If I was asked to select the best picture for the Oscars, which of course I’m not, Saving Mr. Banks would top my list. I’ve seen most of the nominated movies, and while they are great films, nothing compares to how SMB resonated with me.
I was 8 in 1964 and Mary Poppins was the first movie I remember ever seeing. It was a big deal: my parents took my six-year-old sister and me to the movie theater, leaving my 1-year -old brother and infant sister home with a sitter. That alone was exciting.
Suddenly I was immersed in a totally foreign world: nannies, London, suffragettes, and chimney sweeps! And songs and silly words like “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”! The movie worked its magic.
Saving Mr. Banks shows how Walt Disney, played by Tom Hanks, wooed Mary Poppins’ author, PL Travers for 20 years, finally succeeding to convince her to grant Disney the movie rights. Flashbacks of Travers’ childhood in the Australian outback intersperse the scenes in Disney studios. We see how the script and songs evolved, despite much disapproval from Travers, played by Emma Thompson. She was adamant about having final say, despised animation, and disliked practically every song and characterization.
What emerges from this film, in addition to nostalgia for the original movie, is the importance of stories in our lives. The role of the imagination in childhood, the ability to suspend belief to create fantasy, the entering the world of story to right injustices or ease pain.
Speaking of stories, I also saw at home recently the 2006 film, Miss Potter, starring Renee Zellweger as the famous creator of Peter Rabbit and his friends. Anyone who remembers these delightful characters and their antics would love how the author defied her family’s and society’s early 1900’s expectations to become an author and financially independent. Once again, the power of story triumphs as does a woman’s desire to pursue her passion. Potter published more than 23 books, mostly between 1902-1922. Her books continue to sell worldwide.
Seeing Miss Potter, we immediately ordered a set of books and stuffed animals to share these stories with the grands. Not sure they’re ready for Mary Poppins yet, but we can’t wait!