Thursday, January 26, 2006

Mary Poppins

This week's movie: Mary Poppins (1964).

It had been a while since I had seen this movie, but I recently got the 40th Anniversary edition from Netflix. I love the book, and while the movie was charming there is something about the borderline creepiness, not-quite-safeness of Mary in the book that is quite enjoyable. There is a scene in the book where Michael gets up on the wrong side of the bed and decides he will be naughty all day. He sneaks Mary Poppins magic compass away from her and uses it to travel around the world. Without Mary though, the world is a daunting and frightful place. Instead of the friendly greetings he expected he finds:

They were rushing upon him from all our quarters of the room with their weapons raised above their heads, and, instead of looking kind and friendly as they had done that afternoon, they now seemed threatening and full of revenge. They were almost on top of him, their huge, terrible, angry faces looming nearer and nearer. He felt their hot breath on his face and saw their weapons tremble in their hands.

Later in the book we meet Mrs Corry (who is only lightly touched on in the movie), whose fingers snap off to become sweets and who is cruel to her large daughters. She is perhaps the only one Mary is deferential to. P.L. Travers, author of the book, wanted many things changed about the movie (removing the chalk drawing sequence or one) but Walt Disney refused. The compass sequence, mentioned above, was removed in preproduction.

Walt Disney was set on casting Julie Andrews after seeing her in a stage production of Camelot. In fact, it was her role of Mary Poppins which landed her the role of Maria in Sound of Music (1965). In The Sound of Musicals, a thoroughly enjoyable excursion through Rogers and Hammerstien movies, the anecdote is told. It seems there was some concern that Julie Andrews did not have a broad enough vocal range to portray Maria. To allay concerns, Disney let them get a peek of Mary Poppins, in the can but not yet released. They immediately called Andrews to offer her the role.

Anyway, the movie. Something I saw which I had never seen before. It is Bert, not Mary, who effects the needed change in Mr. Banks. Bert is able to understand that Mr. Banks is not stuffy to be stuffy, rather that he is weighted down with responsiblity and no longer knows how to let go of it for a time.

"Chim, Chim, Cheree" is my favorite song in the movie.

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