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Mary Poppins (film version)

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Mary-poppins

Mary Poppins (1964) is a live-action musical comedy film produced by Walt Disney. Directed by Robert Stevenson (also responsible for The Love Bug and Bedknobs & Broomsticks), Mary Poppins is based on the novel of the same name by P.L. Travers.

On its release, Mary Poppins received positive reviews and was a box-office success. It also won five Academy Awards including Best Actress; Julie Andrews received the award for her portrayal of the title character.

SynopsisEdit

The year is 1910. As the film commences in London, Cockney resident of various jobs, Bert, introduces Admiral Boom who works on the rooftop of 17 Cherrytree Lane,household of the Banks family, with a schedule of firing his cannon at 8am/6pm, to the audience. Then he introduces the family, headed by cold and aloof bank worker George Banks and his loving and left-wing wife Winifred Banks, who frequently holds suffragette-related protests along with maid Ellen and cook Mrs Brill.

The family's most recent nanny Katie Nanna has resigned, frustrated with having to deal with George and Winifred's children Jane and Michael, for they have run off for the fourth time in the week. However when they are escorted back to the house by a sympathetic police constable, it is discovered that they have a good excuse; their kite was destroyed in a strong wind. The parents work on an advertisement for a new nanny; George decides that the nanny should be strict and firm with the children. But the children also have suggestions; they read out their advertisement, through the song The Perfect Nanny, demonstrating their needs for a kind and caring person. Winifred is impressed, but George deems their idea as ridiculous and tears up the advert, unaware that the pieces blow up the chimney, via a wind.

The next morning, a large queue of elderly nannies are waiting outside the door and none are what the children have advertised for. However, before George instructs Ellen to guide the nannies inside, a large wind blows them away. Then the children encounter Mary Poppins who drops by. Ellen lets her in and Mary introduces herself to George. George is horrified to discover Mary has found the children's advertisement and that her qualifications match the needs, but relents when Mary states she is quite firm and is able to lay down ground rules. Mary is employed and sets to work, setting a trial period before deciding on a permanent position. She introduces herself to the children, who are surprised that Mary owns a bottomless bag.

Later on, Mary and the children meet Bert, a close friend of Mary's, who has created chalk pictures on the pavement in the park. Bert suggests a visit in one of the pictures, which all but Mary agree on. This fails to work at first, but Mary eventually joins them and they succeed. They come across an animated countryside. While the children play on the carousel, Mary and Bert enjoy a stroll across the countryside and snacks served by penguin waiters. They then join the children on the carousel; the wooden horses eventually break loose and the quartet end up in a horse race. Before they enter the race, Bert rescues a fox from a foxhunt. Mary wins the race and she introduces a lengthy word to Bert, the children and the animated characters, Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. Tragically the outing is disrupted by a rainstorm; the quartet return to the real world and watch Bert's drawings in ruins. While Bert clears away the mess, Mary and the children return home.

The next morning, George is irritated to find that his children have learned the nonsense word from Mary Poppins. Later on, Mary and the children are on their way to the repair shop in regards to George's malfunctioned piano. However, Mary comes across a dog, Andrew, with news on her uncle Albert. Mary and the children visit Albert only to find that Albert, an extremely cheerful elderly man, is floating level with the ceiling. Bert is keeping a watch on him. He, Mary and the children join in with Albert and have a tea party in mid-air; they tell various jokes to each other, which Mary finds immature and ridiculous. Eventually the crisis is solved when the quintet think of something sad and they find themselves touching the ground again. Albert sinks into deeper depression when Mary decides it's time for her and the children to go.

