film, not a book

Not a Book: Mary Poppins

I mean who doesn’t watch Mary Poppins at Christmas right? Surely it’s not just me and my family? A roaring fire and a Sunday afternoon and Mary Poppins on the TV…

I mean this is an all time classic. The Banks children have scared away another nanny in their efforts to get their parents attention – their workaholic father is a banker, their mother a militant suffragette. In flies Mary Poppins, who will put the family back together through singing and dancing, chalk pavement pictures and chimney sweeps. Dick van Dyke’s cockney accent is legendary in all the wrong ways, but Julie Andrews is practically perfect in every way.

It’s well known how unhappy P L Travers was with the way Walt Disney changed her character from the original books, but for most people the movie version is all they know so it’s made that interpretation of Travers’ nanny immortal for better or worse. And for me it’s very much for better. I can sing all the songs (although many would ask me not to) and I could probably recite the script. I’ll be getting it out to watch again this Christmas. And if you want to find out more about P L Travers and the making of the film, there’s a movie version of that too – Saving Mr Banks.

If you want to watch Mary Poppins, it’s on Disney+, or it will be on TV at some point over Christmas for sure. And I’ve still got it on DVD…


3 thoughts on “Not a Book: Mary Poppins”

  1. I strongly recommend, Verity, that you read at least the first two “Mary Poppins” books, with their marvellous illustrations that inspired Disney’s artists and film-makers.

      1. Excellent, Verity! Like you, I first came across “Mary Poppins”, the character, in the classic Walt Disney film with Julie Andrews and Dick van Dyke, and the brilliant songs by the Sherman brothers, and so much more. But then I did what I had started doing since I was young, I looked for the book. I was captivated by the artwork of Mary Shepard, daughter of Ernest Shepard (famous for his illustrations of A.A. Milne’s “Christopher Robin” books, and Kenneth Grahame’s “Wind in the Willows”, and other great books):
        I was also struck by the eccentricity of P.L. Travers’ actual characters. (Travers’ life is remarkable, starting in Australia, and moving to the bohemian literary world of England:
        Travers’ involvement in mysticism sometimes sits behind “Mary Poppins”, at least in the books!
        I came to the conclusion that “Mary Poppins”, the film, was one of the rare examples where the film was as good as the original book (actually two “Mary Poppins” books) the film was based on. In my opinion, that does not happen often.
        You might also like to investigate film-versus-books in the books behind another magical woman, “Nanny McPhee”, as she is known in Emma Thompson’s film — the books are about “Nurse Matilda”, written by the great crime novelist Christianna Brand, a cousin of the remarkable artist and illustrator Edward Ardizzone — Brand and Ardizzone shared a grandfather who used to amuse his grandchildren with stories of “Nurse Matilda”, which Brand drew on for her own amusing stories. (Or have you mentioned “Nurse Matilda” before? It is hard to keep up!!)

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