Disney Reviews with the Unshaved Mouse #18a: Mary Poppins

DISCLAIMER: This blog is not for profit. All images used below are property of their respective companies unless stated otherwise. I do not claim ownership of this material.

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As we move into December it’s only natural to take stock of everything that’s happened in the last year and I gotta say…2012 was very, very good to me. I married the love of my life, moved into a new house, had a beautiful daughter, and after years of smacking my head against a brick wall my writing career is finally starting to show signs of momentum. Oh yeah, and I started a blog that has done better than I could ever have envisaged. I thought this would just be me typing away every week being indulged by a few of my Facebook friends. Now I’m checking the stats every day and wondering why I’m getting fewer hits from the Philippines than usual.
They never forgave me for killing off Sarcastic Map of Wartime Europe.

They never forgave me for killing off Sarcastic Map of Wartime Europe.

So yeah. 2012 was a very good year. It was like that song by Frank Sinatra. You know the one.“My Way”.
Having said that, I think it’s pretty safe to say that if I live to be a hundred I will NEVER have as good a year as Julie Andrews did in 1965. Her first ever movie, Mary Poppins,was the highest grossing film of the year and received a record breaking 13 Oscar Nominations, winning five. Oh yeah, and the second highest grossing film that year was a little picture called The Sound of Music which would actually go on to gross even more than Gone with the WindIn case you’re curious, the third and fourth most successful movies that year were Goldfinger and My Fair Lady. Yeah. 1965 was a GOOD year for movies, and an absolutely phenomenal one for Julie Andrews.
Andrews was coming off a successful stage career, having originated the role of Eliza Doolittle on Broadway in My Fair Lady, and was actually going to star in the movie version but at the last minute she was replaced by some kind of giant sentient stick insect that couldn’t sing.
Eat. A fucking. Sandwich.

Eat. A fucking. Sandwich.

Andrews got the last laugh when Walt Disney cast her as Mary Poppins, a casting choice that was, oh yes, practically perfect in every way. But time enough for that. Let’s look at Mary Poppins. 
Mary Poppins is one of those movies where everything just comes together perfectly. Director Robert Stevenson did plenty of work with Disney before this and went on to do many more films with the studio afterward. If you’ve seen any live action Disney movie that involved Dean Jones running afoul of animals or magic or magic animals; (The Shaggy DA, Blackbeard’s Ghost, That Darn Cat, The Love Bug etc), chances are Robert Stevenson directed it. Stevenson, to my mind, is possibly the most perfect example of a journeyman director you could find. His filmography is pretty much wall to wall competent, workmanline, uninspired, totally forgettable kiddie films. Oh, and this, one of the most awarded and beloved movies of all time. What happened? Honestly, I don’t know. I’ve watched a lot of Stevenson’s work (although I didn’t realise it at the time) and with the possible exception of  Bedknobs and Broomsticks, none of them approach his work here in terms of style and charm. But then, he wouldn’t be the only one who brought their A game to this movie.
For instance, the songs by the Sherman Brothers…
The...brothers...Sheeeerm....

The…brothers…Sheeeerm….

Oh, back for more eh? WELL TASTE THE BOOM!
Salty.

Salty.

Worst fucking running joke I ever…anyway, the music. I honestly cannot think of another musical where all the songs, every single damn one, are of such fantastic quality. There is not one average, mediocre or forgettable tune in the whole film. They are all pure gold.
The movie begins with a sweeping overhead of one of the magnificent matte paintings that stand in for Edwardian London and we get our first view of our heroine, calmly applying foundation while sitting on a cloud like it ain’t no thang. That wordless introduction over, we swoop down to ground level where our guide through this surreal, dreamlike version of London entertains a crowd as a one man band. This is Bert, played by Dick Van Dyke…
ACCENT! ACCENT! ACCENT!

ACCENT! ACCENT! ACCENT!

I’M GETTING TO THE ACCENT! JESUS!

Sigh.

You know, I was actually going to give Van Dyke a passed on the accent because I think it’s just part of the movie’s charm and so much has already been said about it but then I came across an interview where Dick claimed that the reason the accent was so bad was that his voice coach, J. Pat O’Malley, was Irish and that his cockney accent was just as bad as Dick’s. Now, as regular readers will know I am an Irishman and I cannot let this slur upon my nation’s honour pass so please allow me the indulgence of bitch slapping Dick Van Dyke with the internet for a few minutes.

I am after all, a reviewer second and a patriot first.

This is actually the flag of Cote D'Ivoire but...fuck it, close enough.

This is actually the flag of Côte D’Ivoire but…fuck it, close enough.

Okay Dick? Your story that your voice coach was an Irishman with a worse cockney accent than you is implausible, as there are no Irishmen with worse cockney accents than you. Christie Brown could do a better cockney accent than you.

And it would be a heartbreaking yet ultimately uplifting cockney accent, celebrating the resilience  of the human spirit.

And it would be a heartbreaking yet ultimately uplifting cockney accent, celebrating the resilience of the human spirit.

Secondly, J Pat O’Malley, while I could totally see why you would think that from the name, was not Irish. He was born in Lancashire and did many voices for Disney, such as Tweedledum, Tweedledee and the Carpenter in Alice in Wonderland, Jasper in 101 Dalmatians and Cyril Proudbottom in Ichabod and Mr Toad. 

