October 20, 2013

Walt Disney smoked 3 packs of cigarettes a day and died of lung cancer, but portraying Walt Disney in a movie, "can we show him smoking?"

"No way in hell," says Tom Hanks, citing "the current atmosphere of pressure in films."

The film is "Saving Mr Banks,"  about Disney acquiring the film rights to "Mary Poppins," which I guess is supposed to be interesting because of the merger of American and British culture, with Britain embodied in the author P.L. Travers, and Tom Hanks essentially wooing her. Allegorical claptrap... and that's assuming it's ambitiously conceived. It might just be exactly the story of Disney getting the rights to "Mary Poppins." Who cares? People might care if Hanks seems like Disney, if they remember what Disney seems like. Why isn't he smoking?!


Michael K said...

With this story and the Captain Phillips crew suing over the fake script, Tom isn't doing too well this year. I did like Forrest Gump.

Tari said...

Mary Poppins is the Disney movie my kids love to hate. They read the book, and the only time they watched the movie they kept yelling "Mary Poppins is not NICE. Mary Poppins is MEAN - that's the whole point of the book, you idiots." And so I turned it off.

Nice synthesis of British and American culture, Walt.

betamax3000 said...

"Mary Poppins" was Communist ClapTrap. The Stingy-with-Love Father Works for a Bank; Hell, He is Named Mr. Banks. The Proletariat Chimney Sweeps Are Joyous with Dignity in Their Work, Yet Still DownTrodden By the Capitalist Powers..

Contrast the Bankers' Song "Fidelity Fiduciary Bank":

Now, Michael,
When you deposit tuppence in a bank account
Soon you'll see
That it blooms into credit of a generous amount
And you'll achieve that sense of stature
As your influence expands
To the high financial strata
That established credit now commands

You can purchase first and second trust deeds
Think of the foreclosures!
Bonds! Chattels! Dividends! Shares!
Bankruptcies! Debtor sales!

With the Beggar Woman's "Feed the Birds":

"Come feed the little birds,
Show them you care
And you'll be glad if you do
Their young ones are hungry
Their nests are so bare
All it takes is tuppence from you
Feed the birds, tuppence a bag
Tuppence, tuppence, tuppence a bag"

You Can See the Slippery Slope, Complete with Cartoon Penguins.

betamax3000 said...

Modern Hollywood Morality Requires Historical Inaccuracy. When Hollywood Remakes "Mandingo" None of the Slave Owners -- Including Tom Hanks -- Will Be Allowed to Be Seen Smoking.

Unknown said...

