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, based on P. L. Travers's book series Mary Poppins. The film, which combines live-action and animation, stars Julie Andrews in her feature film debut as 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.
|Directed by||Robert Stevenson|
|Based on||Mary Poppins|
by P. L. Travers
|Produced by||Walt Disney|
|Edited by||Cotton Warburton|
|Music by||Richard M. Sherman|
Robert B. Sherman
|Distributed by||Buena Vista Distribution Company, Inc.|
|Box office||$103.1 million|
Mary Poppins was released on August 27, 1964, to critical acclaim and commercial success. It became the highest-grossing film of 1964 and, at the time of its release, was Disney's highest-grossing film ever. It received a total of 13 Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture – a record for any 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". Mary Poppins is considered Walt Disney's crowning live-action achievement and is the only one of his films which earned a Best Picture nomination during his lifetime. 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".
In Edwardian-era London, in the spring of 1910, a street-performer Bert leads the audience to number 17 Cherry Tree Lane, where Winifred Banks returns home after a rally (Sister Suffragette) and learns from the cook and maid that the babysitter, Katie Nanna, has left their service after their children, Jane and Michael, had run away "for the fourth time this week". She then has to tell her husband, George, a strict and driven bank worker ("The Life I Lead"). They are returned home shortly after by Constable Jones, who reveals they were chasing after a lost kite. The children ask George to help them build a better kite, but he dismisses them. Taking it upon himself to hire a new nanny, Mr. Banks advertises for a stern, no-nonsense nanny. In contrast, Jane and Michael present their own advertisement for a kinder, sweeter nanny ("The Perfect Nanny"). Winifred, who strongly agrees with the children, tries to keep the peace. After ordering Jane and Michael to go to bed, Mr. Banks rips up the letter and throws the scraps in the fireplace, but a strong wind draws the fragments up through the chimney and into the air.
The next day, a number of elderly, sour-faced nannies wait outside the Banks' home for Ellen to show them all in, but a strong gust of wind blows them away. Jane and Michael then witness a young magical nanny descending from the sky using her umbrella. After landing at 17 Cherry Tree Lane, she marched inside, and presents herself to Mr. Banks, Mary Poppins calmly produces the children's restored advertisement and agrees with its requests but promises the astonished banker that she will be firm with his children. As Mr. Banks puzzles over the advertisement's return, Mary Poppins hires herself, and she convinces him it was originally his idea. She meets the children and helps them magically tidy their nursery by snapping her fingers, before heading out for a walk in the park ("Spoonful of Sugar").
Outside, they meet Mary's friend Bert, a jack of all trades working as a street painter; Mary Poppins uses her magic to transport the group into one of his drawings. While the children ride on a carousel, Mary Poppins and Bert go on a leisurely stroll. Together, they sing ("Jolly Holiday"), and Bert flirts with Mary Poppins. After they meet up with the children, Mary Poppins enchants the carousel horses; Bert rescues a fox from a fox hunt; they take part in a horse race, which Mary wins. Describing her victory, Mary Poppins uses a nonsense word ("Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious"). The outing is ended when a thunderstorm dissolves Bert's drawings, returning the group to London; upon their return home, Mary forces the children to take medicine to avoid getting sick and puts them into bed, but when Jane and Michael become too excited to go to sleep, Mary calmly sings a lullaby to them to help them go to sleep ("Stay Awake").
The next day, the three, along with Bert, meet Mary Poppins' odd Uncle Albert, who has floated up in the air due to his uncontrollable laughter. They join him for a tea party on the ceiling with lots of jokes ("I Love to Laugh"), only to later result in Albert and Bert sobbing uncontrollably as Mary leaves with Jane and Michael.
Afterward, Mr. Banks becomes annoyed by the household's cheery atmosphere and threatens to fire Mary Poppins, but she persuades him to take the children to his workplace the next day. That evening, Mary sings to the children a hymn-like lullaby about the woman who sits on the steps of the St. Paul's Cathedral selling bird food ("Feed The Birds").
The next day at the bank, the children meet the elderly Mr. Dawes Sr., who aggressively urges Michael to invest his tuppence in the bank, ultimately snatching the coin from Michael ("Fidelity Fiduciary Bank"). Michael demands his coin back; other customers overhear the conflict, and they all begin demanding their own money back, causing a bank run.
Jane and Michael flee the bank, getting lost in the East End of London until they meet up with Bert again, now working as a chimney sweep, who escorts them home ("Chim Chim Cheree"). The three and Mary Poppins venture onto the rooftops, where they have a song-and-dance number with other chimney sweeps, which spills out into the Banks' home ("Step in Time") after their neighbor Admiral Boom mistakes them for robbers and launches fireworks at them from a cannon. Mr. and Mrs. Banks return home to find Bert's friends dancing in their home, and Mr. Banks sends them away. Mr. Banks then gets a phone call from the bank requesting a meeting with him about what the children did. The children overhear the phone call and realize that their father is in trouble. Bert tells Mr. Banks that he needs to spend more time with his children before they grow up ("A Man Has Dreams"). Michael gives George the tuppence, hoping to make amends.
