Free publicity for Saving Mr. Banks courtesy of U.S. Library of Congress: Mary Poppins among 25 films added to National Film Registry
The powers-that-be at the United States’ Library of Congress have chosen to give the Walt Disney Studios a little support. Directed by John Lee Hancock (of the “family” blockbuster The Blind Side), and starring Tom Hanks as Walt Disney and Emma Thompson as Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers, Saving Mr. Banks opened to solid – though hardly outstanding – box office numbers at 15 North American venues last Friday, Dec. 13.
Also featuring Colin Farrell, Ruth Wilson, Paul Giamatti, Jason Schwartzman, and Rachel Griffiths, Saving Mr. Banks – about Disney’s attempt at convincing Travers to sell him the rights to her Mary Poppins stories – opened in wide release in the U.S. and Canada today, Dec. 20.
On Wednesday, Dec. 18, the Library of Congress announced that Mary Poppins (1964) – the tale of a mysterious nanny/governess who cures the ails of a dysfunctional, upper-class, early 20th century London family – had been included among the 25 movies added to the National Film Registry “to be preserved as cinematic treasures for generations to come.”
Directed by Robert Stevenson, Mary Poppins remains one of the biggest blockbusters ever, along the way earning Hollywood newcomer Julie Andrews a Best Actress Academy Award.
Now, will public money be used to help “preserve” – the currently pristine-looking – Mary Poppins? If so, does that mean “preserved” Mary Poppins prints will fall into the public domain?
You must be out of your mind if you think so. That’s not quite how intellectual property law works.
What’s more, you’ll be dealing with Disney, which, despite all the “public’s interest” b.s. found in Saving Mr. Banks, protects its own properties with the fierceness of a Mama Cobra. (This Boing Boing article on Disney’s Christmas Spirit is worth a read. Check out: “Disney’s Rights to Mickey Mouse Questioned.”)
‘Mary Poppins’ is turning 50
Also worth noting, Mary Poppins turns 50 next year. Expect Disney to come up with 50th Anniversary Blu-ray editions featuring the tagline “National Film Registry Inductee” or some such.
And here’s wondering what P.L. Travers would have thought of Mary Poppins being added to the list. She hated Walt Disney’s movie adaptation of her story.
Besides Julie Andrews – who got to play the flying nanny after being bypassed for the role of Eliza Doolittle in Warner Bros.’ My Fair Lady – Mary Poppins features:
Dick Van Dyke. David Tomlinson. Karen Dotrice. Matthew Garber. Reta Shaw. Arthur Treacher. Reginald Owen.
Best Supporting Actress Academy Award nominee Glynis Johns (The Sundowners, 1960).
Best Supporting Actress Academy Award nominee Hermione Baddeley (Room at the Top, 1959).
Two-time Best Supporting Actress Academy Award nominee Elsa Lanchester (Come to the Stable, 1949; Witness for the Prosecution, 1957).
Best Supporting Actor Academy Award nominee Ed Wynn (The Diary of Anne Frank, 1959).
Best Supporting Actress Academy Award winner Jane Darwell (The Grapes of Wrath, 1940).
Bill Walsh and Don DaGradi were credited for the screenplay adaptation. Robert B. and Richard M. Sherman wrote the song score.
Check out: “Julie Andrews vs. Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady: Biggest Oscar Snubs.”
Only a handful of titles truly in need of preservation
This December 2013, Mary Poppins finds itself in the company of a couple of dozen other movies, some of which are also owned by mega-conglomerates, e.g., Comcast/NBC Universal’s Midnight (1939); Sony Pictures’ Gilda (1946); and Time Warner’s Wild Boys of the Road (1933), Forbidden Planet (1956), and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966).
Among the other National Film Registry entries that aren’t exactly cinematic orphans in dire need of preservation are two Best Picture Academy Award nominees:
- Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction (1994), an ultra-violent crime thriller considered the acme of cool in some quarters – besides being a Disney-owned movie just like Mary Poppins.
