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The first four Mary Poppins books
|Author||P. L. Travers|
Harcourt, Brace, New York
The first four Mary Poppins books
|Author||P. L. Travers|
Harcourt, Brace, New York
Mary Poppins is the lead character in a series of eight children's books written by P. L. Travers. Throughout the Mary Poppins series, which was published over the period 1934 to 1988, Mary Shepard was the illustrator. The books centre on a magical English nanny, Mary Poppins. She is blown by the East wind to Number Seventeen Cherry Tree Lane, London, and into the Banks' household to care for their children. Encounters with chimney sweeps, shopkeepers and various adventures follow until Mary Poppins abruptly leaves, i.e., "pops-out". Only the first three of the eight books feature Mary Poppins arriving and leaving. The later five books recount previously unrecorded adventures from her original three visits. As P. L. Travers explains in her introduction to Mary Poppins in the Park, "She cannot forever arrive and depart."
The books were adapted by Walt Disney in 1964 into a musical film titled Mary Poppins, starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke. In 2004, Disney Theatrical, in collaboration with Cameron Mackintosh (who had previously acquired the stage rights from Travers) produced a stage musical also called Mary Poppins in the West End theatre. The stage musical was transferred to Broadway in 2006, where it ran until its closing on March 3, 2013. In 2013 the film Saving Mr. Banks depicted the making of the 1964 film.
The first book introduces the Banks family from Number Seventeen Cherry Tree Lane, London, consisting of Mr. and Mrs. Banks; their children Jane and Michael; and baby twins John and Barbara. When the children's nanny, Katie Nana, storms out in a huff, Mary Poppins arrives at their home, complete with her traveling carpetbag, blown in by a very strong wind. She accepts the job, and the children soon learn that their nanny, though she is stern, vain, and usually cross, has a magical touch that makes her wonderful. Among the things Jane and Michael experience are a tea party on a ceiling with Mr. Wigg, a trip around the world with a compass, the purchase of gingerbread stars from the extremely old Mrs. Corry, a meeting with the Bird Woman, a birthday party at the zoo among the animals, and a Christmas shopping trip with a star named Maia from the Pleiades cluster of the Taurus constellation. In the end, Mary Poppins is satisfied with the work she has done with the Banks family, and the West Wind carries her away.
Mary Poppins contained a version of the chapter "Bad Tuesday" in which Mary and the children use a compass to visit places all over the world in a remarkably short period of time. The original story in the 1934 edition contained a variety of cultural and ethnic types of Chinese, Eskimo, sub-Saharan Africans, and Native Americans; Travers responded to criticism that the picture given was too simple by revising the chapter in 1981 to include animal representatives instead of people. At the same time, original illustrator Mary Shepard altered the accompanying drawing of the compass to show a polar bear at the north, a macaw at the south, a panda at the east, and a dolphin at the west.
Nothing has been right since Mary Poppins left Number Seventeen Cherry Tree Lane. One day, when Mrs. Banks sends the children out to the park, Michael flies his kite up into the clouds. Everyone is surprised when it comes down bringing Mary Poppins as a passenger, who returns to the Banks home and takes charge of the children once again. This time, Jane and Michael meet the fearsome Miss Andrew, experience an upside-down tea party, and visit a circus in the sky. As in Mary Poppins, Mary leaves at the end, but this time with a "return ticket, just in case" she needs to return.
When Mary last left the Banks children in Cherry Tree Lane, she took a "return ticket, just in case." In the third book, she returns to the park in front of Cherry Tree Lane the way she came, falling with fireworks. Once again she takes up nanny duties in the Banks household and leads Jane, Michael, John, and Barbara on various adventures. This time, they visit her uncle Mr. Twigley, befriend a statue that has come to life, go riding on peppermint horses, and experience a garden party under the sea.
This fourth book contains six adventures of the Banks children with Mary Poppins during their outings in the park along Cherry Tree Lane. Chronologically the events in this book occurred during the second or third book (Mary Poppins Comes Back and Mary Poppins Opens the Door respectively). Among the adventures they experience are a tea party with the people who live under the dandelions, a visit to cats on a different planet, and a Halloween dance party with their shadows.
Twenty-six vignettes (one for each letter of the alphabet) weave unexpected tales of Mary Poppins, the Banks children, and other characters from Travers's previous novels. Each vignette is filled with fun and unusual words that start with the featured letter.
Mary Poppins comes to the rescue when the Banks' family cook has to go on an unexpected leave, teaching the young Banks children the basics of cooking in the process. The book includes recipes.