AKA Widowmaker, AKA Ramon Salazar Guitterez.

AKA Widowmaker, AKA Jesus Labra Aviles, AKA Ramon Salazar Guttiérez, AKA La Caballo Blanco…

What did all those characters have in common? They were all cockneys. It’s kind of odd really, Dick, that you thought that a man who spent a good portion of his professional life doing cockney accents couldn’t do a cockney accent. It’s almost like you had no idea what a cockney accent sounds like OH WAIT…

That's right. I just truth kicked you in the nutsack.

That’s right. I just truth-kicked you in the nutsack.

Okay, all joking aside Dick Van Dyke is phenomenal as Bert, showing in one scene why he’s one of the all time great physical comedians as he entertains the crowd. He makes up little rhymes on the spot which serve to introduce many of the minor characters that we’ll see later in the movie like Andrew the Yorkshire terrier and the Constable. The movie does a great job of making this fictional little suburb of London feel authentic and whole. Many of these characters pop in and out of the sidelines and it adds to the feeling that the story of the Banks family and Mary Poppins is just one of many that’s going on in Cherry Tree Lane. It’s excellent world building, which is not normally something you really get in a children’s musical. But then Bert stops as he feels the wind change and whispers quietly:

Winds in the east, mist coming in. / Like somethin’ is brewin’ and bout to begin. / Can’t put me finger on what lies in store, / But I feel what’s to happen all happened before.”

I swear to God, I get goosebumps at that scene every time I see it. It just encapsulates the whole feeling of the movie. Something is coming. Something wonderful. Bert then snaps out of it and clowns around some more until he finishes his set. He then breaks the fourth wall and offers to take us, the audience (who he greets with “Oh, it’s you!” as if we’re old friends) to 17 Cherry Tree Lane. He leads us pass the home of Admiral Boom, who has converted his stately home into a battleship and fires his cannons twice a day to mark the time which causes the furniture in the neighbouring houses to go flying across the room with the impact.

Boom's House

Yeah, even before Mary Poppins arrives and starts making with the voodoo, Cherry Tree Lane is a weird place. I always wondered as a child why the Banks and their neighbours put up with Boom’s shenanigans.

Now of course I realise he's defending the neighbourhood from the Crimson Permanent Assurance.

Now of course I realise he’s defending the neighbourhood from the Crimson Permanent Assurance.

Anyway, Bert leads us to the Banks family home and we hear crashes and raised voices and it appears we have a domestic disturbance here, people. That is, the domestics are disturbed. The Banks housekeeper, Ellen and their cook…um…Cook are in a tizzy because the family nanny, Katie Nana (played by Elsa Lancaster) is leaving. The Banks children, Jane and Michael, have run off for the fourth time this week and Katie Nana has had enough, goddammit. And you know,I can understand that. Lancaster seems a little frumpy but that’s no reason for the children to act like she’s some kind of monster.

Oh.

Oh.

Ellen tries desperately to prevent her from leaving, knowing that if she does she’ll be stuck minding the little shits, whereas Cook pretty much asks Katie Nana not to let the door hit her ass on the way out. They’re interrupted by Mrs Banks (played by Glynis Jones) arriving home from a suffragette march.

Let me make this absolutely clear. I. Freaking. Love. Winifred Banks.

Damn.

Mrs Banks, you’re trying to seduce me.
And you’re SUCCEEDING.

I’ve heard people claim that Mrs Banks is supposed to be a straw feminist, and that through her the movie mocks the Women’s Suffrage movement. Well, it’s a free country and everyone is entitled to their silly, silly, wrong little opinions but let me mount a rebuttal here.

1) THIS is a straw feminist.

JaniceLester

Observe the seething, unthinking hatred for all men.

Straw feminists are humorless, shrill, unreasonable and unless the actress playing them manages to wrestle a little humanity in there, completely unlikable. They are not, as a general rule, adorable firecrackers with kickass songs. I’m a guy, and I want to throw eggs at Prime Minister Asquith when I hear Sister Suffragette.

Hey Asquith! Yolk's on you!

Fuck did I do?

Does Mrs Banks come across as a little silly and ridiculous? Duh. Yes. It’s Mary Poppins, any adult character whose name doesn’t begin with “M” and end with “ary Poppins” is ridiculous to some extent. But Mrs Banks comes across as more sensible and sympathetic than the vast majority of the others. In how many kids movies do you hear the name of Emmeline Pankhurst? How many movies do kids see where the fact that women had to fight to get the right to vote is even mentioned? Not only that, how many movies, period, depict feminism of any wave as something joyous and positive and FUN? Go on, I’ll wait.

2) Now, the big criticism I’ve heard against Mrs Banks is that once Mr Banks (David Tomlinson) comes home she instantly hangs her sash up and becomes the devoted housewife, hanging on George Banks’ every word and that this somehow is a rebuttal of her feminism. But that’s to entirely miss the point of the joke. Let me explain what I mean.

