“Practically perfect in every way”
Out of the many films produced by Walt Disney over the years, one could argue that his finest achievement was Mary Poppins, the tale of a magical super-nanny based on a children’s book written in 1934 by P.L. Travers. With the enchanting duo of Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke and a masterful score, this 1964 classic has endured as one the most charming family films ever created.
The story takes place in London, circa 1910 and revolves around the Banks family. Patriarch George (an uptight banker) and his wife Winifred (an involved member of the suffrage movement) have a dilemma. Their two precocious offspring, Jane and Michael have managed to exasperate their nanny with their unruly antics, which amount to chasing after an escaping kite, and caused her to resign her position. Desperately in need of a replacement, George takes out a newspaper ad, looking for someone who is a little more disciplinarian but the kids have their own set of rules (rosy cheeks and no warts). Their list of job requirements is promptly tossed in the fireplace.
While a whole gaggle of nannies respond to the ad, the children’s list makes its way to a magical nanny living in the clouds high above London. After sending the competition forcibly on their way, via some rather severe and sudden gusts of wind, she cascades down to the Bank’s doorstep, thanks to a magical umbrella. She seemingly meets all of Mr. Banks requirements and is quickly hired. But little does the family know that this is no ordinary nanny and a magical adventure awaits these very lucky children.
Magical bottomless carpetbags and a nursery that manages to tidy itself up are only the beginning. When the nanny and the kids meet up with a jack-of-all-trades named Bert, they are magically sucked into one of his sidewalk chalk drawings where they engage in tea party on the ceiling with Mary’s Uncle Albert whose nonstop giggling causes him to float. When the kid return home with an onslaught of fanciful tales, Mr. Banks decides it might be time to fire the friendly nanny. To his surprise, however, she takes the tykes down to Dawes, Tomes, Mousely, Grubs Fidelity Fiduciary Bank where he is employed, and the results have disastrous consequences.
With Julie Andrews in the starring role and Dick Van Dyke cast in duel roles (one being the charming chimney sweep), the cast was rounded out by a wonderful supporting cast that included David Tomlinson, Glynis Johns and Ed Wynn. Andrews would win an Academy Award for Best Actress as a result and Mary Poppins would be nominated for an astounding 13 Oscars, of which it took home five.
The film was also graced with one of the finest (and Academy-Award winning) music scores to date, thanks to the work from the fabulous Sherman Brothers. Songs such as “Chim-Chim-Cher-ee” (which also won an Oscar,) “A Spoonful of Sugar,” “Feed the Birds” and, of course, “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” quickly became beloved classics.
Mary Poppins was a complete package if there ever was one. The special effects, the wonderful cast, the memorable songs – every aspect of the film was “practically perfect in every way.” And as one of Walt Disney’s final films, it was also one of his proudest achievements in a career that was filled with more than a few memorable moments. It is a film that will most certainly live on for generations to come.
If you count Mary Poppins as one of your beloved movies from childhood, we’d love to hear your memories of this undeniable classic in our comments section.