Mr. Banks walks through London to the bank, where he is given a humiliating cashiering and is dismissed. Looking to the tuppence for words, he blurts out "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious", tells Uncle Albert's "Wooden leg named Smith" joke the children told, and happily heads home. Mr. Dawes Sr. mulls over the joke and, finally understanding it, floats up into the air, laughing.
The next day, the wind changes, meaning Mary Poppins must leave. A happier Mr. Banks is found at home, having fixed his children's kite, and takes the family out to fly it. In the park, the Banks family meets Mr. Dawes Sr.'s son, Mr. Dawes Jr., who reveals his father died laughing from the joke ("Let's Go Fly a Kite"). Mr. Dawes Jr. says he had never seen his father happier in his life and re-employs Mr. Banks as a junior partner.
Mary Poppins watches the family with her umbrella. It comments on how she really feels about the children, but she firmly stops him talking, stating that they should love their father more than her. With her work done, Mary then opens her umbrella, and it carries her away on the wind. Bert notices her umbrella carrying her away, smiles, and tells Mary Poppins not to stay away too long. Clutching her opened umbrella and holding her carpet bag, Mary Poppins flies away in the distance.
Live-action cast Edit
- Julie Andrews as Mary Poppins, a magical and loving woman who descends from the clouds in response to the Banks children's advertisement for a nanny. She is firm in her use of authority but gentle and kind as well, a major departure from the original books, in which the character was more stern and pompous.
- Dick Van Dyke as Bert, a cockney jack-of-all-trades and Mary Poppins' 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.
- 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 strict 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" suffrage 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.
- Reta Shaw as Mrs. Brill, the cook of the Banks residence.
- Karen Dotrice as Jane Banks, daughter of Mr and Mrs Banks and Michael's older sister.
- Matthew Garber as Michael Banks, son of Mr and Mrs Banks and Jane's younger brother.
- 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.
- Don Barclay as Mr. Binnacle, Admiral Boom's first mate.
- Ed Wynn as Uncle Albert, a jolly gentleman who suffers from an unknown condition where he floats in the air due to his uncontrollable laughter. Although he likes having company over, he gets very sad and cries when his guests have to leave and he falls back to the ground, since it is the inversion of laughing.
- 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 Persimmon
- James 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 very tall 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)
Voice cast Edit
- 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
- Jimmy MacDonald as animals
- 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
- Richard M. Sherman as Penguin Waiter, Male Pearly
- Robert B. Sherman as Pearly Banjo Player
- David Tomlinson as Penguin Waiter, Jockey, Race Track Stewards, Mary Poppins' Parrot Umbrella
- Ginny Tyler as the Lambs
- Martha Wentworth as Cockney Cow
The first novel in the Mary Poppins 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. However, Travers refused; she did not believe a film version of her books would do justice to her creation.
In addition, Disney was then known 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, which included making visits to Travers' home in Chelsea, London. He finally succeeded in 1961 although Travers demanded and obtained 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, even being billed as the film's Consultant. However, she disapproved of the dilution of the harsher aspects of Mary Poppins' character, felt ambivalent about the music, and hated the use of animation so much that she ruled out any further adaptations of the later Mary Poppins novels. She objected to a number of elements that 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. However, due to contract stipulations citing that he had final cut privilege on the finished print, Disney overruled her.
Much of the Travers–Disney correspondence is part of the Travers collection of papers in the State 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 Disney film Saving Mr. Banks.
Julie Harris, Angela Lansbury and Bette Davis were considered for the role of Mary and Cary Grant was Walt's favorite choice for the role of Bert, Laurence Harvey and Anthony Newley were also considered for Bert.
Julie Andrews, who was making her feature film acting debut after a successful stage career, was given 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 that 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. Disney considered the actor Stanley Holloway for the role of Admiral Boom, during the pre-production stage, but the role went to Reginald Owen instead due to Holloway's commitment to My Fair Lady.
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 later provided the singing voice for Hepburn in My Fair Lady and played 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 also won the Oscar 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 main 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 in second. Van Dyke claims that his accent coach was the English (of Irish extraction) J. Pat O'Malley, who "didn't do an accent any better than I did". In 2017, Van Dyke was selected to receive an award for television excellence from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA), at which time he said "I appreciate this opportunity to apologise to the members of BAFTA for inflicting on them the most atrocious cockney accent in the history of cinema." A chief executive of BAFTA responded, "We look forward to his acceptance speech in whatever accent he chooses on the night. We have no doubt it will be 'supercalifragilisticexpialidocious'."
The scene in which Mary Poppins and Bert interact with a group of animated penguins is noted for its use of the sodium vapor process. Rather than using the more common bluescreen process to insert the actors into the animated footage, the actors were filmed against a white screen lit with sodium vapor lights, which have a yellow hue. A special camera was fitted with a prism that filtered this light to a separate reel of film, creating a highly accurate matte that could be used to isolate the actors from the background. This created a crisp, clean image and even allowed the partially transparent veil of Mary Poppins's costume to let through light from the background. The film was awarded the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects in 1965 for this effect.
