Mary Poppins (film)
Original Mary Poppins Poster
|Directed by||Robert Stevenson|
|Based on||Mary Poppins
by P. L. Travers
|Edited by||Cotton Warburton|
|Distributed by||Buena Vista Distribution|
|Box office||$102.3 million|
Mary Poppins is a 1964 American musical-fantasy film directed by Robert Stevenson and produced by Walt Disney, with songs written and composed by the Sherman Brothers. The screenplay is by Bill Walsh and Don DaGradi, loosely based on P. L. Travers' book series Mary Poppins. The film, which combines live-action and animation, stars Julie Andrews in the role of Mary Poppins who visits a dysfunctional family in London and employs her unique brand of lifestyle to improve the family's dynamic. Dick Van Dyke, David Tomlinson, and Glynis Johns are featured in supporting roles. The film was shot entirely at the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California using painted London background scenes.
Mary Poppins was released on August 27, 1964, to universal acclaim, receiving a total of thirteen Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture – an unsurpassed record for any other film released by Walt Disney Studios – and won five; Best Actress for Andrews, Best Film Editing, Best Original Music Score, Best Visual Effects, and Best Original Song for "Chim Chim Cher-ee". In 2013, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". Mary Poppins is widely considered to be Walt Disney's "crowning achievement", being his only film to garner a Best Picture nomination at the Oscars in his lifetime.
In Edwardian London, 1910, Bert entertains a crowd when he senses a change in the wind. Afterwards, he directly addresses the audience and gives them a tour of Cherry Tree Lane, stopping outside the home of the Banks family. George Banks returns home from his job to learn from Winifred that Katie Nanna has left their service after Jane and Michael ran away "again". They are returned shortly after by the local constable, who reveals the children were chasing a lost kite. Jane and Michael ask their father to help build a better kite, but he dismisses them. Taking it upon himself to hire a nanny, George advertises for a stern, no-nonsense nanny. Instead, Jane and Michael present their own advertisement for a kinder, sweeter nanny, but once George rips up the letter and throws the scraps in the fireplace, the remains of the advertisement magically float up and out into the air.
The next day, a queue of elderly, sour-faced nannies appear outside. However, a strong gust of wind blows the nannies away, and Jane and Michael witness a young nanny descend from the sky using her umbrella. Presenting herself to George, Mary Poppins calmly produces the children’s now restored advertisement and agrees with its requests, but promises the astonished banker she will be firm with his children. As George puzzles over the return of the advertisement, Mary is forced to hire herself and meets the children, then helps them to tidy their nursery through song, before heading out for a walk in the park.
Outside, they meet Bert who now works as a screever; Mary uses her magic to transport the group into one of the drawings. While the children ride on a nearby carousel, Mary Poppins and Bert go on a leisurely stroll and are served tea by a quartet of penguin waiters. Mary enchants the carousel horses and participates in a horse race which she wins. While being asked to describe her victory, Mary announces the nonsense word "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious". However, the outing is ruined when a thunderstorm demolishes Bert's drawings, returning the group back to London.
On another outing, the four meet Uncle Albert, who has floated up in the air due to his uncontrollable laughter; they join him for a tea party on the ceiling, telling jokes.
George becomes increasingly annoyed by the cheery atmosphere of his family and threatens to fire Mary. Instead, Mary inverts his attempt by convincing him to take the children to the bank for a day. George takes Jane and Michael to the bank, where they meet Mr. Dawes Sr. and his son. Mr. Dawes aggressively attempts to have Michael invest his tuppence in the bank, snatching the money from him. Michael demands it back, causing other customers to misinterpret and all demand their own money back, causing a bank run.
Jane and Michael flee the bank, getting lost in the East End until they run into Bert, who is now a chimney sweep, then escorts the children home. The three and Mary venture onto the rooftops, where they have a song-and-dance number with other chimney sweeps until George returns home, receives a phone call from his employers and speaks with Bert who tells him he should spend more time with his children before they grow up. Jane and Michael give their father Michael’s tuppence in the hope to make amends.
George walks through London to the bank, where he is given a humiliating cashiering and is dismissed. Looking to the tuppence for words, he raucously blurts out "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!", tells one of Uncle Albert's jokes, and happily heads home. Dawes mulls over the joke, but finally "gets" it, and floats up into the air, laughing.
The next day, the wind changes, which means Mary must leave. A happier George is found at home, having fixed his children’s kite, and takes the family out to fly it. In the park, the Banks meet Mr. Dawes Jr, who reveals his father died happily laughing from the joke and re-employs George as a junior partner. With her work done, Mary flies away, with Bert bidding her farewell, telling her not to stay away too long as the film ends.