George Banks comes home, singing The Life I Lead, a song that basically makes the point that being a white Englishman in turn of the century Britain is freaking sweet. George Banks is an archetypal father-knows-best, lord-and-master-of-the-household kind of guy. He comes home expecting his sherry and pipe to be laid out, his wife waiting for him when he gets home and his children to be bathed and dressed for bed so that he can favour them with a fatherly pat on the head and send them off to be looked after by the woman he has employed to act as a parent for them. And, presumably because she loves him, Mrs Banks does indeed buy into this and plays her part as the devoted wife. But it’s not Mrs Banks who’s being satirised, it’s Mr Banks. As much as he is that archetypal father figure, he is also a rather pointed parody of it. The point of the movie is that Mr Banks’ way of doing things doesn’t work. His children don’t need a tough, stern, managerial overlord, they need a father who loves them and who isn’t ashamed to show that he loves them. His wife does not need him as a leader, because the movie makes it very clear that he’s rather dim and is terrible at it, but as an equal partner. It’s Mr Banks who is a figure of ridicule in this movie, and it is Mr Banks that must change his behaviour before the end. If Mrs Banks also comes across as somewhat ridiculous, it is not because she is a feminist, but perhaps because she is not feminist enough in challenging Mr Banks sooner.

Okay, dismounting from my soapbox now. Anyway, it turns out that Jane and Michael didn’t mean to run away and that they were just chasing a kite. George  gruffly sends them to their room and he and Winifred draft an advertisement to the Times for a new nanny. In A British Nanny, George articulates his idea of the kind of person they’re looking for, essentially Jo Frost crossed with a Nazi Gauleiter. Jane and Michael then enter and tell their parents that they’re very sorry and that they want to help with finding a new nanny. They then read their advertisement which they sing as The Perfect Nanny. This is a very sweet song where the two kids promise the prospective nanny not to be bad if she’s nice to them. It’s also very sad that one of the children’s criteria is that the new nanny should “love us as a son and daughter”, something they’re obviously not getting from their father. Winifred listens sympathetically but George essentially gives them the bum’s rush and tears up their letter and puts it in the fireplace. But the pieces are magically sucked up through the chimney because Mary Poppins can control the wind. And she sees all. And she knows what you’re thinking.

marypop45-02

And she will KICK YOUR ASS.

A stream of  nannies answer the Banks’ advertisement but Mary Poppins arrives and blows the competition away.

Quite literally

Quite literally

Okay, one of the reasons why I was adamant about including this movie in the reviews even though it’s not technically part of the Disney canon is that it feels so much like a Disney animated movie. The colours, the music and must especially the characters. I mean, these actors look like they were drawn in the Disney house style. Look:

It's a story about a beautiful woman named Mary

It’s a story about a beautiful woman named Mary

It's a story about a beautiful woman named Mary...

It’s a story about a beautiful woman named Mary…

George Darling

…a London banker called George…

George

…a London banker called George…

Michael-Darling-peter-pan-6584995-200-195

And his son, Michael.

Michael

And his son, Michael

They actors just LOOK like cartoon characters brought to life.

Mary Poppins quickly gets the job by befuddling Mr Banks thoroughly and before you know it she’s showing the kids how to clean the nursery with magic because Mary Poppins isn’t a hypocrite like some people I know.

Magic can't solve your problems my unshaved ass!

Magic can’t solve your problems my unshaved ass!

Mary takes the children on an outing to the park and they meet up with Bert who’s switched professions to street artist. Bert sings his signature song Chim-chim-cheree and admires his drawings, saying “Not Royal Academy I suppose, still they’re better than a finger in the eye, ain’t they?”

So better than Rob Liefeld. Boom.

So better than Rob Liefeld then.
Boom.

Bert convinces Mary Poppins to take them all into one of his pictures, an idyllic drawing of the English countryside. This leads to the famous animated sequence which is very well done, but I just can’t get past the theological implications of this. I mean, Bert created this world. How are the people and talking animals here supposed to react to him? Jane and Michael run off to find a fair and Bert calls after them to “Tell ’em Bert sent ya!”

Tell them their Lord and Creator walks among

“Tell them their Lord and Creator walks among them in the form of a man! TELL THEM JUDGEMENT IS NIGH!”

Mary and Bert amble along together to the strains of Jolly Holiday. The author of the original Mary Poppins books, Pamela Traverswas absolutely adamant that there be no hint of any romantic relationship between Bert and Mary. This is why the lyrics include “You’d never think of pressing your advantage/Forbearance is the hallmark of your creed” but the movie’s insistence that there’s nothing between them backfires somewhat, making it seem that Mary and Bert are simply playing coy. It doesn’t help that Van Dyke and Andrews have absolutely killer chemistry. What I’m saying is, Mary Poppins and Bert are madly in love and that’s just the way it is. We’re just going to have to deal with that.

Don’t believe me? Consider this: Watch the scenes in the chalk drawing again, observing how every male character reacts to Mary. Now…consider that this world was created by Bert and that all these characters are simply aspects of his psyche.  I rest my case.

The animation in this sequence is excellent. It uses the same Xerography process as the other movies of the Scratchy Era but it looks a lot cleaner than the others. I don’t exactly know why. Maybe because there was less animation in this movie and a bigger budget they were able to devote more to cleaning it up. Whatever the reason, it looks gorgeous.