Peter Menefee, one of the twelve dancing chimney sweeps supporting Bert, provided some insight into the choreography of the film:
The choreography wasn't really done until we got there and they mounted it on us. On the first day of filming, the first thing we shot is the very last thing you see – where we're all dancing down the street at the end. That was hard because, although we had worked for almost a month and a half with the brooms and everything, we'd been working on a plywood floor. And all of a sudden, we get out and we're on a cobblestone street and there's supposed to be four of us tumbling right next to each other, and you put the broom down. Even if it had a rubber point, you'd be all over the place. That was really hard.
The film's music features music and lyrics by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman. The Shermans took inspiration from Edwardian British music hall music. Irwin Kostal arranged and conducted the film's score. Buena Vista Records released the original motion picture soundtrack in 1964 on LP and reel-to-reel tape.
Mary Poppins premiered on August 27, 1964, at Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles. The film's poster was painted by artist Paul Wenzel. 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.
Home media Edit
Mary Poppins was first released in late 1980 on VHS, Betamax, CED and LaserDisc. On October 4, 1988, it was re-released as part of Walt Disney Home Video. On October 28, 1994, August 26, 1997, and March 31, 1998, it was re-released three times as part of the Walt Disney Masterpiece Collection. In 1998, this film became Disney's first feature film released on 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), though the DVD also included the original soundtrack as an audio option.
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.
Critical reception Edit
The film received universal acclaim from film critics. Whitney Williams of 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." Bosley Crowther, reviewing for The New York Times, described the film as a "most wonderful, cheering movie". Furthermore, in his review, he remarked that "For the visual and aural felicities they have added to this sparkling color film—the enchantments of a beautiful production, some deliciously animated sequences, some exciting and nimble dancing and a spinning musical score—make it the nicest entertainment that has opened at the Music Hall this year."
For The Hollywood Reporter, James Powers applauded the performances, visual effects, musical score, production design, and the choreography. Ultimately, he felt that "Mary Poppins is a picture that is, more than most, a triumph of many individual contributions. And its special triumph is that it seems to be the work of a single, cohesive intelligence." Ann Guerin of Life criticized the creative departures from the novels, particularly the "Jolly Holiday" sequence. She noted that "Some of the sequences have real charm, and perhaps the kids will eat them up. But speaking as a grownup, I found a little bit went a long way." She concluded that "With a little more restraint and a little less improvement on the original, the film's many charms would have been that much better."
On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the films holds a 96% rating, based on 55 reviews with an average rating of 8.4/10. The site's consensus reads, "A lavish modern fairy tale celebrated for its amazing special effects, catchy songs, and Julie Andrews's legendary performance in the title role." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 88 out of 100 based on 13 critics, indicating "universal acclaim". 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.
Box office Edit
The film earned $31 million in theatrical rentals in the United States and Canada during its initial run. It was one of the top 12 grossing films in the United States for 32 weeks. The film was re-released theatrically in 1973, in honor of Walt Disney Productions' 50th anniversary, and earned an estimated additional $9 million in rentals in the United States and Canada. It was released once more in 1980 and grossed $14 million. It returned a total lifetime rental of $45 million to Disney from a gross of over $102 million from its North American theatrical releases.
The film was the twentieth most popular sound film of the twentieth century in the UK with admissions of 14 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.
The newly constructed Walt Disney World Monorail System benefited from the film because of the profits the movie generated. Some profits from this movie were taken to help fund the Disney World Monorail system. Disney's monorail system pays homage to this film by naming the MAPO (MAry POppins) safety system included on all Disney monorails. Also, all Walt Disney World Railroad steam locomotives are fitted with a boiler safety device marked "MAPO."
Never at ease with the handling of her property by Disney or the way she felt she had been treated, Travers never agreed 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 conditions that he use only English-born writers and that no one from the film production be directly involved.
American Film Institute Edit
- AFI's 100 Years ... 100 Songs:
- AFI's 100 Years of Musicals – #6
On December 19, 2018, Walt Disney Pictures released the film Mary Poppins Returns. The film takes place 25 years after the original, Mary Poppins, and features a standalone narrative based on the remaining seven books in the series. Rob Marshall directed, while John DeLuca and Marc Platt served as producers, with Emily Blunt starring as Poppins, co-starring Broadway actor Lin-Manuel Miranda. Dick Van Dyke returned to portray Mr. Dawes Jr. Karen Dotrice also appeared in a cameo role.
In popular culture Edit
- The film 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".
- In Season 3 Episode 4 of The Dick Van Dyke Show, Buddy Sorrell (Morey Amsterdam) is brainstorming about ideas for The Alan Brady Show and says, "how about if Alan comes out as a cockney chimney sweep but he is getting so fat he can't get down the chimney." Since the episode's air date (October 16, 1963) was after Mary Poppins finished filming (in September 1963) but before the film premiered (in 1964), this was both a wink to those behind the scenes who knew Mary Poppins was on the way and a nod to the character Dick Van Dyke plays in the movie.
- The penguin waiters and a silhouette of Mary Poppins appeared in Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
See also Edit
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