- Julie Andrews as Mary Poppins, a magical and loving woman who descends 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 gentle and kind as well, a major departure from the original books, in which the character was strict and pompous.
- Dick Van Dyke as Bert, a cockney jack-of-all-trades and Mary Poppins's closest friend, who is completely accustomed to her magic. Their playful interactions imply that they have known each other for a long time and that this kind of story has repeated itself many times. Bert has at least four jobs throughout the film: a one-man band, a pavement chalk artist, a chimney sweep, and a kite seller.
- Dick Van Dyke also portrays Mr. Dawes Sr., the old director of the bank where Mr. Banks works. During the film's end titles, "Navckid Keyd", an anagram of Dick Van Dyke, is first credited as playing the role before the letters unscramble to reveal Van Dyke's name.
- David Tomlinson as George Banks, Mary Poppins' employer and father of Jane and Michael. He works at the Dawes Tomes Mousley Grubbs Fidelity Fiduciary Bank in London. He is a driven and disciplined man.
- Glynis Johns as Winifred Banks, the easily distracted wife of George Banks and the mother of Jane and Michael. She is depicted as a member of Emmeline Pankhurst's "Votes for Women" suffragette movement. Mrs. Banks was originally named Cynthia, but this was changed to the more English-sounding Winifred per Travers.
- Hermione Baddeley as Ellen, the maid of the Banks residence.
- Karen Dotrice as Jane Banks.
- Matthew Garber as Michael Banks.
- Elsa Lanchester as Katie Nanna, the disgruntled nanny who quits the Banks family.
- Arthur Treacher as Constable Jones, a police officer.
- Reginald Owen as Admiral Boom, the Banks' eccentric neighbor and a naval officer. He has his first mate, Mr. Binnacle, fire a cannon from his roof every 8 a.m. and 6 p.m.
- Ed Wynn as Uncle Albert, a jolly gentleman who suffers from an unknown condition where he floats in the air during fits of uncontrollable laughter. Although he likes having company over, he becomes very sad and cries when his guests have to leave (he falls back to the ground, since it is the inversion of laughing).
- Reta Shaw as Mrs. Brill, the cook of the Banks residence.
- Don Barclay as Mr. Binnacle, Admiral Boom's first mate.
- Marjorie Bennett as Miss Lark, owner of the dog named Andrew, who frequently runs away.
- Arthur Malet as Mr. Dawes Jr., the director's son and member of the board.
- Jane Darwell as the "Bird Woman," an old woman who sells breadcrumbs for the pigeons on the steps of St Paul's Cathedral.
- Marjorie Eaton as Miss Maya Persimmon.
- Jimmy Logan as a doorman who chases after the children in the bank.
- Alma Lawton as Mrs. Corry, an old shopkeeper of a gingerbread shop and mother of two daughters.
- Betty Lou Gerson as Old Crone (uncredited)
- Kay E. Kuter as Man in Bank (uncredited)
- Doris Lloyd as Depositor (uncredited)
- Queenie Leonard as Depositor (uncredited)
- Julie Andrews as Robin, Female Pearly
- Marc Breaux as Cow
- Daws Butler as Penguin Waiter, Turtles
- Peter Ellenshaw as Penguin Waiter
- Paul Frees as Barnyard Horse
- Bill Lee as Ram
- Sean McClory as Bloodhound, Reporter #4
- Dallas McKennon as Fox, Bloodhound, Penguin Waiter, Horse, Carousel Guard
- Alan Napier as Huntsman, Reporter #3, Bloodhound
- Marni Nixon as Geese
- J. Pat O'Malley as Bloodhound, Hunting Horse, Master of Hounds, Pearly Drummer, Penguin Waiter, Photographer, Reporter #2
- George Pelling as Bloodhound, Reporter #1
- Thurl Ravenscroft as Hog, Andrew's Whimper
- Richard M. Sherman as Penguin Waiter, Male Pearly
- Robert B. Sherman as the "Bird Woman," Pearly Banjo Player
- David Tomlinson as Penguin Waiter, Jockey, Race Track Stewards, Mr. Binnacle, Mary Poppins' Parrot Umbrella
- Ginny Tyler as Lambs
The first book in the Mary Poppins book series was the film's main basis. According to the 40th Anniversary DVD release of the film in 2004, Disney's daughters fell in love with the Mary Poppins books and made him promise to make a film based on them. 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 film. He finally succeeded in 1961, although Travers demanded and got script approval rights. The Sherman Brothers composed the music score and were also involved in the film's development, suggesting the setting be changed from the 1930s to the Edwardian era. Pre-production and song composition took about two years.