Meanwhile George's irritation increases when the children bring up their stories on the various adventures. He has a serious talk with Mary through the song; A British Band (The Life I Lead). Mary suggests that George should introduce the children to his workplace; the bank. The following day, George takes the children to the bank. On the way there, they pass St. Paul's Cathedral and encounter the Bird Woman, which Mary sang to the children the night before. Michael insists on spending his tuppence (two pence) to feed the birds, but George strictly forbids him to do so. As they enter the bank, the children are introduced to George's extremely elderly colleagues, including Mr Dawes Jr, and his father, the head of the bank, Mr Dawes Sr. Mr Dawes Sr, along with his employees, attempts to convince Michael that opening an account and investing the tuppence into the account will benefit him. Michael rebels when Mr Dawes Sr takes the money and a few customers, who have listened in, cause a run on the bank. The bank guard chases Michael and Jane and they escape the riots and wander through the slums of the East End of London. They run into Bert who is working as a chimney sweep. He escorts the children home, telling them that their father does not hate them, but that he has problems of his own, and that unlike the children, has no one to turn to but himself.

Upon their arrival, Winifred cannot stay to look after the children due to her frequent suffrage campaigns, so Bert stays with them. Together they clean the chimney. Mary returns from her day off work and warns them on the dangers of the activity. However it is too late as the children are blown up the chimney and on the rooftop. Mary and Bert follow them and lead them on a tour across the various rooftops, encountering a large view of the city. Afterwards, the quartet meet Bert's work colleagues and they begin a dance rendition of Step In Time. Admiral Boom witnesses the event and mistakes the chimney sweeps for Hottencots, orders his associate Mr Binnacle to set off the fireworks and blast them from their cannon. This sets the entire herd down the chimney of the Banks household and they continue the dance. Winifred, Ellen and Brill join in and the sweeps briefly join Winifred's suffrage campaign. Just then, George enters horrified with what's going on. The sweeps exit and George furiously demands an explanation from Mary, only to be refused one. He then receives a serious phone call from Mr Dawes Jr ordering him to return to the bank for disciplinary action. George is deeply concerned about loosing his career. Bert and the children sympathise with him. Bert also points out that George is financially secure and that he needs to be there for the children while he can, while Michael offers him his tuppence as a sign of apology.

That night, George strolls to the bank to meet Mr Dawes Sr and his fellow bankers. He is both humiliated (Mr Dawes Jr destroys his umbrella and bowler hat) and fired for causing the first run that occurred since 1773 (at one time, George states that the 1773 run occurred when Boston Tea Party, during which the colonists tossed the tea into Boston Harbor, "rendering it unfit for drinking, even by Americans"). However George turns to a cheerful and sharp attitude and stands up to Mr Dawes Sr; using Mary's infamous word, giving the tuppence to his boss and telling one of the jokes Albert told his children. After George insanely exits, Mr Dawes Sr understands the joke and suffers the same condition Albert had.

The next morning, the wind has changed direction meaning that Mary, who also decides that her work is complete, announces her departure. Meanwhile the family are concerned that George has not returned home. Eventually George does return in a joyful mood and presents a now-repaired kite to the children, much to their delight. They play outside, with a rendition of Let's Go Fly A Kite, meeting Bert, working this time as a kite salesman, and George's former colleagues who are flying kites themselves and inform him that their boss has literally died laughing and re-employs George as a junior partner. Mary who has witnessed their happiness, floats off. Bert and Andrew watch her fly by and Bert wishes her goodbye.

ProductionEdit

Development for the film began in the 1940s when one of Walt Disney's children told him about the book. Walt wanted to produce the film, but could not receive permission from the author until the 1960s.

Julie Andrews was cast for the lead role after she rejected an offer to act as Eliza in My Fair Lady (the role went to Audrey Hepburn). She previous acted as Eliza during the Broadway stage version of My Fair Lady. This was her acting debut on film. She later reworked with Disney when she appeared in Enchanted.

Mary Poppins marked other acting debuts of the following with Disney; David Tomlinson (later appearing in The Love Bug and Bedknobs and Broomsticks), Reginald Owen (Bedknobs and Broomsticks), Elsa Lanchester (That Darn Cat, Blackbeard's Ghost, Rascal), Hermione Badderly (The Happiest Millionnaire, The Aristocats) and Dick Van Dyke (Lt. Robinson Crusoe USN, Never A Dull Moment).

