Mary Poppins is a 1964 American musical film produced by Walt Disney Productions, based on the Mary Poppins series of children's books written by P. L. Travers and illustrated by Mary Shepard. Songs in the film are by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman. It is rated G by the MPAA.
In 2018, the film was followed up with Mary Poppins Returns.
- 1 Plot
- 2 Production history
- 3 Songs
- 4 The Cat That Looked at a King
- 5 Characters
- 6 Remake?
- 7 Mary Poppins in popular culture
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 External links
Plot[edit | edit source]
|Spoiler warning: The following contains plot details about|
the entire movie.
The film opens with a shot of Mary Poppins touching up her makeup as she perches on a cloud high above 1910 London. The action then descends to earth where Bert, a cockney jack-of-all-trades, introduces the audience to the Bankses, a well-to-do but troubled family headed by the cold and aloof Mr. Banks and the loving but highly distracted Mrs. Banks. The Banks' latest nanny has just quit out of exasperation at the indiscipline of the Banks children, Jane and Michael, a fact that Mrs. Banks only belatedly becomes aware of, due to her ongoing preoccupation with suffragette rallies.
Upon learning of the situation, Mr. Banks decides to take a personal hand in the hiring of a replacement and insists on a stern authoritarian type to control his children. However, Jane and Michael take upon themselves to draft an advertisement for a fun person who would not be a tyrant. Although Mr. Banks rejects their proposal, tears up their ad and throws it in the fireplace, the note magically flies up the chimney.
The next day there is a long queue of old (and thoroughly disagreeable, in the children's opinion) nanny candidates waiting at the Banks' door. However, a strong gust of wind literally blows the queue away while Mary Poppins flies down with her umbrella to apply. The interview with Mr. Banks goes quickly, when he is stunned to see this calmly defiant new nanny has responded to the children's ad (rather than his own) despite the fact he destroyed it. As he tries to fathom this mystery, Mary Poppins hires herself and begins work.
The children face surprises of their own as they discover that Mary's method of arrival is only the beginning of her magical talents. With songs and magic, numerous wondrously impossible things happen starting with Mary Poppin's bottomless carpetbag, and her making the children's nursery clean itself to the tune of "A Spoonful of Sugar Helps the Medicine Go Down." The magic continues with a wondrous outing that begins by literally jumping into a chalk pavement drawing with Bert, and later having tea while suspended in midair with Mary's joking "Uncle Albert" who floats uncontrollably whenever he laughs.
Mr. Banks grows increasingly uncomfortable with his children's stories of their adventures and how they are enchanted by the new nanny. However, 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, the occasion takes a disastrous turn when Mr. Dawes, Mr. Banks' extremely elderly employer, personally tries to persuade Michael to invest his money, which Michael intended for a local birdwoman, to the point of stealing it out of the boy's hand. When Michael loudly protests, the other customers suddenly panic and start a run that forces the bank to suspend business. In the resulting chaos, the children flee in fear, wander into the slums of the East End of London and become lost. Fortunately, they literally run into Bert, currently employed as a chimney sweep. He takes them safely home while explaining that the incident at the bank does not mean their father hates them, but rather is a sign of the fact that he has preoccupying problems of his own.
Upon arrival at the Banks' home, a departing Mrs. Banks hires Bert to watch the children until she gets home, where he ends up sweeping the chimney while the children watch. Mary arrives back from her day off to caution the children about the hazards of that activity. However, the children are sucked up the chimney to the roof. Bert and Mary follow to retrieve them. Taking advantage of the situation, Mary and Bert lead a tour of the rooftops of London that concludes with a joyfully energetic dance with Bert's chimney-sweep colleagues as they demonstrate their acrobatic skill to the music of "Step In Time." A volley of fireworks from the Banks' eccentric neighbor, Admiral Boom, sends the gathering back down the chimney into the Banks home.
