Wednesday, 12 June 2013

MoMoMu: Jolly holiday with Mary!

MoMoMu??? That stands for "Monthly Movie Musical", which means I'm going to blog about one movie musical each month. I started off with my Les Mis post in April but missed May, so I'll try to redeem the situation by doing TWO movie musicals for June.

I actually did watch this movie in May even though didn't get around to write about it till now. 9th of May was some sort of a Christian holiday – I wasn't really aware of what the celebration was, but I decided that a holiday would be a wonderful excuse to watch a dear movie musical which I hadn't seen  in a couple of years. So, the next installment of the Monthly Movie Musicals: Mary Poppins!

Mary Poppins was one of Disney's most successful films, earning 13 Academy Award nominations and winning five, including Best Actress in a Leading Role for Julie Andrews, who made her film debut as the title character. She made another great musical film role in The Sound of Music, so things turned out pretty fine for her even though she didn't get the much-expected lead role in the My Fair Lady film.

But it isn't the amount of trophies that shapes your personal opinion of a movie. I still love the same things about Mary Poppins that I loved when I was younger: Julie Andrews in all her beauty, the whole animation combination part in the painting, the chimney-sweeps' awesome Step in Time dance, and Uncle Albert who just floats around the ceiling and laughs.

However, a whole new aspect of the movie rises up when you watch it after learning something about the English history. I didn't realize until now what Mr Banks – the more than slightly chauvinistic banker who ends up hiring Mary Poppins as his childrens' nanny – is really rejoicing about when he sings "King Edward's on the throne, it is the AGE OF MEN!" Before King Edward, Queen Victoria had been on the throne for 64 long years. Get it? And married to Mr Banks with these ideologies is Mrs Winifred Banks, who energetically sings, shouts and marches for women's votes whenever her husband is out of the house. Clearly a match made in Heaven.

This brings us to the central theme of the movie: the reunion of a dysfunctional family from which especially the uptight father Banks is estranged. In flies Mary Poppins who puts the household upside down by teaching the children, Jane and Michael, the things that their parents can't teach them, and when the father's eyes are opened and the whole family is happily flying a kite, Mary Poppins leaves as her work there is done.

There is another intended theme which doesn't come across quite as well. The Feed the Birds ballad and the resulting "invest your money in the bank vs. buy food for the pigeons" heralds the morale of caring about others around you and giving what you can, but the birds make kind of a weak target for sympathy because we never see them properly in the movie (and judging by the amount of pigeons in my area, they really don't need peoples' charity to get fat).

Speaking of the ballad, I should say something of the music in general to make this a proper MoMoMu review. Most of the tunes are really catchy and I could still remember almost all the lyrics even though it had been a while since I last heard them. Memorable as they are, I don't think there's anything ultra-special about the songs themselves – it's the setting where they're in. Like the jaw-dropping dance number of the chimney-sweeps, to take my favourite example. And now that I've mentioned them twice already, I really have to share this video.

Did you see Dick Van Dyke's (Bert's) moves there? Did you know he'd never had any dance training before Mary Poppins? I find it just as amazing as the fact that this was Julie Andrews' first movie. It just seems so totally natural to her what she's doing. The two Banks children (Karen Dotrice and Matthew Garber) act very nicely as well, which can't be said of all child actors.

Even though none of the movie's songs make it to my list of favourite musical tunes and it isn't very deep thematically, Mary Poppins is definitely a recommendable movie musical. It's very clear how much heart and effort was put into it, and it will always make you happy – it's quite literally a "jolly holiday with Mary!

Good old English fox-hunting in good old English countryside – wouldn't even dream of chuckling at these elegant upper-class redcoats! I honestly didn't!!

Fun Facts

  • Julie Andrews does the bird whistling in A Spoonful Of Sugar
  • Feed The Birds was Walt Disney's favourite song, he would constantly invite the Sherman brothers over just so they could play it.
  • While Dick Van Dyke showed some natural talent in dancing, his wannabe Cockney accent was ranked #2 on the Empire magazine's poll of the worst film accents in 2003.
  • David Tomlinson, who played Mr Banks, also voiced Mary Poppins' talking parrot umbrella handle.
  • The three geese in Jolly Holiday are voiced by Marni Nixon, who has dubbed many singing parts for actresses who couldn't sing – she sang Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady as well as Maria in West Side Story, and finally made an actual screen appearance in The Sound Of Music as one of the nuns.
  • Dick Van Dyke also played the ancient and hobbling Mr Dawes Sr. and had some fun with it: he'd go outside in full Mr Dawes Sr. makeup, spot a tourist bus and make it wait while he slowly limped across the street à la Mr Dawes. When he'd finally made it across and the bus took off, he'd run at a full sprint next to it and shock the tourists.
Before you go, take this challenge: try to watch Uncle Albert's clip from start to finish without laughing out loud!


  1. I can see that Mary Poppins is a great film but it isn't one of my favourites. I think that might be down to its overexposure. I don't know how it is in Finland but in Britain this film is shown practically every single holiday! Christmas, Easter, Bank Holidays, you name it. It will be on TV. I've been trying to avoid watching Mary Poppins for years in the hope that it will feel fresh again when I do.

    1. That's interesting! I've never seen it on television in Finland so yeah, I'm definitely not overexposed :)