Ten things wrong with “Mary Poppins”

If you ask people for their favourite musicals, or Disney film, very often they will say “Mary Poppins”. But here are roughly ten things we don’t like about this film (and no, not Dick Van Dyke’s accent).

  • shocking under-use of Elsa Lanchester. Ms Lanchester was married to Charles Laughton and was a distinguished actress. She makes an appearance at the beginning of the film as the nanny walking out, but she should have been featured more. She gets a pretty big credit at the end for a small part.
  • feeding the birds at St Paul’s. There is no record that this was ever allowed at St Paul’s. For a long time, feeding pigeons in Trafalgar Square was a big tourist trap and you could buy bird seed at tourist prices but this is now not allowed. Pigeons are considered to be flying rats. Trafalgar Square was always covered in bird mess, visitors got pooped on and it was unhygienic and should have been discouraged, even in 1910.
  • loitering. The bird lady would have been moved on or arrested if she blocked the steps of St Paul’s and tried to run a business from there. She plainly is uncomfortable with the birds around her. Others have remarked she is probably homeless and possibly mentally ill.
  • Bert and Mary know each other from some previous time, but this is never explained. When Mary leaves she does not say “goodbye” which is just plain rude.
  • the admiral should be arrested for causing a noise nuisance and damage to other people’s houses.
  • obviously not the real actors, especially children, on many of the the merry-go-round and ceiling shots.
  • tuppence. It’s not a lot of money, maybe the equivalent of $1US today, but it’s still a lot of money to pay for bird poop, for a small child or for anyone. It’s not clear how Michael got the money, it has just come from his money bank – if it was given to him by father, some explanation of its use should have been given. Michael’s parents should have discouraged him from wasting his money on this. Mr B simply forbids the boy from wasting it. He could have bought some sweets or anything better.
  • Bert seems to have so many jobs at the same time and yet he struggles.
  • the Jolly Holiday. Mary, Bert and the children jump into a picture and have adventures with animated figures. This was wildly hailed as innovative, but it had been done since the very early days of film making. Indeed, Disney themselves combined live action and animation in “Song Of The South”, now not available of course.
  • live action and animation. In order to combine the live characters and the aanimation and to prevent one showing through the other, a matte has to be drawn on the film. This can be done manually or automatically. If it is not done properly, there are lines around the live action. This happens here (also in “African Queen”, “War Of The Worlds” and many more). There are similar technical faults in other parts of the film eg the I Love To Laugh sequence. The room tidying sequence is very bad.
  • Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. When Mary says she sings this ‘backwards’, she doesn’t. She simply takes the various portions of the word (eg super, docios) and reverses the order. It’s not the word backwards and Mary is a liar.
  • the children. They are not sweet and they are not cute. They are rude, disrespect adults, are selfish and demanding. Why aren’t they in school? We know they have been neglected as children but plainly they treat their nanny very badly.
  • geography. Many parts of London seemed to be moved, or at least flexible. St Paul’s seems to be somewhere near Parliament and very close to the slums of the East End. The Bank’s home is close to Westminster Abbey, opposite Parliament, very near the rolling hills of Westminster(!)
  • a run on the bank is not really a thing in the UK.
  • that tuppence again. Michael gives it to his father in the hopes it will make everything better (ie Mr B gets his job back). This is the first selfless act either child has done. Mr B takes it and goes to the bank, then gives the money to Mr Dawes. In the next scene, he has used the tuppence for paper and string for the kite.
  • just exactly what does Mary Poppins do? At the start of the film, George Banks works hard at a job in a fairly second rate bank, trying to maintain a good home for his wife and children. They want for nothing, but are ungrateful. George is a bit of a cold fish, but works long hours and tries hard. Mrs Banks is a home mum, but spends her time campaigning for women’s rights. In itself, this is a fine thing, but she contributes nothing to the household and neglects the children at least as much, possibly more. By the end, Mr Dawes at the bank has died from a joke George tells him (well, ok, not murder or manslaughter, but it will be on George’s mind for the rest of his life). George is re-instated at the bank, but given a bigger job with more pay (good) but presumably longer hours and more responsibility, so less time for the kids and more worry. Mrs Banks gives up her campaigning, which is not good, and it is not clear that she is going to spend more time with the children. The children have lost Mary Poppins.
  • at the end, the Banks children have no nanny again. How will they cope? Mr B is going to be even more busy, and Mrs B…?
  • the sequel…