The sequence wraps up with Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (Death to Spellcheckers) probably the most famous song in the film, which shows the Shermans at their joyous, sesquipedalian best. But all good things must come to an end and the skies open, bringing with them rainy Armageddon to this chalky world.

Mary Poppins and the children reappear in London, and they say goodbye to Bert as he erases the last of his drawings.

I like to think this is how the universe will end. God singing to himself as he kicks the last traces of the universe from a rainy pavement.

I like to think this is how the universe will end. God singing to himself as he kicks the last traces of the universe from a rainy pavement.

Back at the Banks’ house Mary gives Jane and Michael some medicine to stop them catching a cold. The medicine changes colour and flavour depending on who it’s being poured for (Lime for Jane, Strawberry for Michael, Booze for Mary and don’t you dare judge her). This effect was achieved with an actual working prop and neither of the children knew it was going to happen. Karen Dotrice’s (Jane’s) stunned”Oh!” when she sees the medicine changing colours is entirely genuine. Mary Poppins then puts the children to sleep with Stay Awake, which despite the title is a lullaby. And trust me, if you have kids this song is a godsend. Works every time.

The next day George is in foul humour because everyone in the house has been acting so fucking cheerful since Mary Poppins arrived. And there is definitely a good horror movie to be made from this set-up, isn’t there? A strange woman appears in your house and suddenly everyone is smiling and singing and spouting nonsense words. But no, George is just being a jerk. He even tells Winifred to get the piano tuned even though he doesn’t play.

So Mary is sent to the piano tuners with Jane and Michael (here’s a thought, when do these kids go to school?) but she gets waylaid by Andrew the Yorkshire terrier who barks to her that Uncle Albert needs her help. At  least…we hope that’s what he was trying to tell her.

"Help! Heeeeeeeeeelp!"

“Help! Heeeeeeeeeelp!”

Arriving at Uncle Albert’s house Mary meets Bert who tells her that he’s never seen Albert as bad as this before. The children think he must be sick. We, the jaded, cynical audience, think it must be drugs. It turns out it’s neither. Uncle Albert has a condition where once he starts laughing he starts to fly. Albert is played by Ed Wynn, who was the Mad Hatter in Alice In Wonderland and was apparently the only actor who was given freedom by director Robert Stevenson to go off script and improvise. The gravity defying effects in this scene are very impressive (hand on my heart, I’m not even sure how did they did some of these takes). Mary tries to get Albert to come down off the ceiling but as Bert, Jane and Michael one by one start laughing and floating upward she realises that if you can’t beat ’em join ’em and they all have a tea party on the ceiling. Albert does eventually come once Mary announces they have to leave and he’s brought down to earth by the power of manic depression. They leave him sobbing on the ground, which seems harsh but you have to remember, this is a tea party with Ed Wynn. This could have ended so much worse.

Batman descending

WHERE’S THE GIRL TETCH?!!


Back at the house George has had just about enough of all this fun and happiness and tries to fire Mary Poppins but instead gets talked into taking Jane and Michael to work with him in the bank. She goes upstairs and the children are distraught because they think she’s been sacked. Mary Poppins says “SACKED!?” in the same tone that most people reserve for repeating the name of the STD you’ve just told them you may have given them.

It's called . The good news is it's non-lethal. The bad news is you will wish with every fibre of your being that it was.

It’s called Lymphogranuloma venereum. The good news is it’s not fatal. The bad news is you will wish with every fibre of your being that it was.

Apparently being sacked is something that Mary Poppins just doesn’t do. And…I didn’t know you could do that.

"You're fired!"

“You’re fired!”

"No. I'm not. I don't get fired."

“No. I’m not. I don’t get fired.”

"Really? Sorry, my mistake."

“Really? Sorry, my mistake.”

Pff. Idiots.

Pff. Idiots.

Mary tells them that their father is going to take them on an outing to the bank, and the children are overjoyed. Jane tells Michael that George will be able to point out all the sights of the city to them, but Mary tells them that there are some things that George can’t see, even though they’re right in front of him.

And then…though we are not worthy…we get Feed the Birds.

Towards the end of his life, Walt would often visit the Sherman Brothers. They would talk and sit around the piano, discussing work, family, the industry. And then maybe there would be a lull in the conversation. Then Walt would say two words:

“Play it.”

The Sherman Brothers, two of the most prolific and successful songwriters in American history, with literally hundreds of classic songs under their belt, never needed to ask which song he wanted to hear.

Its beauty is in its simplicity. Mary sings of an old woman on the steps of St Paul’s cathedral, selling crumbs to feed the birds for two pennies. The song takes this, the smallest conceivable act of charity in a cruel world, and turns it into something transcendentally beautiful, an act that lifts the giver closer to heaven. It is not inconsequential or meaningless, but truly divine.

The next day George takes Jane and Michael to the bank and they see the bird woman just as Mary described her. Michael has tuppence and he wants to feed the birds but George refuses to let him. In the bank, George introduces the children to his boss, Mr Dawes Snr.