This is Anne Studholme. I have never used comments like this before, sorry I appear as "Unknown."
I always hated the fact that the Disney movie is all about Mr. Banks. He is a trivially minor character in the books (as is Mrs. Banks.) The Mary Poppins books are about children-- children's fears and hopes and dreams and magical inner lives. Secondarily, the books are about the romantic, inner, intellectual world of a self-respecting, poor woman, who takes care of five young children 24/7, with two half-days off per month. (Romantic, that is, in the sense of fable and myth, of course, not sexual entanglement.)
Mary is revealed, over the course of the books, to be a primeval cosmic spirit, trapped for a while on Earth in the guise of a nursery-maid. Never fully spelled out, because Travers is a writer of great subtlety.
When Mary first arrives at the Banks', Jane and Michael are about 7 or 8, and there are also year-old twins. Mary takes full care of them all. In a later book, Mrs. Banks has another baby, and promptly hands it off to Mary, as well. Mary sleeps in the same room as all the children, makes their food, cleans their rooms, and does their laundry. (A cook, a housemaid, and a man-of-all-work take care of the rest of the house, where the parents live.) And, sorry, betamax, this isn't Commie propaganda (though maybe Disney was, for all I know); it's real life of a pre-WWII servant in England.
The second chapter of the first book is the extended fantasy sequence with Mary's beau, Bert. Read it. It's beautifully written and heartbreaking to read, as an adult.
Reminiscent of Andersen's Little Match Girl, though more stoic and less bathetic, Mary and Bert are set for Mary's monthly afternoon off, and they realize they have no money. No one has tipped Bert for his sidewalk art (he's not a chimney sweep, he's a poor artist who can only afford chalk, and hint hint sells matches as his day job.) Mary bravely says, never mind, and they step into one of Bert's pictures for a lovely IMAGINARY "treat." Bert is magic, like Mary, but their magic is an escape from their everyday circumstances.
With her cast of interesting relations--Mary becomes furious when her well-meaning, but spoiled and rich charges ever laugh at any of her funny relatives (though the relatives don't mind)--and her ancient and magical friends among the shopkeepers and street vendors of London, Mary's magic draws the children into a world both real and fantastical. It has 100% NOTHING to do with their parents, who remain hide-bound, and, most importantly, unimaginative, and apparently unread, upper-middle-class folk.
The movie captures a bit of the relationship between Mary and Bert. THAT's in the book--in fact, it's right off the bat, which can be slightly off-putting for child readers. Who cares about grown-ups, anyway?
But the idiocy that the story is "about" Mr. Banks -- that could only come from Walt Disney's ego. From watching the trailer, you get a sense that Walt had to mansplain to Travers--a far greater artist than he--what her immortal books are "about." And, wouldn't you know it, they turn out to be about a middle-aged man's problems from being too involved in his work. Give me a break.
This is my first ever comment on Althouse. I came here via Andrew Sullivan, and fell a bit in love myself, with Althouse's magic. An excellent place to vent about Disney's hatchet job on REAL magic.

rehajm said...

Tom was okay with the fact he couldn't portray Walt's Mountain-Dew-Big-Gulp-for-Breakfast habit though...

Unknown said...

If Althouse can post this under "fair use" (or, heck, if MP is out of copyright, by now), here's a bit of Chapter Two, The Day Out:

"Every third Thursday," said Mrs. Banks. "Two till five."
Mary Poppins eyed her sternly. "The best people, ma'am," she said, "give every second Thursday, and one till six. And those I shall take or--" Mary Poppins paused, and Mrs. Banks knew what the pause meant. it meant that if she didn't get what she wanted Mary Poppins would not stay.
"Veyr well, very well," said Mrs. Banks hurriedly, though she wished Mary Poppins did not know so very much more about the best people than she did herself.
[Mary gets herself dressed up, tells a nosy child who asks where she's going, to "Kindly close that window," and sets off to meet Bert.]
. . . "Ahem!" said Mary Poppins, with a ladylike cough.
He turned with a start when he saw her.
"Mary!" he cried, and you could tell by the way he cried it that Mary Poppins was a very important person in his life.
Mary Poppins looked down at her feet and rubbed the toe of one shoe along the pavement two or three times. Then she smiled at the shoe in such a way that the shoe knew quite well that the smile wasn't meant for it.
"It's my Day, Bert," she said. "Didn't you remember?" Bert was the Match Man's name--Herbert Alfred for Sundays.
"Of course I remembered, Mary," he said, "but--" and he stopped and looked sadly into his cap. it lay on the ground beside his last picture and there was tuppence in it. He picked it up and jingled the pennies.
"That all you got, Bert?" said Mary Poppins, and she said it so brightly you could hardly tell she was disappointed at all.
"That's the lot," he said. "Business is bad today . . . Can't take you to tea today, I'm afraid."
Mary Poppins thought of the raspberry-jam-cakes they always had on her Day Out, and she was going to sigh, when she saw the Match Man's face. So, very cleverly, she turned the sigh into a smile--a good one with both ends turned up--and said:
"That's all right, Bert. Don't you mind. I'd much rather not go to tea. A stodgy meal, I call it--really."
And that, when you think about how much she liked raspberry-jam-cakes, was rather nice of Mary Poppins.
The Match Man apparently thought so, too . . .

William said...

