It’s time to dig into more family fare in the Great Movies – 100 Years of Film book as i delve into the recommendations for my screening of It’s a Wonderful Life. Disney based the film on P.L. Travers’ series of books, and created an icon.
They added a bunch of classic songs, Julie Andrews walked away with an Oscar for Best Leading Actress for her turn as the magical nanny, Mary Poppins, and Dick Van Dyke as Bert, while charming, has one of the worst English accents ever as it slides from region to region depending on the dialogue and mood, but that doesn’t detract from the fun, in fact it added to it, as I watched it for the first time since I was a child.
It was a lot of fun revisiting this one, and amazing how much I remembered from my previous viewing all those countless years ago, the songs that have seeped into our culture, the classic shots and moments, but one thing I never really caught onto as a kid and saw it right away this time, is that the story isn’t just about Jane (Karen Dotrice) and Micheal (Matthew Garber), the Banks children, and their interaction with Mary Poppins and Bert. It’s also about, almost to the point where he’s the real character of the story, Jane and Michael’s father, Mr. Banks (David Tomlinson).
It’s 1910, Mr. Banks and his suffragette wife, Mrs. Banks (Glynis Johns) happily reside in London, where Banks has his household run on schedule, with a place for everything, and every thing in its place, including his children. He’s not so much a disciplinarian as he is absent and aloof, he’s more fixated on his job, then his family, and the domestic situation, despite being Diney-fied is still less than ideal.
While Mary Poppins shares adventures with the children, they in turn begin to learn to not only look after themselves more responsibly, cleaning their room and the like (Stop slouching, Micheal), but have a sense of fun in doing so, and share that fun with their family.
As such, the magic of Mary Poppins spreads through the family, and brings Mr. Banks around to realize there is more to life than work, and that his children love and want him in their lives, and he opens up to them by film’s end.
This one ends up, still, being so much fun, and while the live action isn’t always married perfectly to the animation that pops up on occasion, the film is just so joyous and enthusiastic that your suspension of disbelief just goes with it.
For it’s over two hour runtime there really isn’t much of a story, just, seemingly, a series of moments and songs strung together to form a whole. Not that it isn’t entertaining, it really is, and you can’t help but sing along with the countless songs, but storywise, there isn’t tons going on.
Despite that it remains a classic, and garnered not only an Oscar for Andrews, who really is perfect in every way in this film, but also for Best Film Editing, Best Effects, Best Score, and Best Original Song for Chim Chim Cher-ee.