Thursday, November 21, 2013

Tonight's Movie: Mary Poppins (1964) at the El Capitan Theatre

Walt Disney's classic MARY POPPINS (1964) is "practically perfect in every way," and what a joy to experience it tonight with a very enthusiastic audience at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood.

This one-time-only screening was the first sellout in the El Capitan's "Throwback Thursday" series.

As I've shared in the past, MARY POPPINS was the first film I ever saw on a movie screen, at the long-gone Crest Theatre in Long Beach, California. Although I've seen it countless times over the years, I can't even remember the last time I saw it in a theater, so I relished the chance to see it once again on a big screen.

It was also a wonderful opportunity to see the film just days after seeing SAVING MR. BANKS (2013), about MARY POPPINS author P.L. Travers and her negotiations with Disney over the movie rights to her books.

Like THE SOUND OF MUSIC (1965), MARY POPPINS is one of those movies which has been such a significant part of my life that I almost find it difficult to write about. Watching it is much more than simply watching a movie; it also conjures up nearly a lifetime of memories and emotions.

Some of the scenes even jump out at me as having been part of a much-loved childhood Viewmaster set! This time I was especially noticing each prop, painting, and costume which I was so fortunate to see at last summer's Disney Expo.

This story of a magical nanny who restores a family to happiness is beautifully realized in every way, from the dialogue and line deliveries to the music and set design to the feel of London. As soon as one marvelous set piece concludes, another one begins. I'm not sure there's another 139-minute movie which flies by quite as quickly or feels as smartly paced as this one does, directed by Robert Stevenson.

It's difficult for me to pick out a favorite moment or song, but I have to say that when Mr. Banks begins singing "With tuppence for paper and string..." it never fails to bring tears to my eyes. The joy of the soaring music contrasted with the bittersweet moment when Mary Poppins flies away...well, movie endings don't come any better. It's interesting to note that "Let's Go Fly a Kite" also provided an emotional high point in SAVING MR. BANKS.

Needless to say, the Oscar-winning music by the Sherman Brothers is absolutely inspired, and the film also has some of the greatest orchestrations of any film musical, by Oscar-nominated Irwin Kostal. Kostal's superb work on the film is as integral to its success as any other factor.

Julie Andrews gives such an assured performance, it's hard to believe it's her first feature film. She more than earned her Best Actress Oscar, famously thanking Jack Warner, whose refusal to have Andrews recreate her stage role in the film version of MY FAIR LADY (1964) led to Andrews making MARY POPPINS instead.

Frankly, if I'd been an Academy voter, MARY POPPINS would have also earned my Best Picture vote over MY FAIR LADY. MY FAIR LADY is a good film which is chiefly important for preserving Rex Harrison's Henry Higgins on screen, but though it's elegant, I've always found it just a bit leaden, with a miscast lead actress. Half a century on, it's MARY POPPINS which continues to soar highest.

The MARY POPPINS cast also includes Dick Van Dyke (in a dual role), David Tomlinson, Glynis Johns (I adore her giddy line readings), Karen Dotrice, Matthew Garber, Reta Shaw, Hermione Baddeley, Arthur Treacher, Elsa Lanchester, Reginald Owen, Ed Wynn, Jane Darwell, and Arthur Malet.

The voice cast included Paul Frees, Daws Butler, Bill Lee, Marni Nixon, Sean McClory, Dal McKennon, Alan Napier, Thurl Ravenscroft, Ginny Tyler, and J. Pat O'Malley.

I was saddened to read in the L.A. Times this morning of the passing of the film's co-choreographer, Marc Breaux, who was 89. Breaux and his wife, Dee Dee Wood, worked again with Andrews on THE SOUND OF MUSIC (1965) and with Van Dyke on CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG (1968).

Breaux died on Tuesday, the same day that Walt Disney's daughter Diane Disney Miller passed on. Diane and Sharon Disney's love for the POPPINS books inspired their father to begin what turned out to be a two-decade-long quest to obtain the movie rights to the books.

MARY POPPINS has had multiple DVD releases, including a 45th Anniversary Edition and an upcoming 50th Anniversary Edition, due out December 10, 2013. It can also be purchased in a 50th Anniversary Blu-ray/DVD combo pack which likewise will be released on December 10th.

The film has also had multiple releases on VHS. It can be rented for streaming from Amazon Instant Video.

Related Posts: Becoming Mary Poppins (December 14, 2005); Today at Disneyland: Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious! (Julie Andrews visit on April 8, 2008); Sherman Brothers Honored at Disneyland (Main Street tribute window dedicated on March 11, 2010); Today at Destination D: Disneyland '55 (Richard Sherman concert on September 24, 2010); Tonight's Theater: Mary Poppins (August 4, 2011); Disneyland: The Jolly Holiday Bakery Cafe (January 29, 2012); Disney Composer Robert Sherman Dies at 86 (March 6, 2012); Destination D: 75 Years of Disney Animation (Dick Van Dyke concert on August 11, 2012); 2013 D23 Expo: A Tribute to Mary Poppins (1964), Part One; 2013 D23 Expo: A Tribute to Mary Poppins (1964), Part Two; Tonight's Movie: Saving Mr. Banks (2013) at the Aero Theatre.


Post a Comment

<< Home

Newer›  ‹Older