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 to face his superiors, 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 as a father he needs to be there for them while he can. A sombre and thoughtful Mr. Banks proceeds to the bank where he is fired in the most humiliating way possible for causing the first run on the bank since 1773, when another officer loaned money to the British East India Company for a shipment of tea that was later tossed into Boston Harbor during the Boston Tea Party. However, after being left at a loss for words when ordered to give a statement about his dismissal, Mr. Banks realizes the true priorities of life and gleefully uses Mary's all purpose word "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!" to tweak Mr Dawes. He then tells Dawes one of Uncle Albert's jokes, and raucously departs to the amazement of his ex-colleagues. Dawes mulls over the joke, finally "gets it" and floats up into the air, laughing...
The next morning, the winds have changed and to the children's sorrow, Mary must depart. However, Mr. Banks, now loving and joyful, reappears after a long night's disappearance with a mended kite for the children and an urge to play with his family. Mrs. Banks also realizes that she's been neglectful of her children, and 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 at the joke. Instead of mournful, the son is delighted his father died happy and rehires Mr. Banks to fill the sudden opening.
With her work done, Mary Poppins takes to the air with a farewell from Bert.
Production history[edit | edit source]
The first book was the main basis for the Walt Disney film Mary Poppins, a musical with mixed live action and animation released on August 29, 1964. The multiple Academy Award-winning film is considered by many critics to be the best of Disney's live-action musicals and it made a major film star of Julie Andrews, who was making her movie acting debut after a successful stage career. Andrews 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 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. However, 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, published by Aurum Press in the United Kingdom. The biography is the basis for two documentaries on Travers, The Real Mary Poppins and 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. Mary Poppins' character as portrayed by Andrews in the film is somewhat less vain and more sympathetic toward the children than the nanny in 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, one of the singing animals was voiced by Marni Nixon. Nixon would later play one of Julie Andrews' fellow nuns in The Sound Of Music; most notably, however, Nixon had also provided Audrey Hepburn's singing voice in My Fair Lady, a film that many critics felt should have starred Andrews.
Songs[edit | edit source]
- "Sister Suffragette" — Glynis Johns, Hermione Baddeley and Reta Shaw, with non-singing interruptions by Elsa Lanchester. Also briefly heard in an a capella rendition by Johns and a music-only version in the "Step in Time" sequence.
- "The Life I Lead" — David Tomlinson (later reprised with Julie Andrews)
- "The Perfect Nanny" — Karen Dotrice and Matthew Garber
- "A Spoonful of Sugar" — Julie Andrews (the 2004 DVD release reveals that Andrews also performed the bird's whistling during this number)
- "Jolly Holiday" — Dick Van Dyke and Julie Andrews, with Thurl Ravenscroft, Marni Nixon, Paul Frees and others
- "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" — Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke with J. Pat O'Malley and others
- "Stay Awake" — Julie Andrews
- "I Love to Laugh" — Dick Van Dyke, Julie Andrews and Ed Wynn
- "Feed the Birds (Tuppence a Bag)" — Julie Andrews (Walt Disney's favourite song from the score)
- "Fidelity Fiduciary Bank" — Dick Van Dyke, David Tomlinson and others
- "Chim Chim Cher-ee" — Performed several times with different lyrics by Dick Van Dyke; also performed by Van Dyke with Julie Andrews, Karen Dotrice, and Matthew Garber (won the Academy Award for Best Original Song)
- "Step in Time" — Dick Van Dyke
- "A Man Has Dreams" — David Tomlinson and Dick Van Dyke. This is a slower-paced rendition of "The Life I Lead" which incorporates a modified version of "A Spoonful of Sugar".
- "Let's Go Fly a Kite" — Glynis Johns, David Tomlinson, Dick Van Dyke and others.
- In 2004 "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" was ranked #36 in the American Film Institute's list of the 100 Greatest Songs in Movie History.
