Mary Poppins, She Wrote: The Life of P. L. Travers

By Valerie Lawson

The striking lifetime of P.L. Travers, the writer of Mary Poppins.

An arresting life…Lawson is excellent at excavating the main points. –Library Journal

The spellbinding tales of Mary Poppins, the quintessentially English and completely magical nanny, were enjoyed via generations. She flew into the lives of the unsuspecting Banks relations in a children’s ebook that was once immediately hailed as a vintage, then turned a loved ones identify while Julie Andrews stepped into the identify position in Walt Disney’s highly profitable and both vintage movie. however the Mary Poppins within the tales was once now not the cheery movie personality. She was once tart and sharp, undeniable and useless. She used to be a extraordinary character.

The tale of Mary Poppins’ writer, as this definitive biography finds, is both notable. The excellent English nanny was once really conceived via an Australian, Pamela Lyndon Travers, who got here to London in 1924 from Queensland as a journalist. She grew to become concerned with Theosophy, traveled within the literary circles of W.B. Yeats and T.S. Eliot, and have become a disciple of the famed religious guru, Gurdjieff. She famously clashed with Walt Disney over the variation of the Mary Poppins books into movie. Travers, whom Disney accused of self-importance for “thinking you recognize extra approximately Mary Poppins than I do,” was once as tart and opinionated as Julie Andrews’s big-screen Mary Poppins was once cheery. but it used to be a love of mysticism and magic that formed Travers’s lifestyles in addition to the nature of Mary Poppins. The clipped, strict, and finally mysterious nanny who emerged from her pen used to be the production of somebody who remained inscrutable and enigmatic to the top of her ninety-six years.

Valerie Lawson’s illuminating biography presents the 1st complete glance whose own trip is as interesting as her loved characters.

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The 2 might dance at arm’s size, no phrases of affection spoken. She reminded Walt Disney, the nice sentimentalist, that should you retain issues gentle, deep emotions can seep via. even supposing Pamela was once unmusical and tone deaf, she steered Disney at the rating, suggesting that every one the musical numbers must have the rhythms of Edwardian songs. during this approach, outdated melodies may filter out throughout the new ones, like ghosts, tricks and reminders. ‘Lily of Laguna’ may perhaps counterpoint Bert’s music. ‘Ta ra ra increase de ay’ may perhaps peep via a track sung via Admiral growth, and ‘Brahms’ Lullaby’ will be heard via ‘Feed the Birds’. The outdated songs, she reminded Walt, weren't simply excellent, yet again in style. at the present, the movie was once nonetheless now not forged and Disney was once contemplating Stanley Holloway, a success in My reasonable woman as Eliza Dolittle’s father, for Admiral growth. in spite of everything, the Admiral was once performed by means of Reginald Owen and the position enlarged and broadened. (His behavior of firing a gun at eight a. m. and six p. m. turned a operating gag so easy and large, it appealed purely to young children. ) Disney honoured his promise to exploit ordinarily English actors along with his top piece of casting: the partnership of Glynis Johns and David Tomlinson as Mrs and Mr Banks. He selected Karen Dotrice and Matthew Garber as Jane and Michael Banks (they have been either in his past movie, the 3 Lives of Thomasina). 3 gifted English personality actors seemed because the maid Ellen (Hermione Baddeley), the Banks’s former nanny, Katie Nanna (Elsa Lanchester), and Constable Jones (Arthur Treacher). one in all John Ford’s personality actors, Jane Darwell (who had performed Ma Joad in Grapes of Wrath) was once the chicken lady, and Ed Wynn performed himself within the guise of Uncle Albert, who couldn’t cease giggling and floated as much as the ceiling on a gradual nutrition of ‘boom increase’ song corridor jokes. To direct the array of English expertise, Disney recruited one other Englishman, Robert Stevenson, who had directed The Absent-Minded Professor in 1961. The Shermans, invoice Walsh and Don Da Gradi had additionally labored on that winning Disney movie, which had starred Fred MacMurray with a flying version T. In February 1963, Disney despatched Pamela the newest script and informed her his casting plans. She despatched again a 14-page letter, her longest and so much precise but. She was once more than pleased with development, she acknowledged, and felt that his movie will be a superb good fortune, for it was once, she proposal, ‘a great field of tips and event and merriment’. sure, it used to be some distance from the books, yet she did see that the muse got here from them. so much of all, she used to be satisfied that Mary Poppins retained her personal unknowable integrity, it doesn't matter what occurred. Bert, too, used to be now within the correct dating to her, and so was once Mr Banks. there has been no love affair, and not anything too merciless. (In handwriting she wrote on a carbon reproduction of this letter that it grew to become out to not be correct within the entire movie. ) yet after the compliment got here the warnings. Pamela used to be horrified that her light Mrs Banks have been reworked right into a suffragette. even though, she may perhaps see that through his collection of Glynis Johns, who was once a good favorite of hers, Disney meant that Mrs Banks was once the main flustered, female and insufficient suffragette ever.

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