Theatrical release poster
August 27, 1964
Mary Poppins is a 1964 musical film starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke, produced by Walt Disney, and based on the Mary Poppins books series by P. L. Travers. The film was directed by Robert Stevenson and written by Bill Walsh and Don DaGradi, with songs by the Sherman Brothers. It was shot at Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California.
The film opens with Mary Poppins (Julie Andrews) perched in a cloud high above London in spring 1910. The action descends to Earth where Bert (Dick Van Dyke), a Cockney jack-of-all-trades is performing as a one-man band at a park entrance. The spectators watching him include: Ms. Persimmon (Marjorie Eaton), Miss Lark (Marjorie Bennett) and Mrs. Corry (Alma Lawton). He suddenly senses that his good friend is about to return. After the show, he speaks directly to the audience, introducing viewers first to Admiral Boom, who keeps his exterior rooftop "Ship Shape", by firing his cannon at 8:AM and 6:PM each day, and then to the well-to-do but troubled Banks family, headed by the cold and aloof George Banks (David Tomlinson) and the loving but highly distracted suffragette Winifred Banks (Glynis Johns).
The Bankses' latest nanny, Katie Nanna (Elsa Lanchester), is quitting, exasperated after the Banks children, Jane (Karen Dotrice) and Michael (Matthew Garber), have run off for the fourth time this week. Ellen, the maid (Hermione Baddeley), pleads with her not to leave, but Mrs. Brill, the cook (Reta Shaw), wishes her good riddance. Mrs. Banks returns home, and engages all four women in a rousing rendition of "Sister Suffragette", before Katie Nanna stalks out. Mr. Banks returns home from his job at the Dawes Tomes Mousley Grubbs Fidelity Fiduciary Bank, and Mrs. Banks reveals the children are missing. A policeman (Arthur Treacher), arrives with the children, who ask their father to help repair their damaged kite, but he dismisses them and advertises for an authoritarian nanny-replacement. Jane and Michael draft their own advertisement asking for a fun, kind-hearted and caring person, but Mr. Banks tears up the paper and throws it in the fireplace. Unnoticed, the remains of the note float up the dark chimney.
The next day, a queue of elderly and disagreeable looking candidates await at the door. However, a strong gust of wind blows the queue away and Mary Poppins floats down, held aloft by her magical umbrella, to apply. Mr. Banks is stunned to see that this calmly defiant new nanny has responded to the children's ad despite the fact he destroyed it. Although Mary Poppins recites the ad, she also tells George that she is firm and will also lay down ground rules with the children. As he puzzles, Mary Poppins employs herself and begins work, saying that she will stay for a trial period of one week, before deciding if she will take a permanent position. The children face surprises of their own: Mary possesses a bottomless carpetbag, and makes contents of the children's nursery come to life and tidy themselves (by snapping her fingers).
The trio then meet Bert, who is a close friend of Mary, in the park at work as a screever, where Mary uses one of his chalk pavement drawings as a gateway to an outing in an animated countryside. While in the drawing, the children ride a merry-go-round while Mary and Bert enjoy a stroll through the countryside, during which Bert dances at an outdoor bistro with four penguin waiters. Mary and Bert join the children on the merry-go-round, from which the horses break loose and take their riders on a trip through the countryside. As they pass by a fox hunt, Bert maneuvers to save an Irish-accented fox from the bloodhounds. Finally the quartet finds themselves in a horse race, which Mary wins. It is here that Mary first employs the nonsense word "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious." The outing is interrupted by a rainstorm, which washes away the chalk drawing and returns the travellers, drenched, to the park pavement.
That evening, the children ask Mary how long she'll stay with them. With a somber expression, she replies, "I shall stay until the wind changes". The next day, they all visit Bert's jovial Uncle Albert (Ed Wynn), who floats up in the air whenever he laughs, and join him in a tea party in mid-air, telling various jokes to each other, though Mary finds it childish and ridiculous. They all get down, only when one has to think of something sad, when Mary firmly says it's time for them all to go home, which makes Uncle Albert very sad to hear this.