Deleted songs[edit | edit source]
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 Mrs. Winifred 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 soundtrack, and the bombastic theme is heard whenever Boom appears on screen. One line from this song ("The old 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[edit | edit source]
- 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 instead).
- 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.
The Cat That Looked at a King[edit | edit source]
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 Premier 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.
Characters[edit | edit source]
Listed in order of appearance.
Mary Poppins[edit | edit source]
Quoting herself when she reads her tape measure: "Practically perfect in every way". She comes down from the clouds in response to the Banks children's advertisement for a nanny. Her personality can be abrasive at times. She is also vain and acerbic, but she is not very sympathetic to the kids other than in the Disney movie adaptation. This is a contrast to the movie incarnation where she is portrayed as not only firm, but kind.
She was played by Julie Andrews. As a result, the role has caused her to suffer from immense typecasting; she has portrayed a benevolent caretaker of children in several films, including The Sound of Music, the movie version of Eloise in which she played "Nanny," and The Princess Diaries films.
Bert[edit | edit source]
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. Bert has four jobs during the movie: a chimneysweep, a one-man band, a sidewalk chalk artist, and a kite seller. Bert also hints at selling hot chestnuts.
Mrs. Banks[edit | edit source]
Mrs. Winifred Banks is the wife of George Banks and 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; a scatterbrained woman who 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". The part was played by Glynis Johns.
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.
Mr. Banks[edit | edit source]
George Banks is Mary Poppins' employer. He works at the 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 very cross man who hates the women's suffrage movement but later on in the movie his attitude changes. 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. He was played by David Tomlinson.
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".
The Banks' children[edit | edit source]
Minor characters[edit | edit source]
- Ellen, the maid (Hermione Baddeley)
- Mrs. Brill, the cook (Reta Shaw)
- Admiral Boom, the Banks's neighbor (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 director of the bank where Mr. Banks works (Dick Van Dyke)
- Mr. Dawes Jr., the director's son and member of the board (Arthur Malet)
- Uncle Albert (Ed Wynn)
- The bird woman (Jane Darwell)
Remake?[edit | edit source]
When the stage version came out Steven Spielberg was very open about being a fan of it, leading many people to believe he was going to do a remake of the movie. Many actresses contacted both Disney and Spielberg's office about playing the leading lady. It's reported that Will Ferrell and Jim Carrey contacted both Disney and Spielberg's office about playing Bert. Early in 2006, Steven Spielberg's office made a statement that he doesn't have any intentions on remaking it. "No way would Steven Spielberg ever remake a classic -- Especially a Walt Disney classic." 
Mary Poppins in popular culture[edit | edit source]
- The Simpsons episode "Simpsoncalifragilisticexpiala(Annoyed Grunt)cious" heavily parodies the movie:
- Sharry Bobbins is startlingly similar to Mary Poppins; however, she insists she isn't Mary Poppins (although she is an ex-fiancée of Groundskeeper Willie).
- Groundskeeper Willie is a one man band, like Bert is at the start of the movie.
- The song "Cut Every Corner" parodies "Spoonful of Sugar".
- The song "We Love to Smoke" parodies "I Love to Laugh". (This scene was deleted, but is shown on the eighth season DVD.)
- The song "A Boozehound Named Barney" parodies "Feed the Birds".
- At the end of the episode, Sharry Bobbins flies away with her umbrella, and is sucked into an airplane engine.
- The phrase "annoyed grunt" in the title of the episode is the scriptwriters' way of referencing Homer Simpson's famous expression of frustration, D'oh!, as well as the famous song from the movie.
- In the later Simpsons episode The Regina Monologues the family travels to London where an establishing shot of the city reveals the skies to be thick with umbrella-wielding flying nannies.
- 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).
- 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."
- "Chimmy Chonga" is a parody of "Chim Chim Cher-ee."
- "Immigration-and-naturalization-service" is a parody of "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious."
See also[edit | edit source]