From the first instant that Mary Poppins grabbed her umbrella and floated into theaters in 1964, the film was a smash hit. Audiences couldn’t get enough of the catchy songs, dynamite performances by Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke, and the mixed live-action and animation sequences.
You may have grown up with this Disney classic playing non-stop on your TV, but even so, there’s a lot about the movie that filmmakers kept under wraps — from behind the scenes mayhem to unexpected legacies. These Mary Poppins facts will go down in the most delightful way.
1. In a 2017 interview, Julie Andrews revealed she nearly died on set. While attached to a wire for a flying scene, the stunt crew accidentally lost control and sent her plummeting to the stage below. Julie brushed herself off like a pro and moved to the next take.
2. We all remember Dick Van Dyke as Bert, the lovable chimney sweep, but did you realize he plays a second role? He also won the part of the elderly Mr. Dawes — only after paying Walt Disney $4,000 for the privilege!
3. At first, Julie Andrews wouldn’t commit to the titular role in Mary Poppins, as she was hoping to play Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady. She took the Disney offer, of course, after Audrey Hepburn won the Fair Lady part.
4. Songwriter Roger Sherman’s son inspired the title of “A Spoonful of Sugar.” He told his dad about receiving polio medicine, which he didn’t mind because it was hidden inside a cube of sugar on a spoon.
5. Walt Disney personally cast Julie Andrews, and it was her feature film debut! She impressed him during a stage performance of the musical Camelot, in which she portrayed Queen Guinevere.
Wikimedia Commons / Friedman-Abeles
6. “Feed the Birds” famously romanticized the scattering of birdseed outside St. Paul’s Cathedral. However, don’t expect to recreate the scene today. The church has outlawed the practice after the amount of bird poop in the area got out of control!
7. As beloved as the film is, many viewers simply can’t stand Dick Van Dyke’s clumsy cockney cadence. Strangely enough, when playing Mr. Dawes, he showed off a perfectly serviceable British accent.
8. According to the Sherman Brothers, who wrote the film’s music, the kite represents the Banks family. Though it is broken at the start, its four pieces — one for each Banks member — come together and soar by the end.
YouTube / Ian Best
9. A close look at the nannies lined up outside the Banks’ home will reveal that many of them are men in drag. That’s because these actors are stuntmen, brought in for when Mary Poppins blows them all into the distance moments later.
Reddit / Zulban
10. By total coincidence, Disney shot 2001’s Princess Diaries on the exact same soundstage as Mary Poppins. They later decided to honor the common link between the projects by dubbing it “Julie Andrews Stage 2.”
11. Karen Dotrice and Matthew Garber, who played the Banks children, worked together in two other films in the 1960s: The Three Lives of Thomasina and The Gnome-Mobile.
12. Believe it or not, Disney did not necessarily coin the word “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.” It appeared in a newspaper in 1931, and a variation of it also served as the title of a song in 1949.
13. It took the crew an entire week to film the big dance number “Step in Time.” Then they had to do it all over again because a scratch was found in the original film reel, rendering it useless.
14. Author P.L. Travers, who wrote the Mary Poppins book series, absolutely despised the film version and its many creative liberties. As a result, she blocked the development of any stage musical or film sequels in her lifetime.
15. As we know now, a sequel finally did arrive in 2018 in the form of Mary Poppins Returns. This time around, Emily Blunt took on the heroic nanny. Julie Andrews did receive an offer to cameo in the film, but politely turned it down.
The Hollywood Reporter
16. However, a few of the original cast members reappeared in the sequel. Most notably, Dick Van Dyke played Mr. Dawes Jr. Even in his 90s, he pulled off some pretty impressive dance moves, most of them on top of a desk.
17. Years after the movie’s release, Disney archivist Dave Smith searched endlessly for the St. Paul’s snow globe prop. It turned out to be in the possession of a janitor who found it in a trash can!
18. Filmmakers realized they needed a good reason why Mrs. Banks paid so little attention to her children. Based on its setting in the early 1900s, they chose to make her a part of the women’s suffrage movement.
19. Memorable as he was in the film, Bert does not appear at all in the novels. Instead, the filmmakers combined several book characters to create him. These include Bert the Matchman and a chimney sweep who frequently appears in the background.
20. On Oscars night, Mary Poppins took home five awards, the most of any Disney film. In addition to Best Editing, Visual Effects, Original Song, and Score, the movie’s own Julie Andrews won Best Actress in a Leading Role.
Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences
21. Mary Poppins hadn’t debuted in theaters during the filming of The Sound of Music, Julie Andrews’ other iconic film. So when she entertained the child actors between takes by singing “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” they thought Julie was making it up!
In fact, much like Mary Poppins, the movie The Sound of Music is another serious musical classic starring Julie Andrews that has a massive fanbase. And there’s a lot about this movie that even serious fans might not know…
1. “Edelweiss,” in which Captain Von Trapp serenades the flower of his native Austria, stands out as an iconic tune. Most viewers assume it’s a classic Austrian folk song, but that’s not the case! Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote it specifically for the play.
20th Century Fox
2. Though the film remains a favorite in the United States, Austrians themselves never really got into it! There are official Sound of Music tours, but those cater almost exclusively to international tourists.
3. Actress Charmian Carr had to endure a ton of pain during her “16 Going on 17” dance number. After slipping through a glass pane and hurting her leg, she had to wrap up her ankle in bandages for the remainder of the scene.
20th Century Fox
4. Although he later befriended Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer was sour on set. He said working with Julie was like “being hit over the head with a big Valentine’s Day card” and mocked the super sentimental film as “The Sound of Mucus.”
5. Based on a true story, the film version of the Von Trapp’s lives took some creative liberties. It portrays Maria as a gentle caretaker who breaks the children out of a military lifestyle. In reality, she was far more strict and took more authority over the family than her eventual husband.
6. Have you ever wanted to see 007 go undercover as a musical superstar? That James Bond mission hasn’t come to pass, but studio heads did eye Sean Connery for the role of Captain Von Trapp.
7. The real Von Trapps didn’t mountain climb out of Austria (though it did make for a good movie ending). They left in the usual fashion just before the country’s borders were sealed, and the United States welcomed them in as refugees.
20th Century Fox
8. Generations of film buffs know and love Liesl, Friedrich, Louisa, Kurt, Brigitta, Marta, and Gretl. Little do they know that all the Von Trapp kids’ names were changed for the film! The real ones were Rupert, Agathe, Maria, Werner, Hedwig, Johanna, and Martina.
9. One famous face you won’t see in behind-the-scenes photos is the real Maria Von Trapp! Director Robert Wise said she bossed around the cast and crew, so he kept her at a distance. Filmmakers also neglected to invite her to the premiere!
20th Century Fox
10. Richard Dreyfuss nearly got a chance to indulge his musical side long before Mr. Holland’s Opus. As a boy, the actor nearly won the role of Friedrich, but it turned out he couldn’t dance for his life. That led casting directors to say, “So long, farewell.”
11. Think making movies is easy? Well, for the famous opening scene, Julie Andrews had to repeatedly run up a mountainside! She also had nothing more than a light dress to wear during hours and hours of standing outside on an unseasonably cold spring day.
12. The Sound of Music has the distinction of winning the Oscar for Best Picture and the Tony for Best Musical. Only three other productions matched this feat: My Fair Lady, A Man for All Seasons, and Amadeus.
13. Maria first shared her incredible story in the 1949 bestseller The Story of the Trapp Family Singers. However, she unwittingly sold away the film rights for the book, meaning that the Von Trapps never collected any direct profits from The Sound of Music.
14. The classic film had a quasi-remake with The Sound of Music Live! NBC broadcast, a live staging of the musical play headlined by American Idol star Carrie Underwood. While it brought in huge ratings, critics felt generally underwhelmed.
NBC / Will Hart
15. Not all the characters in The Sound of Music were based on fact. Writers completely invented Rolf, Liesl’s love interest who falls in with the Germans, to add another dramatic storyline to the musical.
16. Debbie Turner, who played Marta, kept having baby teeth fall out during production. To keep her mouth from looking different each take, filmmakers had to supply her with false teeth.
17. Both Maria and Georg Von Trapp admitted they had absolutely no romantic feelings for each other at first. But unlike in the movie, they got married long before they fled Austria — 11 years, in fact!
Press Association Archive
18. However, sparks did fly when certain cast members first met. Despite playing father and daughter, Christopher Plummer and Charmian Carr had a mutual attraction. Keeping things professional, they never let their relationship go beyond flirting.
YouTube / M Bueller
19. Captain Von Trapp wasn’t the only role that almost had a different actor. Primarily a stage performer, Julie Andrews was pretty green when it came to film. Studio heads wanted a big name like Doris Day — who did cover the title song a few years earlier.