Mr. Banks grows increasingly irate with his children's stories of their adventures, but Mary effortlessly inverts his attempted dismissal of her services into a plan to take his children with him to the Dawes Tomes Mousley Grubbs Fidelity Fiduciary Bank, where he is employed. On the way there, as they pass the bank, the children see "The Bird Woman" (Jane Darwell), of whom Mary sang to them the night before, and they want to feed the birds around her, but George will have none of it as he expresses his lack of interest in what Mary Poppins says and orders his children to "come along" and not mention her name for the rest of the day. Upon arriving at the bank, Mr. Dawes Jr (Arthur Malet) and Mr. Dawes Sr (Dick Van Dyke)—Mr. Banks' employers—aggressively try to persuade Michael to invest his tuppence in the bank to the point of actually snatching it out of his hand without waiting for his permission. When Michael protests, the other customers misunderstand and start a run on the bank that forces the bank to suspend business. The Bank Guard (Jimmy Logan) chases the children causing the children to flee and wander into the slums of the East End of London. Fortunately, they run into Bert, now employed as a chimney sweep. He takes them safely home, explaining 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.
At home, a departing Mrs. Banks employs Bert to clean the family's chimney and mind the children. Mary Poppins arrives back from her day off and warns of the dangers of this activity, but is too late as the children are both sucked up the chimney to the roof. Bert and Mary follow them and lead a tour of the rooftops of London that concludes with a joyful dance with Bert's chimney-sweep colleagues. A volley of fireworks from the Banks' eccentric neighbour, Admiral Boom (Reginald Owen), who mistakes them for Hottentots, orders Mr. Binnacle (Don Barclay) to set off the fireworks which sends the entire gathering back down a different chimney, which turns out to be the Banks' chimney. Mr. Banks arrives home, causing the chimney sweepers to depart outside the home, and out into the street, where they disappear from view within less than half a minute. Their departure conclude the festivities. Banks angrily inquires Mary Poppins what was the meaning of this, in which Mary replies that she never explains anything. Banks then receives a phone call from work ordering him to return immediately for disciplinary action. As Mr. Banks gathers his strength, Bert points out that while Mr. Banks does need to make a living, his offspring's childhood will come and go in a blink of an eye, and he needs to be there for them while he can. The Banks children approach their father to apologize, and Michael gives Mr. Banks his tuppence in the hope that it will make things all right. Banks gently accepts the offering.
A somber and thoughtful Mr. Banks walks alone through the night-time streets, for the first time noticing several of the buildings around him, including the cathedral and steps on which the bird woman was sitting earlier. At the bank, he is formally humiliated and sacked for causing the first run on the bank since 1773 (it is stated that the bank supplied the money for the shipment of tea destroyed in the Boston Tea Party, during which the colonists tossed the tea into Boston Harbor, "rendering it unfit for drinking, even by Americans," Mr. Banks awkwardly jokes). However, after being at a loss when ordered to give a statement, Mr. Banks invokes Mary Poppins' all-purpose word "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!" to tweak Mr. Dawes. He gives Dawes the tuppence, tells one of Uncle Albert's jokes, and raucously departs. Dawes mulls over the joke, finally "gets it" and floats up into the air, laughing.
The next morning, the wind has changed direction, and so Mary must depart. Meanwhile, the Banks adults cannot find Mr. Banks, and fear that he might have become suicidal. However, Mr. Banks, now loving and joyful, reappears with the now-mended kite and cheerfully summons his children. The greatly relieved Mrs. Banks supplies a tail for the kite, using one of her suffragette ribbons. They all leave the house without a backward glance as Mary Poppins watches from a window. In the park with other kite-flyers, Mr. Banks meets Mr. Dawes Jr., now in charge of the bank, who says that his father literally died laughing. Instead of being upset, the son is delighted his father died happy and re-employs Mr. Banks to fill the opening as junior partner. Her work done, Mary Poppins takes to the air with a fond farewell from Bert (who was selling kites), telling her not to stay away too long.
Cast and charactersEdit
- Main article: Mary Poppins (character)
"Practically perfect in every way", Mary Poppins (Julie Andrews) comes down from the clouds in response to the Banks children's advertisement for a nanny. She is not only firm in her use of authority, but kind and gentle as well (a major departure from the original books, in which the character was strict and pompous). She travels to help children everywhere when they are most in need.
