Disney's Mary Poppins (1964)
Updated: May 5
After twenty years of Walt Disney’s personal requests to the author the Mary Poppins stories P L Travers finally gave in and agreed that Disney could acquire the rights. Originally conceived as a full length animation film, it was later decided that a combination of live action and animation would create a more visual film and reflect more easily the story’s fantastical elements.
The Banks home on the edge of Regents Park London at the turn of the last Century is not a happy one. Mr Banks spends all his time at the bank, Mrs Bank out campaigning for women’s suffrage, leaving their understandably mischievous children Jane and Michael in the hands of a series of unsatisfactory nannies. Into the home comes a new nanny, Mary Poppins, practically perfect in everything she does. Suddenly the nursery is tidy, the kids are neat, and the fun has only just begun as the transformation of the Banks' household takes place.
Amazingly, Mary Poppins was Julie Andrews’ film debut and now it is hard to imagine anyone else filling those magic shoes, especially Disney’s first choice - Bette Davis! Luckily for filmgoers, Andrews was cast; her fresh face and mix of innocence and coquettishness makes for an affecting heroine. She is able to combine the fantastical and emotional elements of the film and carries off the great song and dance routines with style and panache, including the tongue-twisting Supercalifragilisticexpialodocious and the motivational Spoonful of Sugar.
Dick van Dyke’s ‘cockney’ accent has been mercilessly ridiculed for the last five+ decades, much to the detriment to the memory of his performance throughout the film, which is full of vitality with a heavy dose of Music Hall schtick. Particularly memorable sequences include his dance with the penguins in the Jolly Holiday pavement painting sequence, the chim-chimeree dance routine and his secondary role as Mr Dawes Snr.
The mix of live action and animation works to great effect in both directions, when Mary, Bert, Jane and Michael enter the animated Jolly Holiday world, but also when animation appears in the live action world such as the snow dome of St Paul’s and the fireworks on the chimney sweep rooftop number.
Unlike Mary, who is only “practically perfect”, the film is completely perfect...
The wonderful song and dance routines...
The bright and colourful backdrops...
The staggering sets...
The great special effects...
And when Mr Banks feeds the birds, there may well have a been a tear or two in my eye!
Mary Poppins (1964)
Producers: Walt Disney & Bill Walsh
Director. Robert Stevenson Based on the Mary Poppins books by P.L. Travers. Composer: Irwin Kostal.
Cast: Julie Andrews (Mary Poppins), Dick Van Dyke (Bert/Mr. Dawes, Sr.), David Tomlinson (Mr. Banks), Glynis Johns (Mrs. Banks), Karen Dotrice (Jane Banks), Matthew Garber (Michael Banks).