PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):
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, where he suddenly senses that his good friend is about to return. After the show, he breaks the fourth wall and introduces the audience 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 Banks’ latest nanny, Katie Nanna (Elsa Lanchester), quits out of exasperation after the Banks children, Jane (Karen Dotrice) and Michael (Matthew Garber) run off in pursuit of a wayward kite. 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. 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 though 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 manoeuvres 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 to the park pavement.
That evening, the children ask Mary how long she’ll stay with them. With a sombre expression, she replies, “I shall stay until the wind changes”. The next day, they all visit Bert’s jovial Uncle Albert, who floats whenever he laughs, and join him in a tea party in mid-air (though Mary finds it childish and ridiculous).
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”, and they want to feed the birds, but George will have none of it as he expresses his uninterest 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—Mr. Banks’ extremely elderly employer—aggressively tries to persuade Michael to invest his money 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 children 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, who mistakes them for Hottentots, sends the entire gathering back down the Banks’ chimney. Mr. Banks arrives home, forcing Mary to conclude the festivities. 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 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). 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 the old man one of Bert’s and 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., 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 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.
Someone actually suggested this one to me in the spring, but certain personal events put it on hold indefinitely. Today, I finally get the chance to make good on that promise.
Along with the classic hand drawn animation films of its heyday, one the Disney studios greatest productions had to be Mary Poppins.
This is everything one wold expect from a Disney film. It has bright, brilliant colors, great songs, a heart warming story, and that Disney magic. All of which have allowed it to withstand the test of time.
I was not aware, but should not be surprised, that Mary Poppins was actually a book. I suppose I should go the library and check it out. On that note, another nanny that has gained some popularity in recent years has been said to be Mary’s sister, and that is Nanny McPhee. Now, I don’t know how true or false this is, nor do I care to speculate on it, but I will look into it and see. My suspicion, though, is that they are two similar characters and people just want them to be related for some strange reason.
The songs in this film are great. Often times, a musical will have those 1 or two songs that you’ll be singing months after you watch, and the rest will be forgotten soon after they are over. Well, almost all of these songs are sure to be stuck in your head, with a couple of exceptions, and those aren’t necessarily bad, just not as catchy.
When Who Framed Roger Rabbit? was released, they all said it was the first to mix live action with cartoons. Well, those same people need to look at the scenes that take place in the sidewalk chalk art. Unless I’m seeing things, it looks very much like humans interacting with cartoons, in a cartoon world, no less!
As I said before, I have not read the book, but if this story is anywhere close to the source material then it will be a good read, because the audience can’t help but be enthralled by the plights, exploits, and adventures of each member of this cast, and how they all interact with each other.
It appears, though, that Disney altered the characterization of Mary Poppins. I’ve read that she was supposed to be a bit cruel and stern…ironically like the nanny she replaces or yo cold even go so far as to say Nanny McPhee, if you’d like.
I would have liked a bit more emphasis on the mother, but that’s just a personal preference, rather than a slight against the films. Also, the staff seems to be great comic relief. Using them a bit more might have been a good idea, as well.
Julie Andrews at this time was fresh on the scene. In fact, if I’m not mistaken, this is her big screen debut. What a debut, huh? Just think, though, things just went up from here, even if she has spent the majority of her career as either a nanny or in her later years as some sort of regal figure, such as a queen.
Dick Van Dyke is constantly getting flack for his cockney accent. People are saying that it ruins the film. Personally, I like it. His accent works for his character and throws a bit of spice into a cast that all seem to have the same cookie cutter British accent.
So, what is the final verdict on Mary Poppins? Well, this is hands down one of the best non animated Disney films. I think only Old Yeller is anywhere near as good. With a few minor exceptions, I have to say that this film is, to quote Mary Poppins, “Practically perfect in every way”.
5 out of 5 stars