On August 29, 1964, Disney’s “Mary Poppins” was released featuring a young Julie Andrews in her iconic silver screen debut. The whimsical Disney musical about a magical nanny would swiftly become a cultural phenomenon, which it remains to this day, while also receiving critical acclaim at the 1965 Academy Awards — winning five of the thirteen Oscar nominations. Julie Andrews won Best Actress for her portrayal of the title character, who’s catchy songs (“Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” and “A Spoonful of Sugar”) remain timeless classics in the musical cannon.
If case you forgot the premise of the Disney classic—in which case, we urge you to stream it as soon as possible—”Mary Poppins” is the no-nonsense nanny who magically appears at a chaotic household where the stern banker father and busy suffragette mother are too preoccupied to care for their two children and other domestic duties. In the end, Poppins gets the household in order and, along with an effervescent chimney sweep played by Dick Van Dyke, teaches the parents how to better appreciate and participate in family life. In many ways, Mary Poppins’s character can be viewed as a well-rounded and liberated female protagonist defying gender stereotypes despite her domestic profession. The portrayal of the suffragette mother, however, is up for debate: Is she a cautionary tale of the 1960’s counterculture challenges to gender roles or is a statement about the sub-par progress for women since the 19th amendment? Revisit the lyrics of “Sister Suffragette” and discuss amongst yourselves.
Heady feminist critique aside, “Mary Poppins” is a much-loved classic. It was reprised as a 2004 Broadway hit, and the highly anticipated remake (“Mary Poppins Returns”) starring “Hamilton’s” Lin-Manuel Miranda and Emily Blunt hits movie theaters on December 25, 2018.