Directed by: Robert Stevenson
Written by: Bill Walsh/Don DaGradi
Based on book by: PL Travers
Ok, so there’s only one animated portion of this movie, but it still counts, right?
I had not seen this movie in years, so I had forgotten a LOT of it. I didn’t remember that it took place at the time of the Women’s Suffrage movement or that Winifred Banks (the mother of the family) was a suffragette. (Not the bombing kinds, of course. This IS a Disney film.)
The Banks family is looking for a new nanny. The kids keep running them off. (What’s weird is that the kids don’t seem particularly bad. They just run off when their kite runs off.) The kids write a letter for their new nanny, but George Banks tears it up and throws it in the fireplace…where it blows up the chimney and right in the hands of Mary Poppins (Julie Andrews). She comes to the house, gets the job, and takes the children on an adventure of pure imagination. And, of course, a weird chimney sweep named Bert (Dick Van Dyke) with the worst accent in London. Like, no kidding. His accent is abominable.
The movie is super charming. It’s still a classic that every kid falls in love with the first time they see it. It’s such a typical story of a “magical” person coming into the lives of a family, teaching them to be human, and leaving them better than she found them. Somehow, though, Disney makes it work incredibly well. Julie Andrews is perfect as the magical nanny whose powers are pretty mysterious. (You think she went to Hogwarts?) Dick Van Dyke, despite his accent, is perfectly Dick Van Dyke as the possibly slightly magical chimney sweep who very nearly sweeps Mary off her feet. David Tomlinson and Glynis Johns are also great as the kinda terrible parents, George and Winifred Banks. George is obsessed with his career at the bank and Winifred is distracted by just about everything else in the world. Neither of them has much time for their kids, so it’s no wonder that the kids are always looking for attention.
The kids are played by Karen Dotrice and Matthew Garber. They had already been in one film together (The Three Lives Of Thomasina) and would go on to be in one more (The Gnome-Mobile). Unfortunately, they wouldn’t get to be in another film together. Matthew stopped acting after The Gnome-Mobile in 1967. Ten years later, at age 21, he died after contracting hepatitis in India.
Matthew’s legacy is sealed, though, just on the strength of this one film. It really is damn-near perfect. I’m interested to see what the sequel is like. Emily Blunt will be playing Mary this time out. Dick Van Dyke is going to have a cameo as his other character’s (Mr Dawes, Sr) son. Unfortunately, Julie Andrews turned down a chance to have a cameo. In typical Julie style, though, she graciously declined by saying that she wanted it to be “Emily’s show.”