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 with illustrations by Mary Shepard. 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 begins 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 Mr. Banks (David Tomlinson) and the loving but highly distracted suffragette Mrs. 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 note's remains float up the chimney.
The next day, a queue of old and disagreeable nanny candidates waits at the door. However a strong gust of wind blows the queue away and Mary Poppins floats down with her 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, promising George a one-week trial period before she knows when to be fully able to be permanently employed there.
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 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, before rain washes out the drawings. 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 a little childish and absolutely 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, the kids see the bird woman and they want to feed the birds that are gathering at the cathedral, but George will have none of it and orders his children to "come along!" Mr. Dawes, Mr. Banks' extremely elderly employer, is equally unsympathetic, sneering, "Feed the birds and what have you got? Fat birds." He 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 explicit permission--which Michael had never had any intention of giving. 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 sombre and thoughtful Mr. Banks walks alone through the night-time streets. 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 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 mournful, 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, telling her not to stay away too long. After the credits roll, the letters for the name for the person who played Mr. Dawes Sr. (Navckid Keyd), rearrange themselves to spell Dick Van Dyke.
Cast and characters
Mary Poppins (character)
"Practically perfect in every way". She 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). It is also suggested that Mary and Bert has some sort of romantic feelings towards each other. This feeling seems to be mutual but probably hard to act upon because of Marys need to not be tied down. She needs to be able to help children everywhere.
She was played by Julie Andrews, who won a Best Actress Oscar award for the role.
Bert, portrayed by Dick Van Dyke, is a Cockney; as well as being a jack-of-all-trades, and 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.
Bert has at least four jobs during the movie: a one-man band, a sidewalk 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 indirectly 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, played by David Tomlinson, 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 (he could be considered a Type A personality in modern standards) 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. He often hurts his head in the fireplace when he tries to look for the paper he ripped earlier because of distractions.
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 that "Poppins" was "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 be meant in the same way as "my maid" or "my cook".
Mrs. Winifred Banks, played by Glynis Johns, wife of George Banks and the mother of Jane and Michael. She is more fully developed in the movie 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 movie 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.
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; however, some alternate universe fan fiction stories have her name written as Cynthia.
Mrs. Banks' four "Votes for Women" sashes from the movie 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 (possibly to show that the "man" of the household had power, and would deal with the nanny), though Mrs. Banks does mention her frequently. In the book, they do speak to one another.
The Banks children
While the Banks family in the original novel had four children, only Jane and Michael appear in the movie. They were played by Karen Dotrice and Matthew Garber. 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, the maid of the Banks residence. She hates having to look after the children, when there is no nanny available in the household. (Hermione Baddeley).
Mrs. Brill, 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!" (Reta Shaw)
Admiral Boom, the Banks's neighbor 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 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 "ghastly looking crew". (Reginald Owen)
Mr. Binnacle, Admiral Boom's first mate. He gets excited when he is ordered to give the cannon a double charge. (Don Barclay)
Constable Jones, 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. (Arthur Treacher)
Katie Nanna, 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. (Elsa Lanchester)
Mr. Dawes Sr., the elderly 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. (Dick Van Dyke)
Mr. Dawes Jr., the director's son and member of the board. (Arthur Malet)
Uncle Albert, 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. (Ed Wynn)
The bird woman. (Jane Darwell, in her final film appearance)
The parrot handle (David Tomlinson) who speaks at the end of the film (uncredited)
Overture — Orchestral medley of several of the songs from the film, including "Feed the Birds", "A Spoonful of Sugar", "Chim Chim Cher-ee" and "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious".
"Jolly Holiday" — A few bars of the song, played by Dick Van Dyke with his "one man band" gear.
"Sister Suffragette" — Glynis Johns, Hermione Baddeley and Reta Shaw, with non-singing interruptions by Elsa Lanchester. Initially heard in an a cappella rendition by Johns, just prior to singing the full, orchestra-accompanied song with the house staff; and a music-only version in the "Step in Time" sequence.
"The Life I Lead" — David Tomlinson (later reprised with Julie Andrews as "A British Bank"
and with Dick Van Dyke as "A Man has Dreams".)
"The Perfect Nanny" — Karen Dotrice and Matthew Garber
"A Spoonful of Sugar" — Julie Andrews (the 2004 DVD release reveals that Andrews also performed the bird's whistling during this number)
"Jolly Holiday" — Dick Van Dyke and Julie Andrews, with Thurl Ravenscroft, Marni Nixon, Paul Frees and others
"Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" — Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke with J. Pat O'Malley and others
"Stay Awake" — Julie Andrews
"I Love to Laugh" — Dick Van Dyke, Julie Andrews and Ed Wynn
"Feed the Birds" — Julie Andrews (Walt Disney's favorite song from the score, and the leadoff melody in the overture)
"Fidelity Fiduciary Bank" — Dick Van Dyke, David Tomlinson and other people at the bank
"Chim Chim Cher-ee" — Performed several times with different lyrics by Dick Van Dyke; also performed by Van Dyke with Julie Andrews, Karen Dotrice, and Matthew Garber (won the Academy Award for Best Original Song)
"Step in Time" — Dick Van Dyke
"A Man Has Dreams" — David Tomlinson and Dick Van Dyke. This is a slower-paced rendition of "The Life I Lead" which incorporates a brief reprise of "A Spoonful of Sugar".
"Feed the Birds" — Orchestral and choral reprise, played over Mr. Banks's solitary walk to the bank at night.
"Let's Go Fly a Kite" — Glynis Johns, David Tomlinson, Dick Van Dyke and others.
Closing credits theme — Includes an instrumental reprise of "Spoonful of Sugar" followed by a choral reprise of "Let's Go Fly a Kite".