The new Disney film, "Saving Mr. Banks," opens this weekend in theaters across the United States, giving Disney fans and classic movie buffs a fictionalized look into the making of the celebrated Disney favorite, "Mary Poppins" (1964). Tom Hanks stars as Walt Disney and Emma Thompson plays "Mary Poppins" author P.L. Travers, who clashed with Disney over the adaptation of her book. Other stars of the film include Colin Farrell and Paul Giamatti.
"Saving Mr. Banks" follows in the wake of other "making of" movies like "My Week with Marilyn" (2011), which offered an intimate look at the production of "The Prince and the Showgirl" (1957), and "Hitchcock" (2012), which recounted the making of "Psycho" (1960). In each case, the story is as much about the lives of the people involved in the production as it is about the films themselves, but the new pictures create fresh interest in the classics that they engage.
Released in 1964, "Mary Poppins" was a huge hit for Disney, with five Oscar wins and 13 nominations. Julie Andrews won Best Actress for her performance as the title character, which was her first big-screen role. Other stars included Dick Van Dyke, David Tomlinson, Glynis Johns, Ed Wynn, and Hermione Baddeley. Classic film favorites Elsa Lanchester, Jane Darwell, Reginald Owen, and Arthur Treacher also had small parts in the picture, making the movie a feast for character actor fans. Disney's production of the movie was notoriously problematic due to conflicts with P.L. Travers over the way in which the film revised her work, and she was ultimately unhappy with the result, although audiences have adored it for almost fifty years.
If you're seeing "Saving Mr. Banks" over the holidays, get into the mood by watching "Mary Poppins" or Emma Thompson's "Nanny McPhee" movies, in which Thompson plays a magical nanny of a much more forbidding character than Julie Andrews' lovely Mary. Learn more about the stars of the original "Mary Poppins" movie by seeing Dick Van Dyke in "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" (1968) and Glynis Johns and David Tomlinson in "Miranda" (1948). David Tomlinson also stars in the 1971 Disney film, "Bedknobs and Broomsticks."
Jennifer Garlen writes as the Huntsville and National Classic Movies Examiner. Her book, "Beyond Casablanca: 100 Classic Movies Worth Watching," is available in paperback and Kindle editions on Amazon.