- Philip Kaufman’s Warner Bros.-distributed The Right Stuff (1983), an idealized look at the early days of the United States’ space program.
National Film Registry curiosities: Oscar-snubbed documentary & silent cinema rarities
Curiosities on this year’s National Film Registry list include:
- The Pre-Code, two-color musical King of Jazz (1930), an extravagant Carl Laemmle Jr. production featuring Paul Whiteman and his orchestra, in addition to Universal star Laura La Plante, actor/singer John Boles, and, in his feature film debut, Bing Crosby (then a member of the Whiteman Orchestra’s Rhythm Boys).
- Michael Moore’s documentary Roger & Me (1989), which caused quite a stir after it failed to be nominated for the Best Documentary Feature Oscar.
- The recently rediscovered 1920 drama Daughter of Dawn, featuring a cast of Native Americans and purportedly the first film shot in Oklahoma.
- Two silent comedies showcasing top female stars of the era: The Virtuous Vamp (1919), with Constance Talmadge, and Ella Cinders (1926), with Colleen Moore.
According to a report issued by the Library of Congress itself, approximately 70 percent of all American silent feature films have been lost, destroyed, or left to rot.
Don’t expect this year’s token inclusion of Daughter of Dawn, The Virtuous Vamp, and Ella Cinders to stem the very real threat to that key segment of early 20th century American culture.
By the way, will the Universal-owned, hard-to-find King of Jazz become available for viewing, now that it’s a National Film Registry inductee?
‘Inclusive’ list bypasses LGBT-themed movies
Below is the 2013 National Film Registry list, with its usual mix of features and shorts, time periods (from 1919 to 2002), socially conscious themes (Nazism, workers safety, racism), ethnic groups (Native Americans, whites, blacks), and ethnic minority/female filmmakers (e.g., Bless Their Little Hearts, Men and Dust).
Less politically correct is the (unsurprising) absence of any gay/lesbian/bi/tri/etc.-themed film, unless you consider Charles Vidor’s Gilda to be one such, what with good-looking Glenn Ford torn between former flame Rita Hayworth and her husband, Buenos Aires casino owner George Macready.
Or perhaps Pulp Fiction, which features a minor character who happens to be a (gay?) security guard, a same-sex rapist, and who, much to the delight of audiences, gets shot – with what looks like a handheld cannon – in the stomach by his victim.
Check out: “Controversial & Hard-to-Find Black Musical: Porgy and Bess Among National Film Registry Additions.”
National Film Registry movies
Below is the near-complete list of 2013 National Film Registry additions. Mary Poppins has been left out, as its director/cast can be found elsewhere in this article.
The movies – only seven of which are pre-1950 feature films – are listed in chronological order.
Bear in mind that movies must be more than ten years old in order to qualify for the National Film Registry. So, Saving Mr. Banks, for instance, will have to wait until 2024 to be able to join Mary Poppins.
Check out: The Library of Congress’ Packard Campus’ Jan. 2014 movies.
- David Kirkland’s A Virtuous Vamp (1919), with screenplay by the married couple John Emerson and (Gentlemen Prefer Blondes: The Intimate Diary of a Professional Lady author) Anita Loos.
Cast: Constance Talmadge. Conway Tearle.
- Norbert A. Myle’s Daughter of Dawn (1920).
Cast: Hunting Horse. Oscar Yellow Wolf. Esther LaBarre.
- Alfred E. Green’s Ella Cinders (1926).
Cast: Colleen Moore. Lloyd Hughes. Vera Lewis.
- John Murray Anderson’s King of Jazz (1930).
Cast: Paul Whiteman. John Boles. Laura La Plante. Jeanette Loff. Glenn Tryon. William Kent. Bing Crosby. Carla Laemmle (who turned 104 last October 20).
- Martha Graham early dance films (1931–1944).
