Review: This glorious
1964 Walt Disney musical is a wonderful, imaginative musical for
the whole family, as it has something for everyone: Great cast,
great musical numbers, wonderful dance segments that flow naturally
with the imaginative story line, talented direction and inspiring
use of animation with live actors all come together to create
one of Walt Disney's masterpieces, which earned some academy awards.
The story begins in a London park, as Burt (Dick
Van Dike), a goodhearted Jack of all trades, is entertaining the
people there with a one man band act, complete with a base drum,
singing and playing the first of many entertaining songs composed
by the Sherman brothers. Burt takes the viewing audience on a
brief tour of the neighborhood, introducing the eccentric neighbor,
a retired naval officer, Admiral Boom ( Reginald Owen) who sets
his cannon off periodically, before bringing the audience to the
Banks household, where one can hears some unrest coming from within.
The current nanny Kate (Elsa Lanchester) is resigning because
the children ran away from her for the umpteenth time - this time
while they flew their kite in the park, much to the distress of
the maids, Ellen (Hermione Baddeley) and Mrs. Brill( Reta Shaw)
After several great musical numbers: Suffragette
march around the living room, with suffragette mother Mrs. Winifred
Banks, with maids and ex-nanny in tow involuntarily, Mr. Banks
singing about what he thinks is his perfect life, Jane and Michael
Banks ( Karen Dotrice & Matthew Garber) show up at the door
with Constable Jones (Arthur Treacher).
Jane sings to their father, the advertisement
for their new Nanny, which is rejected by MR. Banks, and he rips
it up and throws it into the fireplace. The note, of course floats
up the chimney and into the wind, where it comes back together
and winds up in Mary Poppins' hands, as she sits on a cloud.
The fun begins, as Mary Poppins floats down from
the sky, using her umbrella, appears before Mr. Banks on the day
of the interviews, where she informs him that she should know
in a week of working in this position whether she'll stay or not,
taking control of the interview, leaving Mr. banks confused but
feeling like he found the right nanny. Because a mysterious wind
then blows all the other nannies waiting to be interviewed up
the street, Ellen opens the door and finds no one to tell that
the position was filled.
From this point on, Mary Poppins is friendly but
firm with the children, teaches them the fun of cleaning up (magic
helps!) in the famous Spoon Full of Sugar sequence of scenes.
They stay out of trouble with the imaginative outings they take
with Mary and Bert, through his chalk paintings, and visiting
special friends, like Uncle Albert (Ed Wynn), who floats to the
top of the ceiling when he laughs and has the whole group up there
When Mr. Banks confronts Mary Poppins about these
outings, Mary suggests that Mr. Banks take the children to his
place of employment, the bank, which is the beginning of the liberation
of Mr. Banks, and his realization that he needs to get to know
his children, when events turn disastrous.
MARY POPPINS, filmed entirely on a sound stage
is truly a timeless, "Disney Classic," a live musical
fantasy which is a perfect integration of music and story and
animation, the first of its kind. Disney started with the songs,
written by the Sherman Brothers (Rich & Rob), and told the
story around and through the music. Add a mixture of well-planned,
well-executed live action and seamless animation, together with
high quality painted glass by Peter Shaw, this picture was the
crowning jewel of Walt Disney's career, his greatest professional
triumph as a film maker and story teller.
Favorite live action / animation of this reviewer
is the horse race on the merry-go-around horses. A close second
is the dance Bert does with the penguins. The choreography in
the musical sequences is also topnotch and very creative. A favorite
dance number is the dance of the chimney sweeps along the roof
tops of London. It was a traditional English pub dance, done to
the tune of the old English favorite, Knees up, Mother Brown,
with a few creative innovations, courtesy of the talented choreographers,
Judi Hoods and Marc Breaux.
The director, Robert Stevenson uses his talents
in direction to great use in this film. Stevenson had directed
a variety of genres during his long career in Hollywood: King
Solomon's Mines, Jane Eyre, "Gunsmoke" (1955)- TV Series, and
Disney Classics, Old Yeller, Darby O'Gill and the Little People
(my childhood favorite), Absent Minded Professor, That Darn Cat!,
Bedknobs and Broomsticks.
What a stellar cast assembled to tell this delightful
story, based on books by P.L. Travers.
David Tomlinson, a well-known British stage actor
got his big break in the film business by his portrayal of Mr.
George Banks, a cold, proper banker in need of some help. He is
best known for his dynamic performance. Not only can he act, he
Julie Andrews - does an outstanding job portraying
the wise, loving Mary Poppins, nanny extraordinaire, who helps
all involved to be their best, to the betterment of everyone.
Her singing and dancing ability is a delightful addition.
Dick Van Dike - gives a convincing performance
as Bert, and is quite talented in singing and dancing as well,
though his accent slips a bit, but who cares? He also portrays
the ancient, crotchety Mr. Dawes, Sr., President of the Bank,
is a comical fashion. The make up transformation was pretty good
Glynis Johns - is still best known for her role,
as the suffragette mother, Mrs. Winifred Banks. She has had a
long career in light comedy roles through the years.
Karen Dotrice and Matthew Garber- are the talented,
cute child actors who convincingly played Jane and Michael Banks,
perfectly cast for their parts. Though they had a few more roles
in Disney films, they didn't make it big as actors in their adult
years. Matthew died very young in his early twenties from a mysterious
A variety of well-known character actors and comedians
give full support to the main actors and story line, adding their
special gifts to this magical film.
Comedian actor Ed Wynn is hilarious as Uncle Albert.
Hermione Baddeley - as Ellen, the maid worried
about added responsibilities.
Reta Shaw - As Mrs. Brill, the housekeeper, Elsa
Lanchester, briefly as Katie Nanna, Arthur Treacher as Constable
MARY POPPINS is the perfect family film, and is
entertaining on a lot of different levels. It's underlying theme
is the importance of families taking time and energy for each
other, a timeless truth.
Quote from Mary Poppins: "In every job that must
be done, there is an element of fun. You find the fun and - SNAP
- the job's a game!"
Quote from Jane and Michael, singing their advertisement
to their parents: "If you don't scold and dominate us We will
never give you cause to hate us We won't hide your spectacles
so you can't see Put toads in your bed or pepper in your tea.!"
Quote from George Banks (singing): "It's 6:03
and the heirs to my dominion, Are scrubbed and tubbed and adequately
fed. And so I'll pat them on the head and send them off to bed.
Ah, lordly is the life I lead."