Bert (Dick Van Dyke) as well as being a jack-of-all-trades, is Mary's closest normal friend who is notable in that he is completely accustomed to her magic. Their interaction, such as in the song "Jolly Holiday", makes it clear they have known each other for a long time, and that this kind of story has repeated itself many times. When she sails away at the end of the film, he asks her not to stay away too long, this time, possibly showing that he is accustomed to having Mary come and go as she pleases.
Bert has at least four jobs throughout the film: a one-man band, a pavement chalk artist (or "screever"), a chimney sweep, and a kite seller. Bert also hints at selling hot chestnuts. His various street-vending jobs meet with mixed financial success, but he retains his cheery disposition and a bright red nose.
Bert also assists Mary Poppins in her mission to save the Banks family, as he plays a key role in helping the Banks children and Mr. Banks to understand each other better.
George Banks is Mary Poppins' employer. He works at the Dawes Tomes Mousley Grubbs Fidelity Fiduciary Bank in the City of London, and lives at 17 Cherry Tree Lane with his wife, Winifred, and their children. He is a driven and disciplined man who callously dismisses the "Votes for Women" movement and tends to treat his children, wife, and servants as assets rather than people — a fact clearly evidenced in his song "The Life I Lead". By the end of the movie, Mr. Banks' attitude towards his family, job, and Mary Poppins has changed dramatically. In contrast to what his children want, George wants a strict and authoritarian nanny that will give commands to "mold" Jane and Michael into nothing more than little obedient soldiers, something that his wife agrees with until and after the children show their ad for a new nanny.
Melodies in the score punctuate the children's need for their father's attention and love, and most of the dramatic tension in the film involves his journey from disconnected family autocrat to fully engaged family man.
According to the Special Edition Soundtrack bonus disc, Mary Poppins was George's own nanny when he was a child. Travers intended to have the script hint this strongly in a few places, but it was largely left out of the movie, except for the following words in Bert's opening song, "Can't put me finger on what lies in store ... But I feel what's to 'appen, all 'appened before ...!" and George's own statement to the elder Mr. Dawes identifying "Poppins" as "my nanny". However, in Banks' initial interview with Mary Poppins, there is little or no indication that the two have ever met before, and his description of her as "my nanny" could easily mean "the nanny I have employed to look after my children during the day" or even "my maid" or "my cook".
Winifred Banks is the wife of George Banks and the mother of Jane and Michael. She is more fully developed in the film than in the books. She is depicted as a member of Emmeline Pankhurst's suffragette movement and appears to be so dedicated to the women's cause to the extent that she, like her husband, neglects the children. Her main outfit is a blue and orange Edwardian-style dress with a white and blue sash that reads "Votes for Women" in black letters. She wears white gloves in the film (as did most Edwardian English women) and a stylish hat. Her song in the film is "Sister Suffragette", which she sings with the other two women of the household staff. She is mostly responsible for the primary duty which is "Posts, everyone!", a simple way to protect elegant and delicate household items (such as vases or pictures) from destruction when Mr. Binnicle fires the cannon on top of Admiral Boom's house next door. She is also given yellow daisies by her son Michael one morning as he and his sister are singing "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious."
She is more sensitive to the needs of the children than her husband is, but also finds herself starved for his attention. As with the children, it is clear she loves George very much, but he is too wrapped up in his view of the way things "ought to be" to return her love satisfactorily. Mrs. Banks was originally named "Cynthia", but this was quickly changed to the more "English-sounding" Winifred after some issues with the script.
Mrs. Banks' four "Votes for Women" sashes from the film have all survived and are in perfect condition. One can be seen being "pulled out" of Richard M. Sherman's "special musicians' trunk" on the Musical Journey seen on the 2004 DVD release.
Mrs. Banks and Mary Poppins never speak to each other in the movie, though Mrs. Banks does mention her frequently. In the book, they do speak to one another.
