Film Review: Mary Poppins
In 1964, Robert Stevenson released Mary Poppins, based on the 193 novel of the same name by P. L. Travers. Starring Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke, David Tomlinson, Glynis Johns, Hermione Baddeley, Karen Dotrice, Matthew Garber, Elsa Lanchester, Arthur Treacher, Reginald Owen, Ed Wynn, Reta Shaw, Don Barclay, Marjorie Bennett, Arthur Malet, and Jane Darwell, the film grossed $102.3 million at the box office.
Magical nanny Mary Poppins flies into the life of the Banks family in Edwardian era London. While her charges are the children, Jane and Michael, it becomes apparent they aren’t the only ones in the family who need her help.
A fantastic film, Mary Poppins contains some excellent character development, seeing every one of the Banks household completely changed by Poppins’ stay. Jane and Michael go from believing their father hates them to understanding just how much he loves them, Winifred’s priorities shift from having the suffragette cause to the children as the most important part of her life and George comes to realize he’s been treating his work more important than his children. However, his epiphany is not the only aspect of what makes his role in the film so great. Rather, it’s everything in the film surrounding his revelation. The music and cinematography combined in the scene where George is walking to the bank is the best part of the film. This part of the film is fascinating due to the scene where he’s in the bank is not the climax of the film, but it’s when he’s looking at the empty steps where the Bird Woman once sat and grasping how short life is.
To have a film’s climax be looking at empty steps demonstrates how powerful this film is and just how much it cares about its characters and their journeys.
Further, it’s telling one of the most important parts of the film occurs in one of its most forgotten moments. Wynn as Uncle Albert comes in out of nowhere at a random point in the film. Yet, if it wasn’t for this scene, the joke would never have been told and the finale would have been completely different.
The soundtrack helps make the film what it is as well. None of the songs are bad. Moreover, they vary so much in tone, evoking the feeling of wanting to dance to one track while bringing about the desire to sit down and contemplate life as another plays.
Nevertheless, the film is not without flaw. While fun, beautiful to look at, helps to set up the final act and introduced a word into the English language, the animation in the scene where the characters are spending time in the countryside is unnecessary. Poppins is first introduced sitting in a cloud, characters fly because of laughter, children are sucked up chimneys to explore the rooftops and a crazy admiral fires a cannon twice a day, all in live-action. There’s nothing wrong with the children being sucked into a chalk drawing to play in the countryside and go on a fox hunt, but the sudden shift sticks out and feels forced.
Bold indicates reception of award/recognition
- Best Actress in a Leading Role (Julie Andrews)
- Best Film Editing
- Best Effects, Special Visual Effects
- Best Music, Original Song (For the song “Chim Chim Cher-ee”)
- Best Music, Substantially Original Score
- Best Picture
- Best Director
- Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium
- Best Cinematography, Color
- Best Art Director-Set Decoration, Color
- Best costume Design, Color
- Best Sound
- Best Music, Scoring of Music, Adaptation of Treatment
American Cinema Editors, USA – Eddie Awards
- Best Edited Feature Film
- Most Promising Newcomer to Leading Film Roles (Julie Andrews)
Blue Ribbon Awards
- Best Foreign Film
Boxoffice Magazine Awards
- Boxoffice Blue Ribbon Award – Best Picture of the Month for the Whole Family (November)
Directors Guild of America, USA Awards
- Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures
DVD Exclusive Awards
- Best Overall DVD, Classic Film (For “Mary Poppins 40th Anniversary Edition”)
- Best Audio Commentary (New for DVD) (For “Mary Poppins 40th Anniversary Edition”)
- Best New Movie Scenes (Finished, Edited Into Movie or Stand-Alone) (For “The Cat That Looked at a King” in “Mary Poppins 40th Anniversary Edition”)
Golden Globe Awards
- Best Actress – Comedy or Musical (Julie Andrews)
- Best Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical
- Best Actor – Comedy or Musical (Dick Van Dyke)
- Best Original Score
- Best Original Score Written for a Motion Picture or Television Show
- Best Recording for Children
Las Vegas Film Critics Society Awards
- Best DVD (The 40th Anniversary Edition)
- Golden Laurel – General Entertainment
- Golden Laurel – Supporting Performance, Female (Glynis Johns)
- Golden Laurel – Musical Performance, Female (Julie Andrews)
- Golden Laurel – Best Song (For the song “Chim Chim Cher-ee”)
- Golden Laurel – Musical Performance, Male (Dick Van Dyke)
National Film Preservation Board, USA
- National Film Registry
New York Film Critics Circle Awards
- Best Actress (Julie Andrews)
Online Film & Television Association Awards
- OFTA Film Hall of Fame – Motion Picture
Writers Guild of America, USA Awards
- Best Written American Musical