Thank you, Mary Poppins

Thank you, Mary Poppins!

Our daughter knows of Dawn’s admiration of Julie Andrews and she suggested we see the new sequel, Mary Poppins Returns. Maybe Netflix had an influx of requests for the original because of the hype surrounding the new movie, so we were on a waiting list.

As luck would have it, the 1964 Mary Poppins arrived after we had seen the new one.

A headliner upstaged by an opening act sours our enjoyment of both. Is anybody else tired of the substitution of computer generated material for thought provoking and nuanced plots and acting? Even the dated animation techniques of the 1964 film somehow made the sophisticated technology of today look cheap.

I had just been reminded of an anniversary of a family tragedy as we watched the final few minutes of Mary Poppins. The message of “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down” and “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” making us smile despite dire circumstances, was ringing true and bringing tears to my eyes. Amazing how a word like that from 55 years ago can flow out just like a “yes ma’am” or “you bet.”

The differences in the cultural perspectives reflected by these movies was striking.

We have Michael Banks, who is one of the grown children from the earlier film, an artist coasting along on the fortunes made by his hard-working father. He misplaces the paperwork entitling him to the family home and a villainous banker plots to repossess it.

In the original, the father is so wrapped up in his job that he ignores his children. He is an authority figure that seems to have little interest in the interests of his subjects. The mother is a suffragette, protesting for women’s voting rights. She shows a more loving concern for the kids but is also preoccupied with things outside the home.

Mary Poppins floats in and assumes the role of the parents, filling the children, Jane and Michael, with wonder and curiosity. She finagles a way for the kids to accompany their father to work one day and he tries to give them a lesson how savings can grow at the bank. Michael’s insistence that his tuppence should help support an old lady selling crumbs for bird feed leads to a bank run and the firing of Mr. Banks.

The adversity leads Mr. Banks to discover the joys of fatherhood. (Mary Poppins had a plan!)

Rather than portraying the banker as a villain, as in the sequel, the earlier movie showed the bankers as concerned for their customers’ savings and also as trying to grow Michael’s allowance instead of using it to “make the birds fat.”

While growing Michael’s savings, the bank took a cut in order to maintain their existence, as it offered Michael’s money to a borrower. The borrower would use Michael’s money to enable their own ambition in providing a service or product to others. Instead of a bunch of fat birds, we have a working economy.

I’m not a big fan of plays and musicals, although I can sing right along with any song from Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music. Mary Poppins Returns is for another demographic. That’s fine. These people needed a job. But if you are an old geezer like me, just skip it and watch the old one. If you do see the new one, don’t let that discourage you from seeing the old one again. It’s a spoonful of sugar for the soul.

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