‘Mary Poppins’ Returns To TV: What You Don’t Know About The Walt Disney Movie

Mary Poppins, the “practically perfect” nanny, flies back to the small screen this weekend when ABC presents the three-hour movie this Saturday night, December 10. Starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke, the 1964 movie received 13 Academy Award nominations and won five including Best Actress (Julie Andrews), Best Song (“Chim Chim Cher-ee”), Best Visual Effects, Best Film Editing, and Best Original Music Score. A huge hit for Disney, the studio is currently working on Mary Poppins Returns, a sequel that will star Emily Blunt in the Poppins role.

Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke, Matthew Garber and Karen Dotrice in "Mary Poppins."
Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke, Matthew Garber and Karen Dotrice in "Mary Poppins." [Image by ABC]

Disney’s 2013 movie, Saving Mr. Banks, retold the story about the making of famed film that starred Tom Hanks playing Mr. Disney and Emma Thompson playing P.L. Travers, the author of Mary Poppins and (somewhat) nemesis to Walt. Thanks to that movie, many are now well aware that Travers was no fan of Disney and disliked the final product. However, here are a bunch more facts related to the film that you may not know.

  • It actually took about 20 years for Walt Disney to convince Travers to release the rights to the film and is speculated that she relented because was in need of the money.
  • While most of us cannot fathom anyone else playing the role of Mary Poppins, both Angela Lansbury and Bette Davis were considered for the role and as much as Disney liked Dick Van Dyke for Bert, he really wanted Cary Grant to play the role.
  • Many have panned Van Dyke’s accent in the movie, but according to Mental Floss, there is another reason that Van Dyke struggled with the cockney accent. His vocal coach was Irish.
  • In the movie, the whole reason that Poppins comes to the Bank’s family’s home in the first place is because the current nanny had quit her job. The actress who played that bit role was Elsa Lanchester, better known as the actress who played the bride of Frankenstein years earlier. Before Poppins arrives, there is a huge line of dowdy-looking nannies wanting to the take job. Some were uglier than others, probably because some of them were played by men.
  • At least one “chimney sweep” danced again in Disney’s 2007’s Enchanted.
On the set of "Mary Poppins"
Actress Julie Andrews dances with the chimney sweeps in the chimney-sweep dance number during filming of "Mary Poppins" on a movie set representing London rooftops at the Disney Studios in Hollywood, Ca., Aug. 16, 1963. (AP Photo)
  • The Sherman Brothers wrote 30 songs for Mary Poppins but only about a third of them made it into the final product. “Feed the Birds” was Walt’s favorite. One song that didn’t make the cut, “The Beautiful Briny,” was later re-purposed for Disney’s next musical, yet less successful, Bedknobs and Broomsticks. Another became “Trust in Me” for The Jungle Book.
  • The woman who portrayed the Bird Woman in the film was played by Jane Darwell, an actress who had appeared in over 200 movies but had retired and was living at the Motion Picture Country Home when Walt personally asked her to appear in his film. Mary Poppins was her last film credit, and she passed away three years later.
  • Reginald Owen, who played the elderly Admiral Boom in Mary Poppins, played the role of elderly Ebenezer Scrooge years earlier in 1938’s A Christmas Carol.
  • Many of the actors in Mary Poppins reunited for other projects. Reta Shaw, who played one of the maids, appeared twice as a nurse on The New Dick Van Dyke Show in 1972. Reginald Owen, who played the Bank’s neighbor Admiral Boom, reunited with Mr. Banks (David Tomlinson) in 1971’s Bedknobs and Broomsticks. Ed Wynn, who played Uncle Albert (and voiced the Mad Hatter in 1951’s Alice in Wonderland) reunited with Karen Dotrice and Matthew Garber (who played Jane and Michael) for Disney’s 1967 The Gnome-Mobile. Doctrice and Garber actually worked together before Mary Poppins in the 1963 movie, The Three Lives of Thomasina. Although Doctrice is still acting, Garber only appeared in those three movies.
Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke in "Mary Poppins."
Co-star Dick Van Dyke, left, is airborne during a dance with Julie Andrews, right, for the new movie Mary Poppins, June 25, 1963, Hollywood, Calif. (AP Photo/Don Brinn)
  • Known for her beautiful singing voice, Julie Andrews played the role of a nanny twice more for Disney in 2003′ made-for-TV movies, Eloise at the Plaza and Eloise at Christmastime, only this time, the nanny couldn’t sing a lick.
  • Glynis Johns played Mrs. Banks. One of her last movie roles was playing Grandma Elise in 1995’s While You Were Sleeping.
  • The British actor Arthur Treacher, who played the constable in the film, later became “the face” of the fast-food chain, Arthur Treacher’s Fish and Chips.

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In 2013, Mary Poppins was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

Mary Poppins airs Saturday night, December 10 at 8 p.m. on ABC.

[Featured Image by ABC]