Travers was an adviser to the production. However, she disapproved of the dilution of the harsher aspects of Mary Poppins' character, felt ambivalent about the music, and so hated the use of animation that she ruled out any further adaptations of the later Mary Poppins novels. She objected to a number of elements that actually made it into the film. Rather than original songs, she wanted the soundtrack to feature known standards of the Edwardian period in which the story is 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 the Travers-Disney 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. Their relationship during the development of the film was also dramatized in the 2013 film, Saving Mr. Banks.
Julie Andrews, who was making her feature film acting debut after a successful stage career, got the prime role of Mary Poppins soon after she was passed over by Jack L. Warner and replaced with Audrey Hepburn for the role of Eliza Doolittle in his screen adaptation of My Fair Lady, even though Andrews had originated the role on Broadway. When Disney first approached Andrews about taking on the role, Andrews was three months pregnant and therefore was not sure she should take it. Disney assured her that the crew would be fine with waiting to begin filming until after she had given birth so that she could play the part. Julie Andrews also provided the voice in two other sections of the film: during "A Spoonful of Sugar," she provided the whistling harmony for the robin, and she was also one of the Pearly singers during "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious." David Tomlinson, besides playing Mr. Banks, provided the voice of Mary's talking umbrella and numerous other voice-over parts (including that of Admiral Boom's first mate). During the "Jolly Holiday" sequence, the three singing Cockney geese were all voiced by Marni Nixon, a regular aural substitute for actresses with substandard singing voices. Nixon would later provide the singing voice for Hepburn in My Fair Lady and play one of Andrews' fellow nuns in The Sound of Music. Andrews later beat Hepburn for the Best Actress Award at the Golden Globes for their respective roles. Andrews would also win the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role. Hepburn did not receive a nomination. Richard Sherman, one of the songwriters, also voiced a penguin as well as one of the Pearlies. Robert Sherman dubbed the speaking voice for Jane Darwell because Darwell's voice was too weak to be heard in the soundtrack. Sherman's voice is heard saying the only line: "Feed the Birds, Tuppence a bag."
Disney cast Dick Van Dyke in the key supporting role of Bert after seeing his work on The Dick Van Dyke Show. After winning the role of Bert, Van Dyke lobbied to also play the senior Mr. Dawes, but Disney originally felt he was too young for the part. Van Dyke eventually won Disney over after a screen test. Although he is fondly remembered for this film, Van Dyke's attempt at a Cockney accent is regarded as one of the worst film accents in history, cited as an example by actors since as something that they wish to avoid. In a 2003 poll by Empire magazine of the worst film accents of all time, he came second. Van Dyke claims that his accent coach was the Irish J. Pat O'Malley, who "didn't do an accent any better than I did".
The film changed the book's storyline in a number of places. For example, Mary, when approaching the house, controlled the wind rather than the other way around. As another example, the father, rather than the mother, interviewed Mary for the nanny position. A number of other changes were necessary to condense the story into feature length. In the film, there are only two Banks children, Jane and Michael. The satirical and mysterious aspects of the original book gave way to a cheerful and "Disney-fied" tone. Mary Poppins' character as portrayed by Andrews in the film is somewhat less vain and more sympathetic towards the children compared to 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, however, did remain in the finished film.
Buena Vista Records released the original motion picture soundtrack on LP and reel-to-reel tape. Due to time constraints, some songs were edited (such as "Step in Time" and "Jolly Holiday", "A Spoonful of Sugar"), while songs also featured introductory passages ("Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious") or completed endings ("Sister Suffragette", "Fidelity Fiduciary Bank", "A Man Has Dreams"). Written by Richard and Robert Sherman, the songs were inspired by Edwardian British music hall music. The score won two Grammy Awards and two Academy Awards.
Walt Disney Records re-issued the soundtrack in 1997, including a 16-minute track of unreleased songs and demo versions. In 2004, as part of the 40th Anniversary (also called Special Edition), a 28-track disc (as part of a two-disc set) was released. In 2014 (the 50th anniversary of the film's release), the soundtrack was released in a 3-CD edition as part of the Walt Disney Records The Legacy Collection series; this edition includes demos of many "lost" tracks.
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 Cher-ee" 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 re-creation 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 Mrs. Banks). A different song with the same name was written for the stage musical.
