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Mary Poppins, An Oscar Winning Classic

May 16, 2008
Mary Poppins is the much-loved musical produced by Walt Disney and starring Julie Andrews. Released in 1964, the film was based on the best-selling children's book written by P.L. Travers and illustrated by Mary Shepard. It enjoyed extraordinary success when it was released, and was ranked by the American Film Institute as the 6th best musical of all time, just above A Star Is Born and below Cabaret.

The plot centers on the title character, the delightful nanny, Mary Poppins. It's Spring, 1910, and Mary, played wonderfully by Julie Andrews, has come to the aid of the Banks family. She hopes to be the last in a long line of nannies for the Banks children, Jane, played by Karen Dotrice, and Michael, played by Matthew Garber. Soon the children are whisked away on magical adventures that include a countryside adventure and a tea party in midair. The plot thickens when Mr. Dawes, the employer of the Banks patriarch, tries to convince Michael to invest his money with the bank. Michael refuses, causing a run on the bank and endangering his father's position at the bank. In the ensuing hullabaloo, the children flee into the East End, where they meet with Mary's long-time friend Bert, played to the hilt by Dick Van Dyke. The children eventually say they are sorry to their father, and Michael offers to give his tuppence to Mr. Dawes, causing the reserved and distant Mr. Banks, played by David Tomlinson, to soften towards his children. Needless to say they all live happily ever-after.

The first book by P.L. Travers was the inspiration for the film's plot. Walt Disney personally tried to secure the right to the book as early as 1938. Travers initially refused, believing an animated version of her books would sully her creative work. In 1961, he finally secured the rights when he offered Travers final script approval.

The film was released on August 27, 1964 to rave reviews. In fact, it garnered 13 Academy Awards nominations, winning Oscars for Best Actress, Best Film Editing, Original Music Score, Best Song, and Special Visual Effects. To this day, Mary Poppins is considered by many critics to be the best Disney live-action musical ever made.

This was Julie Andrews' first Oscar win. She was first passed over by Jack Warner for the lead in My Fair Lady, a role she made popular on Broadway, but was swiftly given the role of Mary Poppins. Her co-star, Dick Van Dyke, was cast as Bert because of his ability to play broad, near-slapstick comedy. Though he is much loved in the film, he has long been criticized for attempting the worst Cockney accent in film history. Van Dyke acknowledges this fact on the 2004 DVD commentary track.
About the Author
Steve Collins is an Author and Journalist. A huge Disney Fan, he uses the Disney Movie Club to complete his collection. Read his articles on the movies he purchases on the Disney Movie Club
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