I wonder if, in the end, Disneyland will last longer than the British Empire.......Interestingly, the British Empire, at its apogee, lasted only about as long as the Soviet Union.

Unknown said...

The end of the chapter:

. . . Then Mary Poppins stepped through the white doorway and the Match Man followed her.
And as they went, the feather dropped from her hat and the silk cloak from her shoulders and the diamonds from her shoes. The bright clothes of the Match Man faded, and his straw hat turned into his old ragged cap again. Mary Poppins turned and looked at him, and she knew at once what had happened. Standing on the pavement she gazed at him for a long minute, and then her glance explored the wood behind him for the Waiter. But the Waiter was nowhere to be seen. There was nobody in the picture. Nothing moved there. Even the Merry-go-Round had disappeared. only the still trees and the grass and the unmoving little patch of sea remained.
But Mary Poppins and the Match Man smiled at one another. They knew, you see, what lay behind the trees . . .
When she came back from her Day Out, Jane and Michael came running to meet her.
"Where have you been?" they asked her.
"In Fairyland," said Mary Poppins.
"Did you see Cinderella?" said Jane.
"Huh, Cinderella? Not me," said Mary Poppins, contemptuously. "Cinderella, indeed!"
"Or Robinson Crusoe?" Asked Michael.
"Robinson Crusoe--pooh!" said Mary Poppins rudely.
"Then how could you have been there? It couldn't have been _our_ Fairyland!"
Mary Poppins gave a superior sniff.
"Don't you know," she said pityingly, "that everybody's got a Fairyland of their own?"
And with another sniff she went upstairs to take off her white gloves and put the umbrella away.

Paddy O said...

Great comments, Anne, glad you jumped in hereabouts.

Careless said...

Modern Hollywood Morality Requires Historical Inaccuracy.

But we're talking about Disney here, famous these days primarily for racism, right? I'm surprised he's not going to have horns to go with smoking.

Unknown said...

Thanks for the opportunity!

Largo said...

Indeed! Thank you Anne.

Unknown said...

3 packs a day? I have never smoked, but wouldn't you have to light one of with the last one continuously during your waking hours to smoke that much? Gross......

Alan said...

Good grief, Hollywood gets around to making a high profile pic about one of America's most consequential figures and it's about what??

How about the struggle and overwhelming risk involved in just getting Snow White made? Would it kill Hollywood to make an inspirational movie about a great capitalist just once?

Unknown said...

Hm. Bunch of unknowns. I'm the unknown Anne-with-an-E who posted the Mary Poppins extracts and commentary. I'm responding to the unknown who gags at the idea of smoking three packs a day.
It's interesting to be 50! I feel young, but I must be a LOT older than the other unknown. 3-packs-a-day was considered a heavy, but typical, smoking habit in the mid-20th century. For example, my grandmother smoked three packs a day. Unfiltered camels. She was a sort of sporty, Montclair-dwelling, college-educated (rare for a girl born in 1909) WASP. She and all her siblings, their spouses and friends, were teenagers during Prohibition. Naturally, they all drank heavily, and smoked, including the girls, which, for their social class, had been unheard of before 1919. Anyway, 3-packs-a-day was pretty standard. Lighting the next cig from the butt of the one you had just finished is called chain smoking. I saw her do that quite a bit.

Unknown said...

Anne again. Responding to Alan. Good point. And it always killed Walt Disney to be thought of as a capitalist--and yes, he was a great one--rather than an artist, which he kind of was as well. A deeply fascinating guy, and why they would cast Hanks to play him, rather than, say, Kevin Spacey, beats me. Oh, I forgot, it's a Walt Disney Studios production! That's why. And that's very much what happened to Uncle Walt's art--it was there, all right, but subsumed to what he thought would sell, even at the cost of some flattening and treacle. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but it's a one-way deal, once you have made it.

Pamela said...

The movie captures a bit of the relationship between Mary and Bert. THAT's in the book--in fact, it's right off the bat, which can be slightly off-putting for child readers. Who cares about grown-ups, anyway?

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