Mary Poppins takes the Banks children on yet another memorable adventure, this time on the magical Midsummer's Eve. All kinds of strange things can happen, and even mythical figures can descend from the heavens. At the back of the book is a list of the herbs that are mentioned in the story, with their botanical, local and Latin names.
The residents of Cherry Tree Lane are distressed to learn that their beloved Number Eighteen, an empty house for which each neighbour has created an imaginary, wished-for tenant, is about to be occupied by Mr. Banks's childhood governess, Miss Andrew, otherwise known as the Holy Terror. Her dreaded arrival brings a pleasant surprise as well, for Luti, a boy from the South Seas, has accompanied her as both servant and student. Delighted by the prospect of a new friend, Jane and Michael are frustrated by the restrictions that the hypochondriacal Miss Andrew has placed on Luti, who grows more and more homesick for his family and tropical surroundings. When the call in his heart to return home becomes more than he can bear, it is Mary Poppins who makes the trip possible by means of a visit to the Man in the Moon.
The character was first brought to life in an early television play telecast live in 1949 by CBS television, as part of their anthology series Studio One. She was played by character actress Mary Wickes, in a performance that may have been noticeably closer to what P.L. Travers envisioned. E.G. Marshall portrayed Mr. Banks and future Lassie child star Tommy Rettig played Michael. David Opatoshu played Bert, who was a Match Man in this version. Apparently, no effort was made to disguise the fact that these actors were American.
Mary Poppins was made into a film based on the first four books in the series by Walt Disney Productions in 1964. According to the 40th anniversary DVD release of the film in 2004, Walt Disney first attempted to purchase the film rights to Mary Poppins from P. L. Travers as early as 1938, but was rebuffed because Travers did not believe a film version of her books would do justice to her creation and did not want an animated cartoon based on it. Disney finally succeeded in 1961, although Travers demanded and got script approval rights.
The relationship between Travers and Disney is detailed in Mary Poppins She Wrote, a biography of Travers, by Valerie Lawson, published by Aurum Press in the United Kingdom. The relationship is also the subject of the 2013 Disney film Saving Mr. Banks.
The process of planning the film and composing the songs took about two years. Songs in the film are by the Sherman Brothers. Mary Poppins is played by British actress, Julie Andrews. Disney cast Dick Van Dyke in the key supporting role of Bert. The Banks children were played by Karen Dotrice and Matthew Garber. George and Winifred Banks were played by David Tomlinson and Glynis Johns. The film features a mix of adventures and episodes taken from each of the existing novels, and new events, created for it. In notable differences from the original novels, the film does not include the characters John, Barbara or Annabel Banks, and has Mary Poppins herself characterized as noticeably kinder.
The film received widespread acclaim from critics and audiences, and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture with Julie Andrews winning the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance as Mary Poppins. The film won an additional four Oscars for Best Original Song ("Chim Chim Cher-ee"), Best Film Editing, Best Visual Effects and Best Original Score.
In 1983, the story was adapted by the Soviet Union's Mosfilm studios into the Russian-language TV musical film Мэри Поппинс, до свидания! (Mary Poppins, Goodbye), starring Natalya Andreychenko (acting) and Tatyana Voronina (singing) as Mary Poppins, Albert Filozov as George Banks and Oleg Tabakov as Miss Andrew.
Author P. L. Travers resisted selling the stage rights to the Mary Poppins stories for many years, as a result of her dislike of the 1964 film version, and her perception of being treated discourteously by Walt Disney at the film's premiere.
Travers eventually agreed to sell the stage rights after being approached by London theatre producer Cameron Mackintosh. She acquiesced on the condition (expressed in her will) that only English-born writers – and no Americans, particularly anyone involved with the film production – were to be directly involved in the creative process of the stage musical.
The world premiere of the stage adaptation of Mary Poppins took place at the Bristol Hippodrome in the United Kingdom in September 2004. The production then moved to the Prince Edward Theatre in London's West End on December 15, 2004, where it ran for three years before closing in January 2008. The show transferred to a UK national tour, and a number of international versions were staged, including a long Broadway run in New York City.
On 31 May 2010 BBC Radio 7 broadcast a one-hour dramatization combining several of the adventures into one drama, starring Juliet Stevenson as Mary Poppins. This production has been rebroadcast several times on BBC Radio 4 Extra.
Mary Poppins is the main character of the books, a magical nanny who sweeps into the Banks home on Cherry Tree Lane and takes charge of the Banks children. She never acknowledges her strange and magical powers, and feigns insult when one of the children refers to her previous adventures. She flies in on an umbrella, and departs when the children have learnt enough lessons, promising to return whenever they need her. In the film she is portrayed by Julie Andrews.