- "The Eyes of Love", a romantic ballad intended for Bert and Mary, but according to Richard Sherman, Andrews suggested privately to Disney that this song was unsuitable. In response, "A Spoonful of Sugar" was written.
- "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 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 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 Cher-ee" 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 Cher-ee" in that sequence, just before the other chimney sweeps appear for the "Step in Time" number).
- The robin Mary Poppins whistles within "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.
Mary Poppins premiered on August 27, 1964, at Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles. Travers was not extended an invitation to the event, but managed to obtain one from a Disney executive. It was at the after-party that Richard Sherman recalled her walking up to Disney and loudly announcing that the animated sequence had to go. Disney responded, "Pamela, the ship has sailed," and walked away. The film grossed between $31–33 million during its initial run. The film was re-released theatrically in 1973, in honor of Walt Disney Productions' 50th anniversary, and earned an estimated $9 million in North American rentals. It was released once more in 1980 and earned another $14 million, and achieved a total lifetime gross of over $102 million. The film was very profitable for Disney. Made on an estimated budget of $4.4–6 million, it was reported by Cobbett Steinberg to be the most profitable film of 1965, earning a net profit of $28.5 million. Walt Disney used his huge profits from the film to purchase land in central Florida and finance the construction of Walt Disney World.
Mary Poppins was first released in late 1980 on VHS, Betamax, CED and laserdisc. In 1994, 1997 and 1998, it was re-released three times as part of the Walt Disney Masterpiece Collection. In 1998, this film became Disney's first DVD. On July 4, 2000, it was released on VHS and DVD as part of the Gold Classic Collection. On December 14, 2004, it had a 2-Disc DVD release in a Digitally Restored 40th Anniversary Edition as well as its final issue in the VHS Format. The film's audio track featured an "Enhanced Home Theater Mix" consisting of replaced sound effects (to make the soundtrack more "modern") and improved fidelity and mixing and some enhanced music (this version was also shown on 2006–2012 ABC Family airings of the movie.) On January 27, 2009, the film was released on DVD again as a 45th anniversary edition, with more language tracks and special features (though the film's "Enhanced Home Theater Mix" was not included.) Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment released the film on Blu-ray as the 50th Anniversary Edition on December 10, 2013.
The film received universal acclaim from film critics. Film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 100% of critics gave the film a "fresh" rating, based on 44 reviews with an average score of 8.3/10. The site's consensus refers to it as "A lavish modern fairy tale celebrated for its amazing special effects, catchy songs, and Julie Andrews's legendary performance in the title role."
Variety praised the film's musical sequences and the performances of Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke, in particular. Time lauded the film, stating, "The sets are luxuriant, the songs lilting, the scenario witty but impeccably sentimental, and the supporting cast only a pinfeather short of perfection."
Critic Drew Casper summarized the impact of Mary Poppins in 2011:
Disney was the leader, his musical fantasies mixing animation and truly marvelous f/x with real-life action for children and the child in the adult. Mary Poppins (1964) was his plum. ... the story was elemental, even trite. But utmost sophistication (the chimney pot sequence crisply cut by Oscared "Cotton" Warburton) and high-level invention (a tea party on the ceiling, a staircase of black smoke to the city's top) characterized its handling.
Mary Poppins is widely considered to be one of the greatest films of all time and Walt Disney's "crowning achievement". It was the only film of Disney's to garner a "Best Picture" nomination at the Oscars in his lifetime.
The film also inspired the eighth-season episode of The Simpsons entitled "Simpsoncalifragilisticexpiala(Annoyed Grunt)cious", featuring a parody of Mary called "Shary Bobbins" who helps out the Simpson family after Marge loses her hair due to stress, and spoofs of the songs "The Perfect Nanny", "A Spoonful of Sugar", "Feed The Birds" and "The Life I Lead".
Never at ease with the handling of her property by Disney or the way she felt she had been treated, Travers would never again agree to another Poppins/Disney adaptation. So fervent was Travers' dislike of the Disney adaptation and of the way she felt she had been treated during the production, that when producer Cameron Mackintosh approached her about the stage musical in the 1990s, she acquiesced on the condition that only English-born writers and no one from the film production were to be directly involved with creating the stage musical.
- American Film Institute
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs:
- AFI's 100 Years of Musicals - #6
On September 14, 2015, it was reported that a new film was in development by Walt Disney Pictures. The film will take place 20 years after the first, featuring a standalone narrative based on the remaining seven books in the series. Rob Marshall has been hired to direct, while John DeLuca and Marc Platt will serve as producers.
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