The Banks childrenEdit
While the Banks family in the original novel had four children, only Jane (Karen Dotrice) and Michael (Matthew Garber) appear in the film because the other two children were infants who contributed almost nothing to the plot. Katie Nanna's stormy departure suggests that the children are impossibly undisciplined, and they do demonstrate some evidence of this in their own advertisement for a new nanny, as they promise not to "hide her spectacles so she can't see, put toads in her bed or pepper in her tea" while smiling at each other in remembrance of jokes on former nannies. Once Mary Poppins arrives, the children come across as mostly sweet and innocent, albeit a tad rebellious.
All they want is for their father to love them, and they have mistakenly interpreted his indifference to their needs as disliking them. They have tried to live up to his demands on them, which has only left them with shaky self-esteem. Those elements come together in a bit of dialogue early in the film, in which they explain that they did not run away from Katie Nanna, their kite took them away from her. They say that the kite is not very good, "because they made it themselves". They suggest to their father that if he could help them with it, it would turn out better. Alas, at that point, Banks is too wrapped up in his philosophy, that a British household should be run like a British bank, to take this strongest of hints.
After inadvertently causing a run on the bank, the children give their father their tuppence, expressing the hope that it will make things right. At that moment, Mr. Banks finally understands, and his priorities take a 180-degree turn, leading to the film's happy resolution.
- Ellen (Hermione Baddeley), the maid of the Banks residence. Although she is fond of the children, she hates having to look after them when there is no nanny available in the household.
- Mrs. Brill (Reta Shaw), the cook of the Banks residence. She doesn't like intruders when she sees them. For example, in the musical number called "Step in Time", she sees too many chimney sweepers and screams the phrase, "THEY'RE AT IT AGAIN!"
- Admiral Boom (Reginald Owen), the Banks's neighbour and a naval officer. He has his first mate, Mr. Binnacle, fire a cannon from his roof every 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. When those firings are about to happen, the attendants of the Banks or Mrs. Banks shout "Posts, everyone!" and rush to keep fragile possessions from falling to the ground while the house rocks. The admiral is known for his punctuality. He also considers a group of mean nannies as a "ghastly looking crew".
- Mr. Binnacle (Don Barclay), Admiral Boom's first mate. He gets excited when he is ordered to give the cannon a double charge.
- Constable Jones (Arthur Treacher), a police officer who convinces Mr. Banks that the kite pulled the Banks children away when he brought them back. He is a kindhearted man that knows his duties, but hates the way George treats his family and servants, as he mutters to himself before walking out the Banks' home in his first scene.
- Katie Nanna (Elsa Lanchester), the disgruntled nanny who quits the Banks family. Mrs. Brill never liked her one bit, although Ellen begged her not to leave because then Ellen would have to watch over the children alone.
- Miss Lark (Marjorie Bennett), the Banks's neighbour. A prissy, prim and posh old woman with a dog named Andrew, who frequently runs away.
- Mr. Dawes Sr. (Dick Van Dyke), the impossibly ancient director of the bank where Mr. Banks works; he often needs a little help when he moves clumsily and literally dies laughing toward the end of the film after Mr. Banks tells him a joke. (During the film's end titles, "Navckid Keyd" is credited as Mr. Dawes Sr, an anagram of "Dick Van Dyke.")
- Mr. Dawes Jr. (Arthur Malet), the director's son and member of the board. Surprisingly, he does not mourn his father dying, as he is glad that he died happily.
- Uncle Albert (Ed Wynn), a jolly, portly gentleman who loves to laugh uncontrollably and floats up every time he does so; it also happens to other characters in the movie.
- The bird woman (Jane Darwell, in her final film appearance).
- Mrs. Corry (Alma Lawton), an old shopkeeper of a gingerbread shop. She has two daughters who were once shorter than she is, "but they grew" and are now twice her height. Mary Poppins and the children nearly visit her shop but have to change plans so that they can see Uncle Albert.
- The parrot handle to Mary's umbrella (David Tomlinson, uncredited) who speaks at the end of the film.
- Miss Persimmon (Marjorie Eaton), seen in the park where, after a long pause when the wind blows, her only word was a questioning "yes?". In the book she is a nurse looking after Uncle Albert.
- The doorman at the bank (Jimmy Logan), who chases after the children in the bank run.