Elusive ‘Mary Poppins’ is captured on screen at long last by Walt Disney
From the day the enchanting, elusive Mary Poppins character appeared on the American scene, straight from the pen of P.L. Travers, she was taken to the hearts of youngsters and their parents alike everywhere.
Now, the whimsical nursemaid, whose amazing out-of-this-world adventures have been related in five children’s classics — “Mary Poppins,” “Mary Poppins Comes Back,” “Mary Poppins Opens the Door,” “Mary Poppins in the Park” and “Mary Poppins from A to Z” — at long last steps from the printed page to become an unforgettable living, breathing personality through the motion picture magic of Walt Disney and the inspired performance of vivacious English singing star Julie Andrews in Disney’s exciting production, “Mary Poppins.”
Based on the “Mary Poppins” books by P.L. Travers and enchanced by some of the brightest, most original songs ever written for a film musical, this fantasy emerges as one of the supreme achievements in the distinguished forty-year career of the master showman.
“Mary Poppins” first appeared on the literary scene in 1934. Since then, people continually ask the author if the now famous English nanny was modeled from a living person.
“No, she wasn’t,” Miss Travers is quick to answer. “I didn’t even think her up. She just brushed past me and said, ‘You take it down.'”
When Walt Disney tried to acquire the movie rights, he learned they were not for sale. In the meantime, other producers, in turn, considered the Poppins stories perfect material for a Broadway musical, a television special and a motion picture, but their offers too were rejected.
Several years ago, the paths of Disney and Miss Travers happened to cross in London. Walt told her of his interest in Mary Poppins and inquired again about the movie rights. The noted authoress confided she had never considered a theatrical, TV or film offer for fear of what might happen to her stories, and particularly her heroine, in the dramatizing process.
Disney’s integrity and artistic endeavors impressed the English writer and their meeting concluded with her verbally agreeing to come to Hollywood at some future date to discuss a Disney film approach to “Mary Poppins.” If it met with her approval, she would sell Walt the movie rights.
On Disney’s return to the studio, the project was set in motion. Several months later, with preliminary work completed, Miss Travers was summoned for story conferences.
She was very pleased with the treatment her beloved story was receiving. Contracts were drawn and signed, and the beloved nanny and her amazing adventures were on their way to becoming immortalized on celluloid. During one of the conferences, a Disney writer inquired if Mary Poppins was considered ageless.
“Not at all,” Miss Travers answered, positively. “She is precisely twenty-seven.” Coincidentally, this is precisely the age of the lovely and talented Julie Andrews, who makes her screen debut in the title role.
Filmed in brilliant Technicolor, “Mary Poppins” also stars Dick Van Dyke, David Tomlinson and Glynis Johns. Robert Stevenson directed from a screenplay by BUI Walsh and Don DaGradi. Walsh was also co-producer on the Buena Vista release.
Top image: In this Jolly Holiday sequence, stars Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke make friends with some charming creatures of pure imagination.