George Banks is Mary Poppins's employer. He works at the Bank in the City of London, and lives at No. 17 Cherry Tree Lane with his wife and their children. In the books he is rarely present, but is gruffly loving of his wife and children. In the film he has a more prominent role as a cross man preoccupied with work who wants order and largely ignores his children and wife, but later on his attitude changes for the better, as Bert convinces him that while he focuses on his life at the bank, his whole life, including his children's childhood, is passing him by. His role in the stage musical is similar to the film, but he has an additional back-story drawn from the original books, in which he was tormented by a cruel nanny during his childhood. In the film he is portrayed by David Tomlinson.
Winifred Banks is the wife of George Banks and mother of Jane and Michael. In the books she is the struggling mistress of the Banks household, and is easily intimidated by Mary Poppins, who treats her with thinly-veiled contempt. In the film she is a strident suffragette who is treated somewhat satirically. The reason she was made into a suffragette in the film was to explain why she sometimes did not have time to look after her children. In the stage musical she is a former actress who is under constant pressure from her husband as she struggles to enter his social circle. In the film she is portrayed by Glynis Johns.
In the books there are five Banks children: Jane (the eldest), Michael, John, Barbara and Annabel. Jane and Michael are the eldest and go on most of the magical adventures with Mary Poppins. John and Barbara are toddler twins who only start going on adventures in the second book. Annabel is the youngest and joins the family midway through the second book. But only Jane and Michael appear in the film and stage musical. In the film they are portrayed by Karen Dotrice and Matthew Garber.
Bert is Mary Poppins' best friend in the film. In the books, when the weather is fine, he draws lifelike pictures on the pavement with chalk (and so is a screever), but when it rains he instead sells matches and is thus known as the Matchman. Mary Poppins sometimes goes on outings with Bert on her Second Tuesday off. In the film Bert is a combination of the Matchman and the Sweep and has a more prominent role in the children's adventures, including taking care of Mary's Uncle Albert. In the stage musical he acts as a narrator and far-away friend of Mary and the Banks children. In the film he is portrayed by Dick Van Dyke.
Miss Lark lives next door to 17 Cherry Tree Lane. She is the owner of two dogs: Andrew and Willoughby. Originally she only had Andrew, who is pure-bred, but the mongrel Willoughby joined the family at Andrew's request. She appears throughout the books and is usually appalled by the magical antics of Mary Poppins. She appears in the film and stage musical as a minor role. In the film she is portrayed by Marjorie Bennett.
Admiral Boom also lives along Cherry Tree Lane. He is a former Naval Officer, but now lives in a house shaped like a ship with his wife Mrs. Boom and his assistant Binnacle, who is a former pirate. He is remarkable for his use of colourful sailor's language, although, as the books are intended for children, he never actually swears; his favourite interjection is "Blast my gizzard!" In the film he is a neighbour of the Banks family who fires his cannon to mark the time; this version of the Admiral is far less salty and more of a proper, "Shipshape and Bristol fashion" kind of sailor, insistent on order and punctuality. In the film he is portrayed by Reginald Owen.
In the books, the Banks have three servants in addition to Mary Poppins: Ellen, Mrs. Brill, and Robertson Ay. Ellen is the maid and although she loves the children, she hates having to look after them when there is no nanny in the house. Mrs. Brill is the cook; she particularly dislikes Ellen. She is often grumpy for no reason. Robertson Ay is the jack of all trades. He is a young boy (mid-teens) and is very lazy and forgetful, doing such things as putting bootblack on Mr Banks' hat, thus ruining it. In Mary Poppins Comes Back, it is hinted that he is a character in a story that Mary Poppins tells the children about a king who is led astray by The Fool (Jester). It is hinted that he is the fool. The film depicts Mrs. Brill and Ellen (played by Reta Shaw and Hermione Baddeley, respectively), but not Robertson Ay; the musical includes Mrs. Brill and Robertson Ay, without Ellen.
To celebrate the 100th anniversary of P. L. Travers living in Bowral, an attempt was made to break the world record for the world's largest umbrella mosaic on Bradman Oval, Bowral, at 2:06pm on 7 May 2011. The event was organised by the Southern Highlands Youth Arts Council. The record was achieved, with 2115 people. An aerial photograph was taken by helicopter.
Bostridge, Mark, Hail Mary, The independent (London).[Dead link]