August 27, 2019
Unlike most of the musical films of the previous decades, this one was aimed at children. It introduced new words into our collective vocabulary and catapulted its two stars into the stratosphere. Children everywhere wanted a nanny just like Mary Poppins and her chimney sweep friend Bert.
Mary Poppins hit the silver screen on August 27, 1964, and soon everyone was exclaiming Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious and singing Chim-Chim-Cheree.
The movie was based on a children’s book by P.L. Travers. It was the song writing brothers of Robert and Richard Sherman who created over 30 songs for the movie. Of those, 14 made the final cut.
It was, however, the superb casting, particularly of Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke, which provided the magic needed for the story. Andrews, who was a Broadway actress at the time, transitioned to film and would, the next year, define the iconic Maria Von Trapp in the Sound of Music.
Between the incredible casting, the musical score, and the script, it proved a recipe for success. From the Infallible Wikipedia:
“It received a total of 13 Academy Awards nominations, including Best Picture – a record for any film released by Walt Disney Studios – and won five: Best Actress for Andrews, Best Film Editing, Best Original Music Score, Best Visual Effects, and Best Original Song for ‘Chim Chim Cher-ee’. In 2013, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being ‘culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant’. Mary Poppins is considered Walt Disney’s crowning live-action achievement, and is the only one of his films which earned a Best Picture nomination during his lifetime.”
For a seven year old, getting to go to a theater and see a movie was a big deal. Especially when it was the very FIRST movie that seven year old had ever seen in a theater.
I have a distinct memory of being dropped off at the Capitol Theater in Yakima along with my older siblings to watch the movie. I doubt my then 15 year old brother was thrilled at being the designated baby sitter for the event. Of course that mattered not to me. I was enthralled from the moment Mary Poppins, umbrella unfurled and carpet bag in hand, floated down to the Banks house.
In the days, weeks, and months which followed, I strove to be Mary Poppins. If I was outside playing it was with an umbrella in hand, running down the street wishing to be lifted from the ground so that I could float away to magical places. Alas, despite some pretty strong winds at times, my Mary Poppins dreams went unfulfilled although I did manage to get airborne quite often.
After I had children of my own I made it one of my missions to expose them to the cultural phenomenon of Musicals. Although they enjoyed Mary Poppins I do not believe it impacted them quite the same way.
On a trip to Disneyland when my daughter was near the magical age of seven, we were on Main Street early one morning. Across the plaza I spied Mary Poppins. Determined to get her autograph for the daughter’s book, we hurried over.
The daughter proffered the souvenir and asked ‘Mary’ if she would sign it. A nanny’s eye landed on my daughter, said good morning, then proceeded – in character – to instruct the child to stand up straight, feet together, toes turned slightly out, with the admonishment of “spit spot.” Although my daughter was slightly flummoxed by the encounter, I was enchanted.
The whole nanny thing, I decided, might still be a good idea for seven year old children although I don’t think it’s a great idea for those same children to take flying leaps into the air in an effort to fly.
No article is complete without a link to the Infallible Wikipedia: