Making the Grades
George Banks (David Tomlinson) is a diligent employee. But as breadwinner and lord of his British household, he has very little time for parenting. Marching with the women suffragettes, his wife Winifred (Glynis Johns) is equally preoccupied with issues outside of the home. Its no wonder then that the harried couple is quite put out when yet another disenchanted nanny (Elsa Lanchester) turns in her resignation notice.
However, a stroke of good luck comes their way when Mary Poppins (Julie Andrews) alights on their front stoop. Pretty, punctual and "practically perfect in every way", she's a godsend for the whole family. As the new nursemaid, she makes sure the children are trained, entertained and snuggly tucked in at the end of the day.
Jane (Karen Dotrice) and Michael (Matthew Garber) find Mary a radical change from the previous pinched-face caregivers they've had. Although she demands good manners and proper conduct, she is dedicated to taking the children on magical adventures. Along with her friend Bert (Dick Van Dyck), an ordinary jack-of-all-trades, they jump into sidewalk chalk drawings and ride on free-roaming carousel horses in scenes that showcase methods of early animation.
George, on the other hand, is baffled by Mary's effect on himself and his brood. While he can't quite put a finger on it, he definitely knows things have changed since she blew in. The cook is calmer, the maid is merrier and before long, even George---the epitome of a standoffish father---is taking his kids into work at the bank.
Fortunately, Mary Poppins did more than perk up family relationships at the Banks' mansion. She also proved to be a piece of good fortune for Disney Studios who won 5 of 11 nominations at the Academy Awards the following year, including a Best Actress for the up-and-coming Andrews.
Brimming with musical numbers, the film is a highly romanticized portrayal of domestics, chimneysweeps and common laborers. Now, many years after its original release, the attitude toward female voters and the role of fathers may have changed, but Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious is still undoubtedly a handy word to know when you're stumped for something to say.