Movies and the absence of truth

My favourite story about the film “Mary Poppins” was told to me by one of my housemates in London. He was acutely embarrassed at 15 by being asked to take his eight year old cousin to see the movie but from the moment he heard Dick van Dyke’s cockney accent, it was his cousin who ended up embarrassed because of my friend’s hysterical laughter through the whole of the rest of the film. It’s a movie I have never warmed to and even seeing parts of it again in “Saving Mr Banks” did nothing to make me think different. But “Saving Mr Banks” we did like as we watched it, and the Australian scenes were better than you might have hoped, but now that I have learned a bit more, it is quite a disgusting event we have been party to.

As for the accuracy of the story, it’s a Disney movie about Walt Disney, so it was never going to be an honest portrayal. But there is a level of accuracy that is a minimal requirement. Because having seen the film I have now read this, Nine ‘Mary Poppins’ facts ‘Saving Mr. Banks’ did not get right. The first one, though, is the most compelling and makes you see the film in such a very different light that the real question is why did they even pretend they were dealing with an actual event of any kind. The story is about how Walt Disney finally gets P.J. Travers to sign the rights to her book over to the studio. Interesting story if it were true. But this is the first of the facts that the movie did not get right:

Disney already owned the rights when Travers went to L.A.

Yes, the central conceit of the film is fictionalised. Travers had already handed over the rights when she traveled to Los Angeles to consult on the script. Saving Mr Banks screenwriter Kelly Marcel also admits that the conversation Disney has with Travers, when he convinces her to hand over control based on their shared experiences with troubled fathers, is total fiction (although the stories about Disney’s childhood are true).

You go to the movies expecting at least some integrity – not a lot but at least some. How really strange this film now looks to me. We now live in a virtual world in almost nothing beyond what we see, hear and do ourselves – the kinds of things we read in the news or watch on TV – has much of any basis in reality. If this is what they do to P.J. Travers, imagine how much the true story has been distorted, covered up and ignored in the film about Nelson Mandela. A communist, revolutionary Marxist murderer as secular saint. Find the truth about any of it, if you can. You certainly must not expect to find out about it in the film.

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