- William A. Wellman’s Depression era Pre-Code drama Wild Boys of the Road (1933).
Cast: Frankie Darro. Edwin Phillips. Rochelle Hudson. Dorothy Coonan. Sterling Holloway.
- Mitchell Leisen’s screwball comedy Midnight (1939), with screenplay by Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett.
Cast: Claudette Colbert. Don Ameche. John Barrymore. Mary Astor. Francis Lederer. Elaine Barrie.
- Sheldon and Lee Dick’s documentary Men and Dust (1940), about the respiratory problems experienced by miners in the American Midwest. Will Geer (The Waltons) provided some of the 18 minute-film’s narration.
- Charles Vidor’s Gilda (1946).
Cast: Rita Hayworth. Glenn Ford. George Macready.
- Frank Stauffacher’s 23-minute impressionistic short Notes on the Port of St. Francis (1951), narrated by Vincent Price from a poem by Robert Louis Stevenson.
- John Ford’s Best Director Oscar-winning ode to Ireland, The Quiet Man (1952).
Cast: John Wayne. Maureen O’Hara. Victor McLaglen. Barry Fitzgerald. Mildred Natwick. Ward Bond.
- Fred M. Wilcox’s Forbidden Planet (1956).
Cast: Walter Pidgeon. Anne Francis. Leslie Nielsen. Warren Stevens. Jack Kelly. Robby the Robot.
- John Sturges’ The Magnificent Seven (1960), a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai.
Cast: Yul Brynner. Steve McQueen. Eli Wallach. Horst Buchholz. Charles Bronson. Robert Vaughn. Brad Dexter. James Coburn.
- Stanley Kramer’s Judgment at Nuremberg (1961), written by Oscar winner Abby Mann.
Cast: Best Actor Oscar winner Maximilian Schell. Spencer Tracy. Montgomery Clift. Burt Lancaster. Richard Widmark. Marlene Dietrich. Judy Garland. William Shatner. Werner Klemperer.
- John and Faith Hubley’s Oscar-winning animated short The Hole (1962).
- Mike Nichols’ Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1966), adapted by Ernest Lehman from Edward Albee’s play about dysfunctional heterosexual relationships.
Cast: Best Actress Oscar winner Elizabeth Taylor. Richard Burton. George Segal. Best Supporting Actress Oscar Sandy Dennis.
- The Film Group’s Cicero March (1966), about a Civil Rights march in an all-white Chicago suburb.
- Stanton Kaye’s indie Brandy in the Wilderness (1969).
Cast: Stanton Kaye. Michaux French.
- Philip Kaufman’s The Right Stuff (1983).
Cast: Sam Shepard. Dennis Quaid. Ed Harris. Scott Glenn. Barbara Hershey. Pamela Reed. Kim Stanley. Veronica Cartwright. Fred Ward. Scott Paulin. Kathy Baker. Mary Jo Deschanel.
- Billy Woodberry’s neorealist UCLA thesis film Bless Their Little Hearts (1984), about the struggles of a family in Los Angeles’ impoverished, mostly black Watts neighborhood. Screenplay and cinematography by Killer of Sheep and To Sleep in Anger director Charles Burnett.
- Adam Davidson’s Student Academy Award- and Palme d’Or-winning short The Lunch Date (1989).
- Michael Moore’s Roger & Me (1989), a chronicle of Moore’s attempts to interview General Motors’ top dog Roger Smith.
- Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction (1994).
Cast: John Travolta. Samuel L. Jackson. Uma Thurman. Bruce Willis. Eric Stoltz. Rosanna Arquette. Maria de Medeiros.
- Bill Morrison’s Decasia (2002), featuring decomposing archival footage.
Julie Andrews Mary Poppins image: Walt Disney Studios.
Rita Hayworth Gilda image: Columbia Pictures.
“Mary Poppins National Film Registry Timing: Free Publicity for Disney Movie” last updated in December 2018.