Okay, I thought that everyone knew who played Mr Dawes but I have already spoilt this for three people so if you don’t know and don’t want to be spoilt for a movie that is almost HALF A CENTURY OLD look away now…

I just realised that I didn’t tell them when they could look back. I’ve lost them forever. They’ll go drifting through the cold vacuum of the internet forever. Oh well.

Mr Dawes is played of course by Dick Van Dyke who played the part unpaid just because it looked like so much fun and he wanted to do it. Hilariously, the actors playing Jane and Michael had no idea it was him and were terrified that this old man who was falling about the place was going to get himself killed. Mr Dawes tries to get Michael to give up on this foolish dream of feeding the birds and invest his tuppence in the bank where it can be put to good use funding all kinds of projects to kick the Kaiser’s ass. But when Mr Dawes takes the money from him Michael goes berserk, demanding that he give the money back.

When the other customers hear someone screaming “Give me back my money!” they assume that the bank has run out of cash and suddenly there’s a run on the bank. While it might seem unrealistic that a small child could wreck such havoc in a major financial institution, it happens more often than you’d think.

"Bring your daughter to work day", they said. "It'll be FINE," they said.

“Bring your daughter to work day”, they said. “It’ll be FINE,” they said.

Jane and Michael escape in the chaos as panicked account holders swarm into the bank to get their money. Fortunately, Cockney Jimmy Stewart is on hand to restore order.

TFBIS_7

“Listen up, you slags! I ain’t got yer wonga ‘ere! It’s in Bill’s gaff! And Fred’s gaff!”

After a brief run through the seedier parts of London the children are found by Bert who takes them home. Mrs Banks is on her way out the door when the children arrive back. Mary Poppins is on her day off, and Ellen is…not amenable to the idea of looking after the children…

Hssssssssssss

…so Mrs Banks asks Bert to look after them and hires him to sweep their chimney. (Oh yeah, Bert’s a chimney sweep now. He changes jobs more often than Homer Simpson.)

Bert and the children get the room ready and Mary Poppins arrives home. Michael suddenly gets sucked up the chimney. Mary acts like it’s Bert’s fault but, c’mon. Something gets mysteriously sucked up the chimney the second Mary Poppins enters the room? That’s a pretty big coincidence. I’m betting she just lost control of her powers. Then Jane gets sucked up too. As Wilde put it, to lose one child could be considered unfortunate, to lose both looks like carelessness so Mary and Bert head up the chimney after them.

You search Diagon Alley

“You search Diagon Alley, I’ll search Hogsmeade.”
“And if we can’t find them?”
“Then we search Mexico, Bert. We search Mexico for a LONG time.”

The four go exploring the rooftops of London and meet up with Bert’s chimney sweep friends. This leads in to Step In Time, the movie’s big showcase number. This is just a flat out, no holds barred, dance-until-your-legs-give-out-and-then-dance-some-more barnstormer of a number. Both Van Dyke and Andrews are on fire here, and there’s also some very good wirework when Mary Poppins spins in the air. At least, I think it’s wire work. Either that or she’s Wonder Woman.

The party is cut short when they attract the attention of Admiral Boom, who screams “WE’RE BEING ATTACKED BY HOTTENTOTS!”

Ah. I see. Because their faces are covered in soot. So you think they’re black. Ah ha.

Alice Facepalm

The sweeps seek refuge in the underworld, coming down the Banks’ chimney much to the consternation of Mr Banks who demands that Mary Poppins explain what’s going on which leads to the following exchange:

Mary Poppins: First of all, I would like to make one thing quite clear. 

Mr. Banks: Yes? 

Mary Poppins: I never explain anything.

But she just explained that doesn't explain...SPLAT.

But she just explained that she doesn’t explain…SPLAT.

George gets a call from the bank telling him to be there at nine, and it’s pretty clear he’s for the chop. George and Bert have a lovely scene together where Bert sympathises with George while at the same time subtly trying to steer him towards realising that his children are growing up without him.

Cats in the cradle and the silver moon

“Cat’s in the cradle and the silver moon, little boy blue and the man in the moon.”
“What the devil are you talking about?”
“…I don’t know.”

Tomlinson manages to make George at once both ridiculous and genuinely sympathetic and Van Dyke pulls back the energy to show a new side to Bert. The scene is also important because it acknowledges, really for the first time, that George is not a clown or an ogre. He’s just a man trying to do one of the hardest jobs in the world, providing for his family while being a good dad.

You’ve got to grind, grind, grind at that grindstone/Though childhood shifts, like sand through a sieve.”

Jane and Michael come down to tell their father they’re sorry for the trouble they’ve caused him, and Michael gives George the tuppence. George is profoundly moved by this, and as he stares in awe of the two tiny coins in his hand, the music reprises the theme of Feed the Birds. A tiny act of kindness, with immense power.

George returns to the bank to face his punishment, a hilariously overdramatic cashiering where George’s carnatian is shredded and his umbrella is turned inside out (with one of the banker’s even exclaiming “No! Not that!”)

Even the director seems in on it. When one of the bankers destroys Georges hat, we don’t actually see it, the camera flits back to Mr Dawes as if the sight of a banker’s bowler hat being trashed was simply too horrible to be shown. So there’s George, standing in front of his former colleagues, ridiculed, disgraced and reduced to nothing. Dawes asks him if he has something to say.

