Mary Poppins

Talkie of the Week: Disney Series

USA 1964, 139 minutes, Technicolor, Walt Disney Productions, Distributed by Buena Vista Distribution. Based on Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers. Screenplay by Bill Walsh and Don DaGradi, Directed by: Robert Stevenson. Cast: Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke, David Tomlinson, Glynis Johns, Karen Dotrice, Matthew Garber, Hermione Baddeley, Reta Shaw, Reginald Owen, Don Barclay, Arthur Treacher, Elsa Lanchester, Marjorie Bennett, Arthur Malet, Ed Wynn, Jane Darwell.

Plot summary: Mary Poppins is the kind of nanny every child dreams of. She‘s lovely, adventurous and full of magic, or simply supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

Mary Poppins_bwReview: Who does not know her, Mary Poppins, the bewitching nanny played by Julie Andrews? Arriving with the changing wind, she knows how to make a big entrance in the lives of the Banks family at a time when they need her most. The children of the household, Jane and Michael, have made a habit out of swapping personnel. They do not wish to be handled by stiff-lipped elders, they want to explore the world instead. Mary Poppins, upon arrival, seems to be just another dragon in disguise, another grown-up determined to take the fun out of their lives. However, when she slides up the stairs and opens her bag full of wondrous magic, Jane and Michael change their mind. They open their heart to the new nanny, a lady who believes in following the rules as much as bending them. Before she appeared, from heaven or out of thin air, chores and duty killed every ounce of joy in them, but with Mary, even the dullest of tasks turns into an adventure for the Banks offspring and ultimately also for their parents.

Rewarded with an Academy Award for her performance, Julie Andrews breathed life into a character who turned childhood longings into reality. Based on P.L. Travers’ first book, the silver screen version of Mary Poppins was dulcified, her story abridged to fit into 139 minutes of live action entertainment interwoven with musical numbers and animated sequences. Versatile, stage-tested and equipped with a genuinely clear voice, the Ms. Andrews gave her silver screen debut in Disney‘s masterpiece adaptation and proved she was the perfect choice for her first Hollywood alter ego. Although previously trumped by Audrey Hepburn for the screen version of My Fair Lady, Andrews was rewarded with the biggest laurels of industry success and thus extended her career from stage to film. Timeless in quality and style, Mary Poppins has since remained one of Julie Andrews’ most memorable films, a Disney classic children love to revisit as much as adults.

An instant success upon release in 1964, the film was re-released in 1973 and rerun on television on a regular basis. Also made available on home video and DVD, Mary Poppins has managed to stay entertaining and fresh over the duration of five decades. On December 10, 2013, the motion picture has now also been announced to be released on Blu-ray as a 50th Anniversary Edition, another milestone in the history of a film that still enchants my heart and always revives my belief in the power of imagination.

Three Husbands

Talkie of the Week: Three Husbands

USA 1951, 77 minutes, black & white, United Artists. Director: Irving Reis, Written by Vera Caspary. Cast: Eve Arden, Ruth Warrick, Vanessa Brown, Howard Da Silva, Shepperd Strudwick, Robert Karnes, Emlyn Williams, Billie Burke, Louise Erickson, Jonathan Hale, Jane Darwell

Plot summary: When Maxwell Bard, a desired playboy, dies, he leaves a letter to each of his three married friends, teasing them about the affairs he supposedly had with their wives.

Review: In 1949, A Letter to Three Wives was released by 20th Century Fox, starring Jeanne Crain, Linda Darnell, Ann Sothern, Jeffrey Lynn, Paul Douglas and Kirk Douglas. The movie was loosely based on John Klempner’s novel A Letter to Five Wives and adapted by Vera Caspary and Joseph L. Mankiewicz. The film won two Academy Awards for Best Director (Mankiewicz) and Best Screenplay, and was also nominated for Best Motion Picture. In 1951, Vera Caspary turned the tables of the plot and wrote the screenplay for a comedy version of the story called Three Husbands.

The film stars Emlyn Williams as Max Bard, a recently deceased playboy who was on very good terms with three of his best friends’ wives. Informing the husbands about the nature of these friendships in individual letters, he causes a stir in the married lives of all three of them until Max’ will exposes the reasons behind his postmortem honesty. In a surprising twist, the wives come out on top and stand tall without condemning their husbands, their attitude smoothing the impact of female victory without destroying its message: wives are happier when they are allowed to retain their independence.

Three Husbands is a comedy, pure and simple. It lives from its hilarious cast, the catchy dialogue and delightful outcome. It is a story about marriage, rumors and trust. It is also a good seventy-seven minutes of entertainment with a dash of innocent laughs. Eve Arden is my personal cherry on top in this film. Her qualities as a comedienne are so refined and work beautifully with Howard Da Silva and Emlyn Williams, it’s worth watching this movie for their scenes alone. But you should really give the entire film a chance. If you like classic comedies and a decent cast, I’m positive you won’t be disappointed.

Available on amazon and youtube, as well as in the internet archive.