Monday, January 20, 2014

Granny-Guru: Mary Poppins

I remember watching the Disney movie, “Mary Poppins” when it first came out. It was released August 27, 1964, the summer before my Senior year of high school.
I had never read the original 1933 book on which the movie is based, and, after watching the movie, it never occurred to me to read the book.

That changed when I recently saw the movie, “Saving Mr. Banks.”
This new movie is the story of how Disney came to make the “Mary Poppins”movie. He negotiated with the book’s author, an Australian who had moved to London, P. L. Travers (a pen name for  Helen Lyndon Goff). She was the child of an alcoholic father who died of influenza when she was eight.
Though the negotiations ended in Disney getting the rights to the movie, they were so contentious that he did not invite Travers to the opening and she never allowed him to make another movie from any of her seven other Mary Poppins books. If you stay through the credits at the end of the movie, you will hear a tape recording of negotiations between Travers and the writers and song-writers Disney put on the project.
Travers died in 1996, at the age of 96. She never married. Her only child was a boy she adopted from his grandparents, who were raising seven grandchildren.
So, how did this child, bereft of her adoring father as a youngster, come to write the fanciful “Mary Poppins?” After watching "Saving Mr. Banks," I had to go back and read the original Mary Poppins book.
The movie is largely very faithful to the book. Mary Poppins, a nanny, blows in on the East Wind, right when Mrs. Banks’ nanny has unexpectedly quit.
It is interesting to me that a modest family with four children, the father a mid-level bank manager, can afford a staff of four for the household. Mrs. Banks is a stay-at-home Mom only in the sense that she doesn't work. Perhaps it is as they tell us. Nearly one hundred years later, we live in an age of labor-saving devices that make up for staff.
But, historical context aside, the book’s delight comes from its whimsy.
  • What do animals do at night in a zoo, when all the people have gone home? What if some people get locked into the zoo at night?
  • What is an appropriate birthday gift for a snake to give a close friend? What does a nanny give her friend, one of the stars, for her birthday?
  • If you had fingertips that could be any flavor you wanted, what flavor would you choose?
  • Wouldn't you like to slide up a banister sometimes, instead of always down?
Though Mary Poppins brooked no nonsense from her charges, she introduced them to a fantastical world that kept them out of trouble and made her sudden departure on the next wind, as she had predicted, sadder but richer for her having been in their lives.

After seeing the movie, “Saving Mr. Banks,” you will want to read the original "Mary Poppins" book yourself and introduce your grandchildren to this classic.
Then, you will want to reward your own inner child and watch the Disney movie, “Mary Poppins,” all over again,
I can hear you already singing, “Just a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down…”
Order yourself a weekend of "Mary Poppins" with the grandchildren.
Click on the title here or the image below to order from amazon, "Mary Poppins" the classic book, "Mary Poppins" the Disney movie, or "Saving Mr. Banks," the movie about making "Mary Poppins" which is still in theaters but can be pre-ordered.
Mary Poppins, the classic book

Mary Poppins, the  Disney movie
Saving Mr. Banks, the movie about the making of Mary Poppins movie

Carol Covin, Granny-Guru

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