The Sherman Brothers, Richard and Robert, were hired to write the soundtrack. Mary Poppins is their seventh collaboration with Disney - the fifth being The Sword In The Stone and the first being The Parent Trap.

Production DetailsEdit

Details Contributor(s)
Directed by Robert Sherman
Produced by Walt Disney
Screenplay by

Bill Walsh

Don DaGradi

Based on

Mary Poppins by PL Travers

Music by

Robert & Richard Sherman (songs)

Irwin Kostal (score)

Cinematography Edward Colman
Editing by Cotton Warburton
Studio Walt Disney Productions
Distributed by Buena Vista Distribution
Release Date 27th August 1964
Running time 139 minutes
Country United States
Language English

CastEdit

Character Actor Character Details
Mary Poppins Julie Andrews The magical nanny. She uses an umbrella as a parachute and a form of transport.
Bert Dick Van Dyke Mary's close friend. He is a working-class cockney with various different jobs; musician, chalk-drawing artist, chimney sweep and kite salesman.
George Banks David Tomlinson Mary's employer. He works as a banker and seems to neglect his wife's campaign and treats her and his children as assets. He is extremely disciplined and quite dedicated to his work. He also appears more conservative compared to his family.
Winifred Banks Glynis Johns George's left-wing wife. She, along with Ellen and Mrs Brill, rebels against the British government for their dismissal of women's rights.
Michael Banks Matthew Garbor George and Mary Banks' son. He appears more left-wing than his father, considering his protests towards Mr Dawes Sr when he snatches Michael's money which he wants to save to charitirise the birds.
Jane Banks Karen Dotrice George and Mary Banks' daughter and Michael's sister.
Ellen Hermione Badderly The maid who works at the Banks household. She is also involved in Winifred's suffrage campaign and loves the children, even though she has no time to look after them.
Mrs. Brill Reta Shaw Works as a cook at the Banks household. She is also involved in Winifred's suffrage campaign and is often seen hanging round with Ellen. She despises intruders.
Admiral Boom Reginald Owen Works on the rooftop of 17 Cherrytree Lane. His cannon is scheduled to fire at 8am and 6pm. Although he gets on well with the Banks family, he is rather conservative; mistakes the chimney sweeps as Hottentots, as referred to South African residents.
Mr. Binnacle Don Barclay Works alongside Admiral Boom. He enjoys his job and gets excited when he has to charge up the cannon.
Katie Nanna Elsa Lanchester The Banks' last nanny before they recruited Mary Poppins. She is shown to disapprove of her job and does not get on well with Mrs Brill.
Mr Dawes Sr Dick Van Dyke (again) Mr Banks' boss and an antagonist who runs the bank. He has knackety legs, which cause him to be-tumble constantly. It is hinted that he is over 137 years old due to his knowledge on the 1773 run on the bank.
Mr Dawes Jr Arthur Malet Mr Dawes Sr's elderly son and one of his employees. Despite his hinted over-100 year old life, he has no problems regarding any part of his body. He loves and supports his father.
Constable Jones Arthur Treacher A sympathetic police cop who understands the children's problems and needs and disapproves of the treatment the children receive from their father
Uncle Albert Ed Wynn Mary's cheerful uncle whose condition is caused by uncontrollable laughing.
Bird Woman Jane Darwell She hangs around at St Paul's Cathedral and constantly feeds any nearby bird.

Bill Treacher (famous for portraying Arthur Fowler in EastEnders) was among one of the cameos and portrayed one of the chimney sweeps during the Step In Time sequence.

PoliticsEdit

Despite Walt Disney's criticism regarding racism in some of his films, it is argued that Mary Poppins is one of Disney's left-wing projects; others including Robin Hood (1973), Aladdin (1992), Pocahontas (1995), The Hunchback Of Notre Dame (1996) and Mulan (1998).

