Mary Poppins (1964)
June 3, 2015 10:08 PM - Subscribe

A magic nanny comes to work for a cold banker's unhappy family.

New York Times movie review by Bosley Crowther - published September 25, 1964:
Maybe it's our imagination, but there's something about the tunes that Richard M. and Robert B. Sherman have written for this film that reminds us of the tunes in My Fair Lady. And also the Edwardian costumes and the mellow London settings recollect that hit. A brilliant ballet in which Miss Andrews and Dick Van Dyke as Bert scatter and leap with a gang of sooty chimney-sweeps on the London rooftops is reminiscent, too. The comparison is not unflattering to either. Mary Poppins is a fair-lady film.

Bouquets don't go only to Miss Andrews. Mr. Van Dyke is joyous as Bert, the gay and irrepressible street merchant who is the companion of Mary Poppins and the kids. The latter, performed by Karen Dotrice and Matthew Garber, are just as they should be, and their parents—appropriately eccentric—are done beautifully by David Tomlinson and Glynis Johns.

Ed Wynn is grand as Uncle Albert, who soars up to the ceiling when he laughs, and Reginald Owen makes of Admiral Boom, the nautical neighbor, a natural caricature. Hermione Baddeley, Elsa Lanchester, and Arthur Treacher are droll in smaller roles. Robert Stevenson has directed with inventiveness and a true Mary Poppins flair.

Of course, it is sentimental. And, as Mary Poppins says, "Practically perfect people never permit sentiment to muddle their feelings." But being not practically perfect, I find it irresistible. Plenty of other adults will feel the same way. And, needless to say, so will the kids.
From a retrospective review in The Telegraph in 2015:
PL Travers wept at the premiere and said her character had been betrayed. Disney had created a vaudeville maid, of course, not the darker and more mysterious one from the novel, for whom magic had a shadowy side.

In the film, banker George Banks's search for a no-nonsense nanny to take care of his two naughty children is solved when Mary Poppins and her magic umbrella glide into their lives. Van Dyke's energy is prodigious (especially when he leaps around with a gang of sooty chimney-sweeps on the London rooftops) and the songs are classics. Even those who have never seen the film could probably sing along to Chim Chim Cheree, A Spoonful of Sugar, Let's Go Fly a Kite and Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

Travers softened a smidgen in later years, saying before her death in 1996 at the age of 96 that it was "glamorous" and she had "learned to live with it".
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posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome (13 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I finally watched this in full at Easter, aged 43, with my nieces. I cannot tell you how disappointed I was that there was no line ' Chim chimanee, chim chimanee, chim charoo, chum up with me and I'll chum up with you'. I'm not sure where I got that from but l felt betrayed by its absence.
posted by biffa at 1:21 AM on June 4, 2015

A good friend of mine's daughter (who is an awesome person) really really dislikes this film - she was so upset at the ending. Her problem with the film is that this woman came into a family, had everyone fall in love with her (and vise versa) and then just up and abandonded them.
posted by parki at 3:59 AM on June 4, 2015

I love the movie. Bert and Mary's romance is unusually independent (although perhaps more in keeping with a 1964 idea of how an unmarried, "courting" couple should be together?) The soundtrack is utterly delightful and the chimney sweep dance is perfect. I agree that the movie is accidentally feminist - as clownish as the Votes For Women campaign seems, this movie centers the interests of women and girls and passes the Bechdel test easily.

It's been a few years but I don't remember loving the books which were just kind of a series of anecdotes (some of which were originally quite racists), although I do remember Mary being a more mean and weird character in the book, which is cool.
posted by latkes at 9:04 AM on June 4, 2015

Travers changed the people in the Bad Tuesday chapter from Chinese, Inuit, Native American and sub-Saharan African to the animals panda, polar bear, dolphin and macaw in 1981.

Roald Dahl did something similar with the Oompa-Loompas: originally black, changed to white, then finally race not described.

I agree that mean, vain Mary Poppins is far more interesting in the books than the sweeter one in the movie.
posted by brujita at 9:53 AM on June 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I was thinking about the retroactively changed racism of older children's books. It seems so surprising to know that happened, that authors go back and revise their books decades after writing them. But for the good for kids books I think, for the most part.

I remember listening to some Pippi Longstocking books on tape with my daughter when she was younger and dealing with some uncomfortable racial stereotypes. In that case it served as a useful conversation starter with her though. I saw it as a chance to help her read critically and notice what the messages she's hearing are saying.

On the other hand, when we listened to Oliver Twist on tape I actually finally turned it off because I couldn't deal with the unrelenting antisemitic stereotype. It's one thing to intellectually get the historical context and another to actually have to absorb the crap when it's so overt and there's so much of it.
posted by latkes at 10:18 AM on June 4, 2015

It was interesting reading the feminist take on Mary Poppins. I haven't watched the movie in a while, as a kid I remember having the opposite reaction - being embarrassed by the suffragettes, thinking they were made out to be vapid and a punchline.
posted by twoporedomain at 10:37 AM on June 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

Travers changed the people in the Bad Tuesday chapter from Chinese, Inuit, Native American and sub-Saharan African to the animals panda, polar bear, dolphin and macaw in 1981.

It was more complicated than that. The version I had as a child in the late 1970s still had the people of different races in the Bad Tuesday chapter, but their speech was pretty much basic English. Years later I found an earlier edition and discovered that the African people were speaking terrible Negro dialect (can't remember for sure if the others were similarly afflicted but I suspect that they were). Then I found a newer edition and found the animals.

It fascinated me. I don't think I knew until now that that was Travers herself who made the changes and not an editor/publisher.
posted by dlugoczaj at 2:27 PM on June 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

Not just feminist -- look how self-centered and vain the rich folks are, and it's the working class folks who are portrayed as kindly and/or fun: Burt, Mary, the woman on the steps of St. Paul's....
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 4:06 PM on June 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

Bert and Mary's romance

I've been watching this movie all my life and it never would have occurred to me to call Bert and Mary's friendship a romance.

That's the sign of a great movie, isn't it, that different people can see it in such different ways?
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:37 AM on June 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

The stage version a few years back was essentially based on the books, as I recall, though the tone was inevitably influenced by the film. I suspect a chunk of the audience was surprised and not altogether pleased to find it wasn't just a straight staging of the film.
posted by Segundus at 5:34 AM on June 6, 2015

Dick Van Dyke's cockney accent must be the most mocked ever, but I think he did a good job with the part. If you think of what somebody like Tommy Steele would have done with it and I think the accent seems less important.
posted by Segundus at 5:38 AM on June 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

I've been watching this movie all my life and it never would have occurred to me to call Bert and Mary's friendship a romance.
I never really thought of it that way either, until I read a very sweet observation somewhere a few years ago. I can't find the original comment (I could have sworn it was somwhere on MetaFilter) but somebody pointed out that the reason everyone inside the chalk drawing absolutely adores Mary is that that whole world was created by Bert.
posted by usonian at 4:22 PM on August 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

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