Mary Poppins

  • Title:  Mary Poppins
  • Director:  Robert Stevenson
  • Date: 1964
  • Studio:  Disney
  • Genre:  Musical, Children
  • Cast:  Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke, David Tomlinson, Glynis Johns, Hermoine Baddeley, Reta Shaw, Karen Dotrice, Matthew Garber 
  • Format:  Technicolor, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC (40th Anniversary 2-disc ed)

Kindly do not attempt to cloud the issue with facts. — George Banks

“As I expected:  ‘Mary Poppins, practically perfect in every way.’ ” — Mary Poppins

“I never explain anything.”  — Mary Poppins

“You know, begging you pardon, but the one my heart goes out to is your father. There he is in that cold, heartless bank day after day, hemmed in by mounds of cold, heartless money. I don’t like to see any living thing caged up.”  — Bert
“Father? In a cage?”  — Jane
“They makes cages in all sizes and shapes, you know. Bank-shaped, some of ’em, carpets and all.” –Bert

Mary Poppins is a wonderfully inventive film made for children but that the entire family can still enjoy.  The animation looks a bit flat by today’s standards, however the film’s music and storyline still hold up.  Set in 1910, Mr. Banks is a banker with two children and a wife.  His wife is involved in the Suffragette movement (to give women the right to vote).  It’s implied the children are holy terrors — the Banks have fired six nannies in four months. However, Mary Poppins shows up and takes the children through a series of adventures, with her friend, Bert – a Cockney who makes money any way he can (as a one-man band, painting chalk drawings on the sidewalk, selling roasted chestnuts, even as a chimney sweep).  But it’s Mary’s ability to loosen up the stiff, cold, and indifferent Mr. Banks and bring him closer to his own children that is at the heart of this film.

Though largely live-action, with plenty of special effects, the entire section where Mary, Bert, and the children jump through a chalk drawing and have adventures in a park is animated.  This is classic Disney animation, and the technique of combining animation with live action was new when the film was made.  It does look a bit dated now, but the dances, music, and even excitement of things such as the horse race, or Mary and Bert being carried across the animated river by animated turtles still work.

This film is also filled with music, song, and dance  — and contains some of Disney’s best songs:  “A Spoonful of Sugar”, “Chim-Chim Cheree”, and “Supercallifragilisticexpialidocious! — all of which I knew as a child and can still sing along to and even recite.  (I still have all of “Supercallifragilisticexpialidocious!” memorized!)

Please note in the list below I am not including a single line or two of a main song repeated later.

List of Songs and Musical Numbers

  • Sister Suffragettes — Mrs. Banks
  • The Age of Men/Banks Schedule — Mr. Banks
  • The Nanny Song (a desperate advertisement) — Jane and Michael Banks
  • A Spoonful of Sugar — Mary Poppins
  • Chim Chim Cheree — Bert
  • Jolly Holiday (with Mary) — Bert, Mary
  • Supercallifragilisticexpialidocious! — Mary, Bert, Ensemble
  • Stay Awake (a lullaby) — Mary
  • I Love to Laugh — Ed Wynn
  • Feed the Birds (Tuppence a Bag) — Mary
  • Investing in the Bank / Interest — The Bankers
  • Chim Chim Cheeree — Bert
  • Step in Time — Bert, Ensemble
  • Let’s Go Fly a Kite — Mr. Banks

Again a wonderful film, especially for children.

Oh, and I should say that I am aware that the life of chimney sweeps and the children they used was not a good one, and also that Suffragettes were treated horribly, often force-fed and jailed, but that still doesn’t stop this from being a good fantasy film.  However, I do find it amusing that Disney cleaned-up the old British saying, that “it’s good luck to kiss a chimney sweep”, changing it to “good luck will rub off if I shake-hands with you.”

