Mary Poppins (1964): Classic Movie Review

mary-poppins-mv03Mary Poppins

USA 1964, 139 minutes, Technicolor, Walt Disney Productions, Distributed by Buena Vista Distribution. Based on Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers. Screenplay by Bill Walsh and Don DaGradi, Directed by: Robert Stevenson. Cast: Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke, David Tomlinson, Glynis Johns, Karen Dotrice, Matthew Garber, Hermione Baddeley, Reta Shaw, Reginald Owen, Don Barclay, Arthur Treacher, Elsa Lanchester, Marjorie Bennett, Arthur Malet, Ed Wynn, Jane Darwell.

Plot summary: Mary Poppins is the kind of nanny every child dreams of. She‘s lovely, adventurous and full of magic, simply supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

Review: Who does not know her, Mary Poppins, the bewitching nanny played by Julie Andrews? Arriving with the changing wind, she knows how to make a big entrance in the lives of the Banks family at a time when they need her most. The children of the household, Jane and Michael, have made a habit out of swapping personnel. They do not wish to be handled by stiff-lipped elders, they want to explore the world instead. Mary Poppins, upon arrival, seems to be just another dragon in disguise, another grown-up determined to take the fun out of their lives. However, when she slides up the stairs and opens her bag full of wondrous magic, Jane and Michael change their mind. They open their heart to the new nanny, a lady who believes in following the rules as much as bending them. Before she appeared, from heaven or out of thin air, chores and duty killed every ounce of joy in them, but with Mary, even the dullest of tasks turns into an adventure for the Banks offspring and ultimately also for their parents.

Rewarded with an Academy Award for her performance, Julie Andrews breathed life into a character who turned childhood longings into reality. Based on P.L. Travers’ first book, the silver screen version of Mary Poppins was dulcified, her story abridged to fit into 139 minutes of live-action entertainment interwoven with musical numbers and animated sequences. Versatile, stage-tested and equipped with a genuinely clear voice, Andrews made her silver screen debut in Disney‘s masterpiece adaptation and proved she was the perfect choice for her first Hollywood alter ego. Although previously trumped by Audrey Hepburn for that same year’s film version of My Fair Lady, Andrews was rewarded with the biggest laurels of industry success and thus extended her career from stage to film. Timeless in quality and style, Mary Poppins has since remained one of Julie Andrews’ most memorable films, a Disney classic that still enchants any youthful heart by sustaining the power of imagination.

Melanie Simone is a writer with a degree in American Studies and English. On Talking Classics, she savors her love for vintage Hollywood.

  • Calif.Sunshine

    A nanny full of love & kind discipline…..both for the children and their parents!! Our children could sure use her “spoonful of sugar” in this day and time…seems it would be a good lesson for some
    parents also. Love your children into manners! A movie that will last a lifetime.

  • Gord Jackson

    Loved MARY POPPINS first released, and still do.

  • ganderson

    I recently re-watched MP, both because I had a passel of grandkids over who had never seen the film (my children need a good talking-to) and because of my interest in the new ‘Saving Mr. Banks’ with Tom Hanks as Walt Disney trying to persuade Emma Thompson’s P.L.Travers to let him take her story to the big screen. First, a couple of quibbles – boy, does that animated, country fair sequence drag out for a long time! It’s a great vehicle to showcase Dick Van Dyke’s considerable song-and-dance-man abilities, but it just brings the story to a screeching halt for some 10 minutes. I understand that Ms. Travers very much objected to the scene – she had negotiated script approval rights, but Disney retained overall approval and he vetoed her objections. Second, poor Dick Van Dyke’s so-called Cockney accent – I read where it has been immortalized as the second-worse accent in all cinema, which makes me wonder who took the prize for very worst. But, as mentioned, Van Dyke’s performance otherwise is practically perfect in everyway. On the plus side are some of the best songs in the movies, including ‘Chim-Chim-Cheree’ (which, when performed as a ballad is a touching, haunting melody) and ‘Feed the Birds’ which Disney said was his favorite tune from any of his films. The chimney sweeps’ roof-top dance scene, ‘Steppin Time’, is consistently rated as one of the top five dance scenes in film. But, all considered, the movie really belongs to Julie Andrews, who is more than practically perfect — she is Mary Poppins. I recall Oscar night, in her acceptance speech, that she thanked Jack Warner for helping launch her career (he had rejected he for the lead in ‘My Fair Lady’). She literally had a voice like an angel’s. One closing observation: it’s commonly thought that Mary Poppins’ main job was to help the Banks’ children – in reality, her accomplishment was saving Mr. Banks, something that I came to appreciate many years ago when I was the too-busy father of small children myself (maybe that’s why my kids hadn’t ever shared MP with my grandchildren). Thanks to Disney, Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke for a movie classic!

    • Joyce Buckley

      Thank for the enlightening information! Really appreciated.

  • Movie Fan

    My fourth grade music teacher taught us to sing most of the songs from Mary Poppins. My favorite song was “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.” I was in my 50s before I finally got to see the movie, on cable TV, of course. It was delightful!

  • Joyce Buckley

    Perfect plot, perfect casting… perfect article…thank you. I never tire of watching this lovely movie.