Movie #69: Mary Poppins (1964)

MaryPoppins

Director: Robert Stevenson

Starring: Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke, David Tomlinson, Glynis Johns, Karen Dotrice, and Matthew Garber

“With your feet on the ground you’re a bird in flight, with your fist holding tight to the string of your kite! ”

London, 1910.

Mary Poppins (Andrews) floats down  from the sky and into a nanny position for the Banks family.  George Banks (Tomlinson) works at the Dawes Tomes Mousley Grubbs Fidelity Fiduciary Bank and leaves the work of the home front to his wife and their maid, cook, and nanny.   Winifred  Banks (Johns) is a loving mother who is often distracted with the women’s suffrage movement.  As a result, Jane (Dotrice) and Michael (Garber) are largely raised by their nannies, and they cause so many problems for the nannies that they’ve gone through 6 in 4 months.

Poppins engages and helps the children to have fun while being responsible.  She, Jane, and Michael hop into a fantasy world through a sidewalk drawing by Poppins’ friend Bert (Van Dyke), have a tea party in the ceiling, and watch a bunch of chimney sweeps, including Bert, dance and enjoy a view of London not many get to encounter.  The children also accompany their dad to his work, where they inadvertently cause a run on the bank.  There is resolution in the end, though, as Mr. Banks realizes the importance of family and Poppins leaves presumably to go help another family.

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Walt Disney wanted to make a film version of P.L. Travers story for nearly 2 decades before the author gave her approval.  She felt that no one could do her books justice on the big screen.  After watching the premiere, Travers listed off a number of things she would do differently, to which Disney replied that they were far past the time for revisions.

This was also Julie Andrews first major movie role (she’d mostly done theater and TV movies to this point).  Ironically Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music, which won Best Picture the following year, are probably the two biggest movies for which Andrews is known for.  They also were the two top-grossing films of 1965, with Goldfinger at third and My Fair Lady, which won Best Picture over Poppins, in fourth.

Though early in her career, Andrews does a great job of holding her own as the fun, fair, and firm title character.  She had originally been turned down for the lead role in My Fair Lady, but thanked Jack Warner at the Academy Awards for leaving her open to win the award for her performance in Poppins.  She has a good balance of being someone who follows the rules while having as much fun as she can.

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Dick Van Dyke is charming as the jack-of-all-trades Bert.  However, his accent is horrible.

Really horrible.

It is often cited for aspiring actors and actresses as what not to do.  This was also very early in his film career, but his talent was apparent, and he could do a wide range from comedy to a voice of reason for Jane and Michael after they ran away from the bank.

His chemistry with Andrews is also a lovely thing to look at in a different light for me being older now.  Though their relationship is platonic, there’s still just enough tension between the two to suggest the possibility of something more.  Although Van Dyke is 10 years older than Andrews, it really didn’t show in the film.

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This was also a film that does a lot of branching live action with animation in a way that hadn’t been done before.  It was one of the complaints from Travers, but I think they handled it well given the time period it was made in.  The sequences in the chalk drawing were entertaining.

One of the central elements of this film is the music, hands down.  That makes sense since it is a musical though.  My wife and I watched this movie together, and it was her first time watching it.  I’d seen it numerous times as a child, so a lot of it was familiar to me.  Though she hadn’t seen the film, my wife knew a number of the songs.  “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”, “A Spoonful of Sugar”, “Jolly Holiday”, “Chim Chim Cher-ee”, “Stay Awake”, “Let’s Go Fly A Kite”, “Feed the Birds”, and “Step in Time” are all ones that are fairly easy to recognize.

My personal favorite from the film is Step in Time, mostly because of the accompanying choreography from the chimney sweeps.

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My wife and I had the opportunity to see a local theater do the Broadway production of Mary Poppins, and I must say it was worth every penny we paid for it.  I wish I had watched the movie before seeing it live, as I’ve found I enjoy live productions of this and other films over the original film.  It was about an hour longer than the movie, and from what I understand was more true to the book.  It also went into further detail about George Banks’ childhood and how he became the man he was at the start of the film.  For any fan of the movie I’d highly recommend seeing it live.  It’s had a run on Broadway, and as of now is only in a handful of theaters across the country, however, it will be in far more live theaters next year to mark the 50th anniversary of the film.

Mary Poppins is a fun film that explores discipline and the balance of fun and responsibility.  It also promotes the importance of family and examining some of the more important things in life.  It does it in a way that’s entertaining, engaging, and full of memorable songs and dance routines.  It is one I’d recommend for all to see at least once, and it’s one I look forward to sharing for years to come.

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.

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