There are scenes which demonstrate lefty elements

  • Near the start of the film, Winifred Banks declares herself a suffragette. This refers to women who fight for their rights to vote. She demonstrates her left-wing personality with her protest song Sister Suffragette. Ellen and Mrs Brill share her policies and join in the song. Another scene demonstrates their plans to throw roses at the then-UK prime minister. During the Step In Time sequence, she meets the chimney sweeps and they sing 'Vote the women, step in time,' demonstrating that they too support her left-wing policies.
  • During the Edwardian era, bankers were portrayed as 'greedy' and often 'capitalists'. George Banks and his colleagues, being bankers are portrayed the same. In one scene, when Mr Banks takes the kids to the bank, they spot the bird woman and the children insist charitising the birds (a traditional liberal thing), which Mr Banks grumpily forbids them to do as he intends to show them the 'right way' of using their money. Michael is still bent on treating the birds and Mr Dawes Sr insults his protests, attempting to convince Michael that he has 'fat birds'. 'Bird' is a term often used instead of 'woman', which could portray Mr Dawes Sr as a supporter to the UK government, banning women's freedom. Or else if he means a literal bird, it could depict animal-disrespect. These elements would therefore depict Mr Dawes Sr as 'conservative. Michael on the other hand still intends to do what he feels is best (namely feed the birds), which is traditionally liberal.
  • Speaking of animal rights, there is a scene where Bert rescues a fox from being hunted. This is mostly a liberal thing and shows signs of animal-respect. Later, when George Banks scolds Mary through his song A British Bank, he mentions; 'foxhunting, Yes, well I don't mind that quiet so much, But anyways its tradition'. What a Conservative! Presumably, he didn't pay attention to Bert rescuing the fox. There is also a recent true story when the British Conservative Party's leader David Cameron offered his support to the fox hunters.

Mary Poppins is one of the films that is likely to promote feminism (easily linked to liberalism), as demonstrated by Mrs Bank's rendition of Sister Suffragette, the maid and cook's appeal to the campaign and the fact that Mary Poppins a) is the main sharp focus in the film and b) wins most arguments against Mr Banks, i.e.

George: Would you be good enough to explain all this?!

Mary: First of all, I'd like to make one thing clear.

George: Yes?

Mary: I never explain anything.

ReceptionEdit

Since its release, Mary Poppins received mainly positive reviews. The Radio Times tv guide ranked the movie 5 out of 5 stars, while the Rotten Tomatoes ranking is 100%. However, one element of negative criticism was received in regards to Dick Van Dyke's attempt for a Cockney accent, which to most of the media is regarded as one of the worst accents in film history.

Mary Poppins is one of the blockbusters from the 1960s. Over it's $6million budget, the film grossed $102,272,727 worldwide.

American Film InstituteEdit

Nominations:

  • 100 Years...100 Movies
  • 100 Years...100 Laughs
  • 100 Years...100 Heroes & Villians - Mary Poppins - Nominated Hero
  • 100 Years...100 Songs - Chim Chim Cher-ee
  • 100 Years...100 Cheers
  • 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary)
  • AFI's 10 Top Ten - Nominated Fantasy Film

Wins:

  • 100 Years...100 Songs - Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious #36
  • 100 Years...100 of Musicals #6

Academy AwardsEdit

Out of every Disney made movie to date, Mary Poppins has both won and been nominated for the largest number of Academy Awards. Excluding Honoury Awards, Mary Poppins is the first Disney movie to win multiple Oscars since Pinocchio (1940) and the last before The Little Mermaid (1989).

These are the results;

Nominations;

  • Best Adapted Screenplay
  • Best Art Direction (Color)
  • Best Cinematography (Color)
  • Best Costume Design (Color)
  • Best Director
  • Best Picture
  • Best Scoring Of Music (Adaption/Treatment)
  • Best Sound

Wins;

  • Best Editing
  • Best Leading Actress - Julie Andrews
  • Best Original Score
  • Best Song - Chim Chim Cher-ee
  • Best Visual Effects

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