George looks down and sees the tuppence in his hands, and you can almost see the weight lifting off him. And at last he realises how much he has. It sounds cliché, but it’s a moment of incredible joy. Because this was never the story of Mary Poppins. This was always the story of George Banks, and how he learned what was really important.

Pausing only to tell Mr Dawes a joke he learned form Michael, George dances off into the London singing like a loon.

The next morning Winifired has called the police as George still hasn’t come home yet. Upstairs, Jane and Michael are tearfully trying to convince Mary Poppins not to leave. Jane asks her “Don’t you love us?” to which Mary simply replies “And what would happen to me, might I ask, if I loved all the children I said goodbye to?”

That's cold.

That’s cold.

Mrs Banks and the domestics wonder where George might be, with Ellen noting that there’s a “nice spot near the river that’s popular with jumpers.” And I have to say, I sort of love how cavalier kids movies used to be about suicide.

Suicide is painless

“‘Cos suicide is painless, it brings on many changes…”
“Ellen, please shut up.”

But it turns out George hasn’t killed himself (how sensible of him), and instead has been fixing Jane and Michael’s kite. He calls them down and we get our final song Let’s Go Fly a Kite. It is awesome. Not much else needs to be said. Jane and Michael go to the park with their parents, George is told by Mr Dawes Jnr that Mr Dawes Snr died laughing from the joke that Mr Banks told him and there’s now an opening for a new partner.

That joke later played a pivotal role in the Second World War.

That joke would later play a pivotal role in the Second World War.

Mr Banks has his job back, the family is reunited and Mary Poppins quietly takes her leave, her job done. Only Bert notices her departure, smiling up at her and telling her not to stay away too long.

Mary-Poppins-mv01

Walt Disney would often cite Mary Poppins as his single greatest achievement and it’s hard to argue with that. You watch it as a child. It’s perfect. You watch it as an adult, it’s perfect in new and entirely different ways. This is beautiful, humane, big-hearted film-making, and one of the all time greats.

Scoring

Animation: 16/20

Only a little animation to be sure, but what there is some 0f the very best work of the studio during this period.

The Leads: 20/20

Practically perfect.

The Villain: N/A

No, Mr Dawes doesn’t count. He redeems at the end. Disney villains do not redeem. End of story.

Supporting Characters: 18/20

Maybe the child actors are a little weak in places, but even so it’s a nearly flawless showing from the supporting cast.

The Music: 20/20

The Shermans’ best work. And that is saying a LOT.

FINAL SCORE: 93%

NEXT WEEK: The Unshaved Mouse returns to the very first Disney movie he ever saw, and confronts some uncomfortable truths. 

Wait a minute...Orang Utangs don't live in India!!!

Wait a minute…Orangutans don’t live in India!!!

Neil Sharpson AKA The Unshaved Mouse, is a playwright, comic book writer and blogger living in Dublin. The blog updates every Thursday. Thanks for reading!

39 comments

  1. Ah, I wouldn’t give the animation so many points….I always got the impression that they only really bothered with the pinguins, and most of the other stuff was reused desings from older movies…perhaps I’m unfair, but the whole scenery lacks creativity in my eyes. This was an entirely drawn world, they could have drawn everything, but stayed with the most easy stuff. “Song of the South” is more impressive when it comes to merging the worlds, Imho, and the movie is way older.

    I disagree that this is Mr. Banks movie. It is the movie of the whole family. It is not just him who learns a lesson, Mrs. Banks learns one too, because for all her “fighting for the children” song, she doesn’t fight for them on the most basics level…she doesn’t even bother to stay at home when she is short a nanny, instead she leaves them with the chimney sweep. So, yes, the joke about her pretending to be a good wife for her husband is totally on her. Though I agree that this doesn’t destroy the feminist message, or ruins her character. It could have ended this way, and I give great credit to the actress, who manages to shake her head about her silly man in a non-mocking “I should do something about it but I love him so much”-way. But the joke in this one is that she is just as silly as he is, just in another way. Both try to do the best for their children, but they fail in the most basics way.

    And it is also the movie of the children, who learn to see their father in a different light. I love the part when Burts tells them off and reminds them, that there are people looking out for them, but nobody, who looks out for their father. It’s too bad that you glossed over the scene, because it’s one of my favs.

    I freaking love this movie! It’s one of those which you love as a child, but seeing it as an adult, I realized how much stuff went way over my head. Well, not knowing what Suffragette’s or Hottentotten are in the first place naturally didn’t help…I remember that I was totally confused about the scene with the old men and the kite, until my mother explained to me that apparently all those men were never allowed to do something so frivelous beforehand, because their father controlled everything they did (Fun Fact: In the German version, he doesn’t die, instead he is so happy that he decides to stay in the air).

