Well long time no speak, due to family issues there hasn’t been a blog for a while.
But here we are, and this is a first for us, in that we are going to look at Disney movie, in fact my favourite Disney movie. That movie would Mary Poppins. Being a Brit, I have always held this film close to my heart, what with it being shown every Christmas and watching at that time with my mum being tradition. Some might knock Dick Van Dyke’s Cockney accent, but so what if it wasn’t right. I think it adds to the charm of the movie.
From the song and dance to the beautiful matt paintings used for scenery of London, to animated sections that Bert, Mary, Jane and Michael entered, there is just something amazing about this film.
Now as most Disney fans will know, Mary Poppins was possibly the most difficult film that Walt Disney ever made.
As portrayed in the 2013 film, Saving Mr Banks, the making of this film based on a series of books by P.L. Travers, was never plain sailing. Pamela Travers never really felt the need for her books to be seen on the big screen, but was pursued by Walt, after he promised his daughters that he would do it for them. That pursuit would begin in 1938, but would continue until at least 1961, possibly 1962. Once this situation was sorted, script and song writing would begin, both involving involving the Sherman Brothers, Richard and Robert, alongside script writer, Don DaGradi, but the problems with Mrs Travers were only just beginning. Having given her script approval, Walt was now in a position where nothing would please P.L. Travers. She didn’t want singing in it, she didn’t want any animation added to the film. Eventually Disney would put his foot down, and the film would be made the way he wanted it.
Originally in the books, Poppins was quite a harsh and strict character, and looking for someone in that mould, Walt looked at casting Mary Martin, Bette Davis or Angela Lansbury,but after the character was changed during script writing, he needed to look again. Now more straight laced than strict, Disney was looking for someone who was pretty yet could be firm, when he was pointed in the direction of a young lady who was currently on Broadway. Julie Andrews was starring in ‘Camelot’ when Walt Disney was made aware of her.At the time Walt didn’t think she was what he was looking for but made the journey to New York to see the play and fell in love with her for the part of Mary. Only to then hit another issue, Ms Andrews was being considered for another role, one which she originated on Broadway, that of Eliza Dolittle in ‘My Fair Lady’, which was being made at Warner Bros.
Luckily for us Disney fans, the part went to Audrey Hepburn and Julie Andrews signed on for Poppins.
The next issue would be the part of Bert, an amalgamation of several male characters in the books. He would be a jack of all trades, a one man band, a scriber and a chimney sweep.
Mrs Travers wanted a big name in this role, Danny Kaye, Fred Astaire and Cary Grant were on her list, even the man who eventually got the part didn’t believe he was right for the part naming Jim Dale and Ron Moody as his choices. That man would be Dick Van Dyke, known for being a variety show man. A self trained dancer and American to boot. Van Dyke’s British accent would spark many a conversation over the years, as to whether it was any good or not.
And next would be the man of the household, Mr George Banks, a London banker, who couldn’t learn how to keep a nanny.
Again other actors were looked at initially, including Richard Harris, Terry Thomas and Donald Sutherland, but the role would go to David Tomlinson, his only worry was that he had never sung professionally.
And the last of the major roles, the Banks children, Jane and Michael, would be played by Karen Dotrice and Matthew Garber, both had starred in Disney movies previously
Other smaller roles were filled out, including Mrs Banks, played by Glynis Johns, and Ed Wynn, who would play Uncle Albert.
Production would commence on the lot at The Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, once Julie Andrews had given birth. (she was 3 months pregnant when she signed and Mr Disney promised to hold production until she was ready)
The film was headed for a Summer 1964 release and Walt got his way, mainly due to the fact Mrs Travers didn’t have final script approval, and a whole sequence would be animated, with only the actors being real.
Also music would play a huge part in the film including songs like Spoonful of Sugar, It’s a Jolly Holiday, Step in Time and Walt’s Favourite, Feed the Birds.
But it would be Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious that would stick in the mind for many a reason.
The film would have its premiere at The Chinese Theater on Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles, where a visibly upset P.L. Travers would be seen turning up uninvited, still angry about the treatment of her Mary Poppins, going as far as to tell Walt that the animation still has to go, only for Disney to retort “my dear Pamela, that ship has sailed”
The film would be released in August 1964 and would become the number 1 box office hit of the year, beating another Julie Andrews film, The Sound of Music, by taking $28.5 million.
The following year Walt would get his one and only Oscar nomination or Best Picture and to top it off Julie Andrews would win Best Actress at the same ceremony, the only actor/actress to win one from a Disney movie.
Walt would pursue P.L. Travers for the rights to sequels until his death but Travers had no interest or reason to grant his wish after the treatment over the first one.
It wasn’t until the 1990’s that Travers would relent and grant Cameron Mackintosh the musical theatre rights. The issue he knew he ha was that the songs from the film belonged to The Walt Disney Company. Originally P.L. Didn’t want these used in the West End but had to relent after Mackintosh said people going would want to hear these famous songs. Eventually it was agreed that anyone working on the production has to be English, so any new songs would have to be written by someone other than Sherman Brothers. But therefore became a joint production with Disney so the original songs could be used.
The production would open in The Prince Edward Theatre in London in 2004 and run until 2008, while also opening on Broadway at the New Amsterdam Theater from 2006 and closed in 2013, and also encompassing many a National Tour over the years.
So there you have it, a treasure of a movie that was by no means an easy feat for Walt to make but to this day continues to be watched by multiple generations.
Winds changed direction and it is time to leave you, but why not use that change and maybe go fly a kite.