, the disgruntled nanny who quits the Banks family. (Elsa Lanchester)
  • Mr. Dawes Sr., the elderly director of the bank where Mr. Banks works (Dick Van Dyke); he literally dies laughing toward the end of the film
  • Mr. Dawes Jr., the director's son and member of the board (Arthur Malet)
  • Uncle Albert, a jolly, portly gentleman who loves to laugh uncontrollably and floats up every time he does so (Ed Wynn); it also happens to other characters in the movie
  • The bird woman (Jane Darwell in her final film appearance)

Songs

In 2004, "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" was ranked #36 in the American Film Institute's list of the 100 Greatest Songs in Movie History.

Deleted songs

A number of other songs were written for the film by the Sherman Brothers and either rejected or cut for time. Richard Sherman, on the 2004 DVD release, indicated that more than 30 songs were written at various stages of the film's development. No cast recordings of any of these songs have been released to the public, only demos or later performances done by the songwriters — with the exception of the rooftop reprise of "Chim-Chim-Cheree" and the "smoke staircase yodel" mentioned below.

  • "The Chimpanzoo", was originally to follow "I Love to Laugh" during the Uncle Albert "ceiling tea party" sequence, but it was dropped from the soundtrack just before Julie Andrews and company were to record it. The fast-paced number was not unveiled to the public until Richard Sherman, aided by recently uncovered storyboards, performed it on the 2004 DVD edition. The recreation suggests it was to have been another sequence combining animation and live action.
  • "Practically Perfect" was intended to introduce Mary but instead the melody of the piece was used for "Sister Suffragette" (used to introduce Winifred (Mrs. Banks)). A different song with the same name was written for the stage musical.
  • "The Eyes of Love", a romantic ballad, was intended for Bert and Mary, but according to the Shermans this song was vetoed by Julie Andrews herself.
  • "Mary Poppins Melody" was to be performed when Mary introduces herself to the children. Elements of the song later became part of "Stay Awake". The melody was the basis for a couple of other songs that were ultimately cut from the film.
  • "A Name's a Name". Heard on a recording taken of a meeting between the Sherman Brothers and P.L. Travers, this song was originally intended for the nursery scene that later became "A Spoonful of Sugar." The melody was reused for "Mary Poppins Melody".
  • "You Think, You Blink" was a short piece that Bert was to sing just before entering the chalk painting (and starting the "Jolly Holiday" sequence). In the film, Dick Van Dyke simply recites the lyric instead of singing it.
  • "West Wind" was a short ballad to be sung by Mary. The song was later retitled "Mon Amour Perdu" and used in the later Disney film, Big Red.
  • "The Right Side" was to be sung by Mary to Michael Banks after he gets out of bed cranky. It was recycled for the Disney Channel television series, Welcome to Pooh Corner as Winnie the Pooh's personal theme song.
  • "Measure Up" was to accompany the scene in which Mary takes the tape measure to Jane and Michael.
  • "Admiral Boom" was to be the theme song for the cannon-firing neighbor of the Banks Residence, but it was cut by Walt Disney as being unnecessary. The melody of the song remains in the film, and the bombastic theme is heard whenever Boom appears onscreen. One line from this song ("The whole world takes its time from Greenwich, but Greenwich, they say, takes its time from Admiral Boom!") is spoken by Bert early in the film.
  • "Sticks, Paper and Strings" was an early version of "Let's Go Fly a Kite."
  • "Lead the Righteous Life", an intentionally poorly-written hymn, was to have been sung by Katie Nanna (Elsa Lanchester) along with Jane and Michael prior to Mary Poppins' arrival. The melody was later reused for a similar song in The Happiest Millionaire
  • "The Pearly Song" was not deleted per se but was instead incorporated into "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious".

The Compass Sequence, a precursor to "Jolly Holiday", was to be a multiple-song sequence. A number of possible musical components have been identified:

  • "South Sea Island Symphony"
  • "Chinese Festival Song"
  • "Tim-buc-too" — elements of this were reused for "The Chimpanzoo" which was also cut
  • "Tiki Town" — the melody was reused for "The Chimpanzoo"
  • "North Pole Polka"
  • "Land of Sand" — later rewritten as "Trust in Me" for the animated version of The Jungle Book
  • "The Beautiful Briny" — later used in Bedknobs and Broomsticks
  • "East is East" — another variation on the unused "Mary Poppins Melody".

Deleted Scores and Music

  • The "Step in Time" sequence ends with the chimney sweeps being scattered by an onslaught of fireworks fired from Admiral Boom's house. In the final film, the scene plays out with sound effects and no music. The DVD release included the original version of the scene which was accompanied by a complex instrumental musical arrangement that combined "Step in Time", the "Admiral Boom" melody (see above), and "A Spoonful of Sugar". This musical arrangement can be heard on the film's original soundtrack.
  • Andrews recorded a brief reprise of "Chim-Chim-Cheree" which was to have accompanied Mary, Bert, and the children as they marched across the rooftops of London (an instrumental reprise of "A Spoonful of Sugar" was used as a march instead; however, Andrews and Dick Van Dyke can still be seen and heard singing a reprise of "Chim-Chim-Cheree" in that sequence, just before the other chimney sweeps appear for the "Step in Time" number).
  • The robin Mary Poppins whistles with in "A Spoonful of Sugar" originally sang a lyric as well.
  • Andrews also recorded a brief yodel which breaks into the first line of "A Spoonful of Sugar" which was to have been used to "activate" the smoke staircase prior to the "Step in Time" number. Although cut from the film, footage of Andrews performing this exists and was included on the 2004 DVD. The DVD also indicates that an alternate version of the yodel performed by Dick Van Dyke may also exist.