    Ah….your first one? I don’t even know which one was my first one…the first one I can remember seeing in theaters was “Fox and Hound”, but it wasn’t my true first one, because I saw “Robin Hood”, I was just too small to remember…plus, we had a bunch of Disney movies on tape, well, actually nearly all of them (don’t ask me how this was possible, considering that those movies were still firmly in the Disney Vault back then…let’s just say it involved shady meetings on empty parking lots…..and that I was very popular with the other kids)

  2. Great review, unshavedmouse! One thing is that this movie was released in 1964, not 1965.

    I’m rather fond of the actor, David Tomlinson, and wish people talked about him more. It seems that there are no interviews with him on any talk show/”making of” documentary. The stars Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke rarely speak much about him when interviewed about the movie. But I love his performance in this and “Bedknobs and Broomsticks”. And he is probably my favorite underrated actor.

    And the song “Fidelity Fiduciary Bank” is one of my favorite songs of the film and sadly I think it’s the most overlooked song as well.

    Oh, “The Jungle Book” was your first Disney film? I don’t know what my first was; but one of the first I saw was “Beauty and the Beast” which still to this day is my favorite animated Disney film.

    1. Released in late 1964, correct, but the majority of its theatrical run was in 1965. David Tomlinson is a gem and hopefully I’ll get to talk about him a bit more in the Bedknobs and Broomsticks review.

      1. Agreed. His scenes near the end are when he really shines. His reaction to Bert’s gentle chiding, his facial expression when Michael gives him the tuppence (as if he’s finally seeing his children as the children they are and not the miniature adults he thought they should be), and his silent walk through a deserted London to the instrumental strain of “Feed The Birds”…and you can read his every inner thought on his face with a minimum of words spoken.

  3. So I presume you’re excited for next year’s Saving Mr Banks, the Travers biopic that focuses on Disney’s attempts to let him adapt the book? (Starring Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson, aka The Most Charming Actors Ever?)

    I love Mary Poppins, even though it leaves out my favourite part of the book, (the gingerbread stars) and changes Mary’s character a certain degree. (The second point probably contributes to how much Travers HATED the film, though I kind of love that fact as well)

      1. I’m both extremely looking forward to “Saving Mr. Banks” as well as internally dreading it; mainly because I fear that they’ll portray the story inaccurately.

      2. She didn’t even want the COLOR RED in the film. If anyone else had pulled that, it would have been called a diva-tantrum, but in the eyes of some, it’s okay because she was going against TEH EBIL WALT DISNEY.

  4. You’ve experienced a drop in Philippine visitors because I’ve caught up with my archive binge. This month you’ll get more visits since I’m catching up 🙂

      1. Reading this again. Still loving it.
        Thought you and your readers may appreciate this. “Mary Poppins,” if analyzed strictly time-wise, takes place over 5 days. 1) Ad Placed 2) Mary/Painting (big day) 3) Uncle Albert (Wings?)/”You goin’ to the bank tomorrow” 4) Bank/Chimney/Bank firing 5) Kites. Now that all works out well flow-wise and you would think nothing of it.
        However, Mary mentions that she requires every second Tuesday off in her job requirements and, in fact, TAKES that day off on Day 4. Plus the kids kvetch over her leaving. “You won’t ever leave us, Mary Poppins?” She’s been there for THREE days, one of which she took off. So how to resolve the quandary of stated time vs. actual time?
        There is no wiggle room between days 1 & 2, nor between days 3, 4 & 5. However, there is no implication that potentially unlimited amount of time has passed between days 2 & 3. Unless one of the children makes a comment inferring that no time has passed.
        Which in fact, the children DO with the recitation of “Supercali…” at breakfast the next day. (“It’s been in our head for weeks!”) Wikipedia mentions that “the next day,” they go to Uncle Albert. While perhaps implied that the visit to Uncle Albert is after breakfast that day, it’s not in stone, and the afternoon trip may have been any day. Also, Wikipedia doesn’t have reigning authority over time passing.
        Not so fast. On Mary Poppins’s list of Things to Do that day, she includes a visit to the piano tuners – from George’s disappointment with the piano that morning. And I doubt they would put that off ’til next week.
        So connecting it all, implication from the children singing “Supercali…” is that Day 3 immediately follows Day 2. And hypo piano tuner visit implies Uncle Albert’s visit was later that afternoon. So 5 straight days.
        Winnifred also comments that ever since Mary Poppins came, something has come over the household, esp. w Cook & Ellen. That statement implies a passage of time – not one day.
        The movie is done so well and seamlessly that there is still room to allow for passage of time between days 2 & 3. Perhaps “Supercali…” was the childrens’ go-to song. Additionally, they would need time to teach it to Cook & Ellen for them to learn the words.
        Over-thinking? Most definitely. But that is why I read your blog with such joy.

      1. I ask because I am in Sound of Music right now, and opening night is this coming Thursday.

      2. I’m not sure …the party DID take place before everyone turned against the Captain, so I may have been a simple rich guy who turned to the dark side.

        That, or just different characters. The girl I am dancing with is also playing a Nun.

  5. I love this blog. I love you, too, dear unshaved mouse! I have for quite some time. Long-time lurker, first time commenting. I’m not sure why but each time i read this particular review (and yes, i come back and randomly reread it often) i end up crying! And laughing of course! You and Doug Walker are my absolute FAVORITE internet reviewers. Can i ask, are you associated with him in any way? If you were it would blow my mind because i discovered both of you independently from one another, and i love you both forever!! 🙂 Idk if you’ll see this comment as this review is a year old. But i am dying to know, have you seen Saving Mr. Banks yet?? WONDERFUL movie, even if its not entirely accurate. I cried four separate times! I wonder if you liked it? Anyway. Enough fangirling for now. Except to say: thank you for this wonderful Disney blog that has saved me from hours and hours of boredom!!!! As soon as i have some extra money i will be dontating to your play and requesting reviews of The Hobbit and Return Of The King!!!

