When I saw Mary Poppins in 1965, she seemed far too severe in her manner and in her speeches, and I wondered whether I would enjoy this film. I definitely did and would heartily recommend it to most audiences.
It brings Mary Poppins to life in the persona of her creator, PL Travers.This is a film about the making of Mary Poppins. Walt Disney had been asking PL Travers for the rights to make the film since the 1940s when his daughters read and enjoyed the stories. She had resisted but, in the early 1960s, running short of funds, she was persuaded to go to Hollywood, meet Disney and discuss the screenplay for the film.
She had many reservations, certainly did not want any animation, was wary of it being a musical, and she didn’t want Dick Van Dyke. In fact, when she went to the meetings with the screenwriter and the Sherman Brothers, who are composing the songs, she stipulated that all the meeting should be tape-recorded. It is wonderful to see Emma Thompson as Travers.
She portrays a difficult personality, not immediately blessed with personal communication skills. We see this in her dealings with her agent, on the plane with the flight attendant, with all the staff at the Disney offices, even with Walt Disney himself.
She disliked a lot of the screenplay, took umbrage at some of the songs, especially when the Sherman Brothers invented the word ‘responsibilit’which she urged them to unmake. And there is a humorous moment when the brothers conceal the music page which starts ‘Super…' And Disney himself is played by Tom Hanks, bringing dignity to the role as well as an affable approach to his difficult author.
It is quite surprising to find Colin Farrell playing the father, strongly and sympathetically, despite his drinking and his failings.There is plenty to interest and enjoy in this behind-the-scenes story of the difficulties and joys in making Mary Poppins a classic movie.
- Peter Malone, ACOFB
Starring Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks, Colin Farrell, Annie Rose Buckley, Kathy Baker, Paul Giamatti, Jason Schwartzman, Bradley Whitford, Rachel Griffiths, Ruth Wilson, B.J. Novak. Directed by John Lee Hancock. Rated PG (Mild Themes). 125 minutes.