Reel Classic: Mary Poppins



In 1964, a prim, proper and ‘practically perfect in every way’ nanny entered into the consciousness of the world and Disney may not have known it then, but she would never quite leave. It has now been over 50 years since Julie Andrews graced our cinema screens as Mary Poppins, and yet the popularity of the character is as strong today as it has ever been. Based on the series of books by P.L. Travers, the character and stories were transformed into a children’s musical film that would produce unforgettable songs such as “Chim Chim Cheree”, “A Spoonful of Sugar”, “Feed the Birds”, “Let’s Go Fly a Kite”, and of course, the always easy to remember, but not so easy to spell, “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”.

Mary Poppins is the story of the Banks family, who reside at 17 Cherry Tree Lane, London. On the surface, they appear to be the perfect 1920s British family. Mr. Banks has a tremendously sought after position at the local bank, from which he is able to provide a good home and staff. Mrs. Banks is beautiful and strong, who fights the political fight for the Suffragettes. The Banks children, Jane and Michael, are intelligent and well brought up, if not a little naughty every now and then. However, all is not as it seems.


With Mr. Banks spending all his time working, the family are disconnected, leading to the children playing up more than usual, and working their way through several nannies in the process. In floats Mary Poppins on an umbrella, moved along from the wind in East. Her unorthodox methods mixed with seemingly proper ways lead to day trips into chalk pictures, tea on the ceiling, dancing on chimney tops and many other adventures that left every child watching wishing that they too could have a Mary Poppins in their life.

A very young Dick Van Dyke assumes a particularly terrible (but now instantly recognisable) Cockney accent to portray Mary’s old friend Bert. Jack of all trades, master of none, he acts as somewhat of a narrator, joining them all on these adventures, usually ending up singing and dancing along with Andrews and the rest of the cast.

Mary Poppins (1964)Directed by Robert StevensonShown: Julie Andrews (as Mary Poppins), Dick Van Dyke (as Bert)

Now also a stage musical, a new generation of children are rediscovering the magic of Mary Poppins in an all-new format. It is testament to the endurance of the story that only two years ago, Saving Mr. Banks was released, following the trials and tribulations of Mary Poppins’ author and her trepidation about handing over the rights to Walt Disney in order to produce the now unforgettable movie.

Nowadays, Mary Poppins would probably be considered dated, an old-fashioned depiction of the class system and family life as we know it. However, challenge anyone on the street to sing at least one song from the Oscar winning musical and you’d be hard pushed to find someone who couldn’t comply. A soundtrack to so many childhoods and spanning more than one generation, Mary Poppins is bright, colourful, witty and undoubtedly a classic.