    Sincerely, Lyzz

    1. I’m a huge fan of Doug Walker, but we’ve never met, spoken or had any contact. And if we did I would probably nerdgasm to death. You don’t have to worry about which post you comment on, I get a notification from WordPress every time. In short: I SEE ALL. I have seen Saving Mr Banks…and I’m afraid to say I utterly hated it. Sorry. Partly I just don’t like that kind of safe, middle of the road, Oscar bait style of movie but mostly I hated it because it is a horribly, horribly dishonest film. Look, I’m the biggest Disney fan you’ll ever meet. I have huge respect for Walt Disney as an artist and I think that Mary Poppins is a wonderful film. And from all accounts, the original book is brilliant, but very different. PL Travers signed over the rights to Disney. He made a movie informed by his own artisitic sensibilities. She hated that movie. No one in that situation was “right” or “wrong”. They just disagreed. It’s life. It happens. But to then make a movie that rewrites history and tries to claim that she loved the movie in the end and that Uncle Walt was right all along. No. I’m sorry. Fuck that. She deserved better than that. I’m really glad you like the blog, and if you could donate that would be most appreciated. Please be aware though that I won’t actually get to review your movie until 2015 (the response has been amazing). Thanks again, Mouse.

  6. I never saw this movie until recently, and… I hated it. It’s so goddamn boring and slow. There’s only so much whimsy I can take. I felt like I was forcing myself to keep watching just half-an-hour into this two hour chore.

    But I guess it’s just because I’m an idiot, because this movie is really popular. Like Doug Walker said about Shrek, I guess it’s just not my flick.

  7. So….I’ve never actually seen this movie, because I just had the most deprived childhood ever, lol. But anyways, I stummbled onto your blog a few days ago, and was just wondering if you plan on doing any more reviews, on say, Tangled? Or the Princess and the Frog? I’ve read other reviews on those two, but I really enjoy your writing style and how you go about reviewing these types of films….and I’m running out of posts to read! I need something to help me procrastinate, otherwise I might actually wash a dish O.o 🙂 but thank you anyways for what you have done, your posts are really awesome.

  8. Now wait right just one minute here, Mouse! Did I read through 19 movie reviews waiting to see an Irish reviewer’s consensus on the only Irish animated Disney character I can remember for nothing?!? Biggest waste of time since you reviewed an RKO film by mistake!

    Ha ha, jokes aside, nice review. Even if you did diss Herbie, which I think was actually pretty good until Ms. Lohan got involved. Pretty nice description of Mrs. Banks’s character too. I have heard accusations that this movie is sexist, which surprised me at first. I guess this is what they were talking about, but yeah, having an entire song dedicated to the feminist movement doesn’t sound sexist to me unless you’re cynical enough to want it to be. Mr. Banks sure does seem a lot like Mr. Darling, doesn’t he? Also, I think Michael was really well cast, he looks a lot like David Tomlinson so it’s very believable the characters are supposed to be related.

    I’ve got to wonder if Bert passes the abs test for god status. Though that just makes me wonder how Budai ever passed it. And I wouldn’t be surprised if Mary Poppins was many a child’s first exposure to an on-screen portrayal of an apocalypse. I seem to remember actually noticing as a kid that the characters in the chalk art scattered and weren’t actually seen being dissolved. I guess now that’s likely because it would have been too graphic.

    Dead on about Stay Awake. That’s got to be a song with the most impossible to follow directions for a title since Rape Me. And that Lassie reference was gold. Also, is it just me, or was Ed Wynn really typecast in Disney movies as the whimsical guy who hosts tea parties?

    Did The Poppins Woman say “Mexico”? I sure hope that didn’t mean the poor Banks children likely ended in the hands of the Crimson Cockerel. *shudders*

    Wow. You know you’re serious about Feed The Birds if you didn’t even put in a choir picture at the Sherman Brothers’ mention. Even if this is likely one of the main reasons they’ve evoked that status for you. I agree, this song is very beautiful and definitely one of the strongest in the soundtrack. And say what you will about Dick Van Dyke’s accent, but I’ve got to hand it to him for having enough affection towards acting to take a role for no pay at all.

    Ok, I can’t hold back on this any longer. I simply must know what of The Fox do you have to say?!?

    1. Ah the Fox! I remember very clearly when I first saw the Fox. I was eating an ice pop when I saw this movie the first time and when the Fox appeared I laughed so hard I sprayed frozen fruit juice everywhere. Love that guy.

  9. One thing that would be incredibly cool is if Disney decided to create a stage short using the new hologram stage technology and created a reenactment of Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, with the live action actors performing the routine and hologram projected cartoon characters.

      1. though, i’m pretty sure that would be put to better use if Google’s new 3d virtual reality thing pulls through, so that you can actually touch the characters.

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