Awards and honors

Academy Awards

The film received 13 Academy Awards nominations and won 5 awards:

Nominated

American Film Institute recognition

Home video releases

Mary Poppins was first released in the Early 1980s on VHS and laserdisc. In 1994, it was re-released as part of the Walt Disney Masterpiece Collection. In 1998, this movie became Disney's first DVD. Two years later, it was released on VHS and DVD as part of the Gold Classic Collection. In 2004, it had its 2-Disc DVD Release in a Digitally Restored 40th Anniversary Edition.

The Cat That Looked at a King

In 2004, Julie Andrews appeared in an animated/live action short that was produced by DisneyToon Studios for the 40th Anniversary DVD release of the 1964 film. Entitled The Cat That Looked at a King, the film was based upon part of the P.L. Travers book Mary Poppins Opens the Door and could be seen as something of a sequel or followup to the movie.

The film opens in the modern day with two British children looking at chalk drawings at the same location where Bert did his artwork in the original movie (the set was recreated, down to the last detail using the originals, according to Julie Andrews). Andrews, dressed in modern clothes, greets the children and takes them into the chalk drawing where they watch the tale unfold. The King and the Prime Minister are both voiced by David Ogden Stiers, while the king's wife is voiced by Sarah Ferguson and the cat by Tracey Ullman.

Whether Andrews is playing a modern-day Mary Poppins or not is left to the viewer's imagination, although some sources identify Andrews' character as Mary Poppins. You can also see the shadow of Mary Poppins when she looks down at the live action cat towards the end.

Miscellany

  • The Penguins from Mary Poppins can regularly be seen on the TV Show Disney's House of Mouse. They reappear in 1988's Who Framed Roger Rabbit, serving patrons at the Ink & Paint Club (one of the many character-related anachronisms in the film, which was set in 1947, seventeen years before the release of Mary Poppins) .
  • In a poll conducted by Channel 4 (UK TV channel) in 2003, Mary Poppins was voted the 5th best musical of all time .
  • Mary Poppins, Bert, and the penguins appear at the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts as meetable characters.
  • At the world premiere of the film, a fundraiser was held for the opening of the new school, CalArts.

In popular culture

  • The Simpsons episode "Simpsoncalifragilisticexpiala(Annoyed Grunt)cious" heavily parodies the movie. Plus, a Special Feature on the Simpsons Movie DVD includes a reference; When American Idol's Simon Cowell is being judged on his vocal performance by the Simpsons, Homer heavily criticises him: "Lose the accent, Mary Poppins! This is American Idol!"
  • In the The Fairly OddParents episode "Remy Rides Again", after Remy sends Vicky into space, Timmy's new babysitter is Susie Califragilistic, and her personality (and name) is an obvious parody of Mary Poppins (and Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious). Also, in the episode "No Substitute For Crazy", the substitute teacher Ms. Sunshine is a parody of Mary Poppins herself, along with all the variations of Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious used in the episode by Ms. Sunshine and Cosmo.
  • In an episode of That '70s Show, Red asks his son whether he is "ill-tempered", and Eric carefully says that he acts just like Mary Poppins.
  • The Penguin waiters appear in Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
  • The film Run Ronnie Run has a short segment parodying the rooftop chimneysweep dance.
  • The show MADtv (in Season 6) parodied the movie with Julie Andrews (played by Mo Collins) showing a cut scene where Mary Poppins hires illegal aliens to do the house work. Here are the parodies of the songs from that skit:
    • "Just a Few Illegal Aliens (Helps the Housework Get Done)" is a parody of "A Spoonful of Sugar."
    • "Chimichanga" is a parody of "Chim Chim Cher-ee."
    • "Immigration and Naturalization Service" is a parody of "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious."
  • In The Odd Couple, Oscar, complaining about his neat-freak roommate Felix, says, "I'm stuck here with Mary Poppins 24 hours a day."
  • At the Frontierland Train Station in Walt Disney World, according to "The Imagineering Field Guide to the Magic Kingdom," there is a wooden leg with the name "Smith" written on it, a reference to a joke made by Bert and Uncle Albert at the floating tea party.
  • In the opening scene of the VeggieTales episode The Wonderful Wizard of Ha's (parody of The Wizard of Oz), a scallion sporting Mary's hairdo and carrying an umbrella and carpet bag is whizzed into the scene, saying with a Valley-Girl accent "This isn't London. Is it? Sorry!...." before being blown away again.
  • In one strip of Bill Watterson's Calvin and Hobbes, Calvin has the hiccups and he can’t find a way to get rid of them. Hobbes suggests that maybe eating a spoonful of sugar is supposed to help. Calvin tries it and Hobbes asks if he's cured. Calvin replies no, he better eat some more.
  • In Cobra Starship's song "Hollaback Boy" (a parody of Gwen Stefani's "Hollaback Girl"), Gabe Saporta goes to sing "This shit is... Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" and continues on to spell it, but stops when the music fades.
  • One episode of Doctor Who, the popular science fiction BBC television show, "The Fires of Pompeii", incorporates a running gag from the film. A Roman family living in Pompeii protect their valuable objects from breakage due to earthquakes caused by Mount Vesuvius, similar to the Banks family protecting their valuables from the cannon fire of Admiral Boom.
  • In the Family Guy episode, Padre de Familia, Peter Griffin mentions that he used to have a job as a nanny, which is then followed by a cutaway scene showing two children, highly resembling Jane and Michael Banks, discussing what their new nanny will be like, before Peter falls through the ceiling dressed as Mary Poppins and holding an umbrella, flattening the children.

See also

Notes

External links

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