One of Disney’s most delightful tales, Mary Poppins featured the best integration to date of cartoon and live-action film.
Based on the P.L. Travers books, the movie opens in Edwardian London, at 17 Cherry Tree Lane – the home of stuffy banker George Banks (David Tomlinson), his suffragette wife Winifred (Glynis Johns), and precocious children Jane (Karen Dotrice) and Michael (Matthew Garber).
The impossible tykes have frightened off the latest in a string of nannies – the sixth in four months – forcing Mr Banks to take out an advertisement for a new one.
Jane and Michael have a few criteria of their own (rosy cheeks, no warts, and so on), but their father – in a furious temper – rips up their childish list of qualifications and throws it in the fireplace.
A strong wind carries the torn-up list to the cloudy home of Mary Poppins (Julie Andrews in her big screen debut), who blows away the competition (literally) and floats down to the Banks’ doorstep via her magical umbrella.
The perfectly prim nanny – who describes herself as “practically perfect” – charms her way into the Banks household, where the magical adventures really begin.
Among the memorable episodes are a trip into a chalk drawing with chimney sweep and jack-of-all-trades Bert (Dick Van Dyke with the worst cod-Cockney accent ever captured on celluloid), a tea party on the ceiling with Uncle Albert (Ed Wynn), and a rooftop dance number featuring the assembled chimney sweeps of London.
Through it all, George Banks attempts to retain a reserved control, finally reaching his breaking point when Jane and Michael make a disastrous outing to the Dawes, Tomes, Mousely, Grubbs Fidelity Fiduciary Bank.
Julie Andrews was superb as Mary Poppins – a role that won her a Best Actress Academy Award – and many regard Mary Poppins as Walt Disney’s crowning achievement.
The film was nominated for a total of thirteen Oscars, also winning for its Original Musical Score, Editing, Visual Effects and for the song Chim-Chim-Cher-ee. Composer brothers Richard M. and Robert B. Sherman wrote the show’s unforgettable tunes – Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, A Spoonful of Sugar, Let’s Go Fly a Kite and more.
London was probably never ever like this – but it doesn’t hurt to dream.
Despite its reputation and success, P.L. Travers resisted the advances of the Walt Disney Corporation for more than 20 years after it first approached her with the proposition of adapting her much-loved children’s book for the big screen. She eventually capitulated on the provision of script approval. After seeing the finished film, she produced a list of changes she wanted the studio to make.
Matthew Garber, who played Michael Banks, passed away at the age of 21 in 1977. The cause of death was Haemorrhagic Necrotising Pancreatitis.
Glynis Johns died in January 2024, aged 100.
Dick Van Dyke
Mr George Banks
Mrs Winifred Banks
Mr Dawes Snr
Dick Van Dyke
Mr Dawes Jr
J. Pat O’Malley