I was no older than six when I saw Mary Poppins at a long-gone theater in downtown Hampton, the Langley. It's also where I saw Ghidrah the Three-Headed Monster. I remember both imperfectly, but I do remember that Ghidrah scared the living shit out of me, and that Dick Van Dyke was the most magical man in Hollywood.
I do clearly remember two moments of discovery during that first showing of Mary Poppins in 1964. I was a kid, and slightly bored during the bird-feeding scene. Yet I knew even then that that segment was incredibly beautiful and incredibly good, and the scene and the song remain some of my very favorite movie moments. The second moment of discovery is during a banking scene. The elderly bank president has a few lines, and I saw behind the make-up that it was Dick Van Dyke. What struck me is that one actor was allowed to play more than one part in the same vehicle, and I remember thinking this forty-six years ago in my kid-sized PF Fliers, striped t-shirt and shorts. Maybe that explains part of the appeal the Eddie Murphy/Klump movies have had in recent years -- this generation is charmed that one actor can do so much in one movie.
It also says a lot about Dick Van Dyke, who, along with Robert Preston and Patrick Macnee, as far as I'm concerned, could simply never do wrong.
Mary Poppins is now being performed on stage in L.A. And guess who made a cameo appearance as the bank president. Here's the story, and thanks to Mark Evanier and his incredible blog for the heads up.