"Mary Poppins" began its "regular engagement" at the Chinese Theater 50 years ago today. When The Times reviewed it (earlier in August of 1964), Philip K. Scheuer wrote:
"Mary Poppins" is the complete fantasy. It will amaze and delight more people than you can count, and I imagine quite a lot of them won’t be kids, either. I must admit that it entertained me most of the time, but I must add that I am something of a square: It also discombobulated me.
Scheuer goes on to explain that the fantastical elements — the fact that in the film “reality is nearly nonexistent” — weren’t to his liking.
But soon we become conscious that the feats the dancers are performing are plainly beyond human ability to accomplish. And “Oh!” we say. “Trick stuff.” In direct ratio then, our admiration for the skill of the dancers as dancers (despite its having been considerable) is dissipated in a more routine respect for what the special-effects men can do.
That seems to rather miss the point of a movie that pairs Dick Van Dyke with dancing penguins. But Scheuer has a lovely turn when he addresses the stars, Van Dyke and Julie Andrews.
It is the first movie role for Miss Andrews of the stage’s “My Fair Lady” and “Camelot,” and she plays it coyly and captivatingly. Her singing voice, of course, is liquid sweetness. And she swings a wicked soft shoe. Paired happily with her (no romance, you know, but the two seem to share a winking secret) is Dick Van Dyke as Bert, who shows up in various guises — a street musician, a chalk-pavement artist, a sport, a chimney sweep and a surprise character — without any explanation. What they have in common are Dick Van Dyke and a cockney accent.
Read the rest here: Disney Fantasy Film — Amazement and Delight, Even for Grownups, Squares (1964, “Mary Poppins” review in the Los Angeles Times)
That singing voice of “liquid sweetness” helped Andrews win the Oscar for best actress at the 37th Academy Awards — Andrews is seen above with Audrey Hepburn, who starred in 1964’s best picture, “My Fair Lady.”
— Matt Ballinger
Original published caption, April 6, 1965: TWO ‘FAIR LADIES’ — Audrey Hepburn, the film’s “My Fair Lady,” congratulates Julie Andrews, right, star of the stage version, on winning the best actress for her performance in film “Mary Poppins.” Credit: Los Angeles Times