#30 Mary Poppins (1964)
I know I say this a lot, but this is one of my absolute favorite movies ever. It's so magical and beautiful and poignant and touching and fun. It's a masterpiece. When people ask me what my favorite movie is (and I work at Disney so this question does come up in conversation from time to time), I automatically think cartoons but then as I start listing them, I always have to throw this one in because I think it is one of the best made movies, and one of the best made Disney movies.
I don't think I have to give you a nutshell of the plot, so I won't. Phew! I'm off the hook for this one!
Reasons for why this movie is a masterpiece: 1) the story. It's really quite perfect. It has a complete arc that's filled with emotion and entertainment and poignancy and, importantly, it ends with hope (I like that Bert bids Mary Poppins farewell; it makes her character, and his, seem less lonesome). 2) the technology. I know that movie makers, and Walt Disney in particular, had been experimenting with combining cartoon and live action for decades before Mary Poppins (the Alice comedies of the 1920's), but the combination of the two blend so beautifully together, it's hard to imagine them separated. 3) the characters. Every one in the film from the practically perfect Mary Poppins, the mysterious but friendly Bert, jolly Uncle Albert, suffragette Mrs. Banks, stoic Mr. Banks, to the "adorable" children, the servants, the policeman, and the sweeps are colorful and thoroughly enjoyable characters. There isn't a dislikeable one among the lot. Although Mr. Bank has his moments, he is, in general, a pitiable character and he gets some fantastic numbers, which leads to #4.... 4) the music. You all know how much I love the Sherman Brothers. I think they were geniuses and I do wish they got more credit and recognition for their work. But, at the very least, they get a good amount of press for their work here. These songs are classic and they are classic Sherman magic. I love the way each song has a story behind it and every song has a philosophy or observation behind it. 5) the performers. this really goes hand in hand with #3, but I feel there should be something said about how amazing all of the actors are in this. There isn't a bad pick in the entire cast. Everyone is a perfect fit. 6) Finally, the magic. You just can't deny it. The movie is pure Disney magic from beginning to end. It's charming and touching, philosophical and entertaining.
Now, for some trivia. And these ones I know from watching documentaries and reading bits and pieces from time to time so I really can't cite them off-hand like I usually do. Like I said earlier, a lot of the songs have stories behind them which are very entertaining. One of my personal favorites is the story of "Sister Suffragette." When Walt Disney called Glynis Johns in to offer her the role, she thought he planned to make her the title character and was completely overjoyed. When he told her he actually wanted to make her the mother, she said she wasn't interested. So, Walt Disney told her that they'd written a song for her in this role and she told him that she'd think about it after she'd heard the song. So, Walt Disney called up the Sherman brothers and told them to think up a song for Mrs. Banks and fast. They had, luckily, already been playing with a tune for Mary Poppins about her being "practically perfect in every way." After changing the lyrics, it became "Sister Suffragette." The rest of the trivia that I know is in bits and pieces:
- "Feed the Birds (Tuppence a Bag)" was Walt's favorite song
- "Step in Time" was more or less inspired by "Knees Up, Mother Brown"
- The Sherman brothers originally wrote a song for the character Admiral Boom but Walt requested the song be taken out. The tune of the song is still the Admiral's theme and you can hear it whenever he has a scene (sing to yourself "Admiral Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom Boom" when he comes on and you'll pick up on the tune).
I could go on and on. If I'm not careful, I will!! I'm having to stop myself from waxing too eloquent on this movie. I'm in no way an expert but I have watched the documentary on it and I read the book written by the Sherman brothers and paid especial attention to this chapter. If you ever get a chance, I highly recommend both. I'll post a new poll up too - which is your favorite song in Mary Poppins?
I leave you with this little bit of silliness and one of my favorite quotes.
"There's the whole world at your feet. And who gets to see it but the birds, the stars, and the chimney sweeps."