Recommendation:  See it!
Rating:   4 of 5 Stars
Next Film:  Master and Commander:  The Far Side of the World

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

  • Title:  Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
  • Director:  Ken Hughes
  • Date:  1968
  • Studio:  United Artists / MGM
  • Genre:  Musical, Children, Romance
  • Cast:  Dick Van Dyke, Sally Ann Howes, Lionel Jeffries, Benny Hill
  • Format:  Technicolor, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

Do you think they’re going to get married?”  — Jeremy
“Has he kissed her yet?”  Jemina
“Not yet.”  — Jeremy
“Just as soon as he kisses her — then they’ll have to get married.” –Jemina

In Edwardian England, Mr. Potts (Dick Van Dyke), a poor inventor, is raising his two young children on his own.  Simultaneously two things happen – his children want him to buy a wrecked race car for 30 shillings because it’s been their plaything and the local junk man wants to melt it for scrap; and, Potts runs in to Truly Scrumptious, daughter of the local candy maker.

Potts brings one of his few working inventions, a candy that whistles, to the Scrumptious Candy Factory hoping to raise some money – he fails, he thinks, when the factory is invaded by dogs.  But later, he ends up at a fun fair, where he performs with a singing/dancing group (“Me Ol’ Bamboo”) – to his surprise, coins flood the stage and he ends up with more than enough to buy the wrecked car.  He tows it, behind a horse, back to his workshop, and spends days putting the car back together.  But when it’s done it’s a truly wonderful car.

To celebrate the completion of the car, Potts takes his children to the beach for a picnic.  He runs into Truly, and she comes along.  A fine day is had by all, and as they are winding up the picnic, the children ask their father for a story – about pirates.  Potts begins to tell the story, and suddenly they are in the story – pirates come to take Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the car turns into a boat and they escape.  The story is not over, though, because when they return home … Baron Bomburst has taken Grandpa Potts away in his dirigible – believing him to be Professor Potts, the man who invented the floating car.

Potts, Truly, and  the children follow, in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang which has now grown wings and flies.  They arrive in Vulgaria, where the local toymaker (Benny Hill) tells them children have been outlawed because the local Baroness (Bomburst) hates children.  The toymaker hides the four, but while Potts goes to find his father, the children are captured by the local “child catcher”.  However, Potts, the toymaker, Truly, and eventually, the captured children revolt at the castle and Potts family is freed and they escape.

Dissolve to Potts concluding that they “all lived happily ever after”, as the four sit in the car at the beach.  Potts drops off Truly, declaring it would be ridiculous for them to get married.  But when he gets home, he discovers his father and her father playing toy soldiers in his living room.  It seems his father was Mr. Scrumptious’s batman and Scrumptious was his “brigadier”.  Also, further testing has shown Potts whistle treats are awful for people but terribly popular with dogs – he wants to offer Potts a contract that will make him rich.  Before he can even accept Potts rushes off to find Truly – who’s rushing off to find him.  Potts kisses her – and she replies, “Now you have to marry me!”.  And everyone is happy.

The Technicolor filming really adds to this movie – the colors pop right off the screen.  But for a children’s movie it is quite long (it even has the dreaded intermission).  Also, other than the title song, “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”, and “Doll on a Music Box” the music is only so-so, and there really isn’t much dancing (and what there is manages to be rather static).  Overall, I much prefer Van Dyke’s “Mary Poppins”.  But, the movie must be given credit as a fun fantasy for children.

Trivia:  The film is based on a book by Ian Fleming, produced by Albert R Broccoli, and filmed on location in England, Germany, and France, and at Pinewood Studios in England.  If you’re wondering – yes, it is the same Ian Fleming who wrote James Bond.  And Albert Broccoli produced many of the Bond films, which were often filmed at Pinewood.

Musical Numbers

  • You Two
  • Toot Sweets
  • Hushabye Mountain
  • Me Ol’ Bamboo
  • Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
  • Truly Scrumptious
  • This Lovely Lonely Man
  • POSH (Port Out, Starboard Home)
  • Roses of Success
  • Hushabye Mountain (reprise)
  • Chu-Chi Face
  • Doll on a Music Box
  • Truly Scrumptious (reprise)
  • Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (reprise)

Recommendation:  Show it to your kids.
Rating:  3.5 out of 5 Stars
Next Film:  A Chorus Line