Su­per Emily is ter­rific but Elly was fe­ro­cious

Char­ac­ter of Mary Pop­pins was based on fear­some nanny with Scots blood

The Sunday Post (Newcastle) - - NEWS - By Al­ice Hinds [email protected]

As if by magic, she’s back on the red car­pet in a Christ­mas block­buster.

But fans thrilling to the new ver­sion of Mary Pop­pins star­ring Emily Blunt might not know that the real-life in­spi­ra­tion for the im­pec­ca­bly English nanny was a much sterner ver­sion with strong Scot­tish roots.

First dreamt up in 1934, it’s be­lieved the in­spi­ra­tion for the iconic Vic­to­rian char­ac­ter was creator PL Travers’ own great aunt, He­len More­head, whose par­ents hailed from Ed­in­burgh.

Aunt El­lie, as she was known, was a spin­ster and reg­u­larly looked af­ter her many nieces and neph­ews, giv­ing them presents but also harsh com­ments from time to time – some­thing which found its way on to the pages of Travers’ clas­sic novel.

“He­len was born in Syd­ney, al­though she and the en­tire More­head fam­ily con­sid­ered them­selves Scot­tish,” ex­plained Va­lerie Law­son, au­thor of Mary Pop­pins, She Wrote, and ex­pert on the life of Pamela Lyn­don Travers.

“Pamela wrote a book called Aunt Sass in 1941, which was a tribute to her great aunt He­len, whose par­ents mi­grated from Ed­in­burgh to Syd­ney in 1840.”

In Aunt Sass, Travers wrote, “[He­len] was a re­mark­able per­son. Her re­mark­able­ness lay in the ex­tra­or­di­nary and to me, en­chant­ing dis­crep­ancy be­tween her ex­ter­nal be­hav­iour and her in­ner self.

“Imag­ine a heart ten­der to the point of sen­ti­men­tal­ity. She was stern and ten­der and proud, anony­mous and lov­ing. You will find her in the pages of Mary Pop­pins.”

Fea­tured in eight nov­els by Travers, the char­ac­ter of Mary Pop­pins has been adapted for TV, ra­dio and, most no­tably, film. Dis­ney’s 1964 hit with Julie An­drews is con­sid­ered to be one of the most pop­u­lar chil­dren’s films of all time – the mu­si­cal has grossed a su­per­cal­ifrag­ilis­tic­ex­pi­ali­do­cious $102 mil­lion in North Amer­ica alone.

This month, a re­make with Emily Blunt, 37, tak­ing on the role made fa­mous by An­drews, will hit cine­mas.

Le­gend Dick Van Dyke, 92, who starred in the orig­i­nal, stole the show at the premiere in Los An­ge­les as he broke into a dance on the red car­pet.

She was stern and ten­der and proud, anony­mous and lov­ing

Va­lerie be­lieves the last­ing ap­peal of Mary Pop­pins has to do with the com­plex­ity of Travers’ orig­i­nal char­ac­ter.

She said: “Even though she is bossy and de­mand­ing, Mary Pop­pins en­dures be­cause she gives com­fort to chil­dren, like a sec­ond mother, but also be­cause she is a mag­i­cal crea­ture who takes chil­dren on fan­tas­tic ad­ven­tures, can talk to an­i­mals, has ex­tra­or­di­nary friends, can fly to the stars and can make ev­ery­thing seem per­fect with a snap of her fin­gers.

“Julie An­drews added a spoon­ful of sweet­ness to Pop­pins as the movie depicted her as a smil­ing, charm­ing woman, pretty in her Vic­to­rian-style clothes.

“Emily Blunt un­der­stands the com­plex­ity of Travers’ vi­sion of Pop­pins, and not just the Dis­ney ver­sion.”

Mary Pop­pins Re­turns will be re­leased in cine­mas on De­cem­ber 21.

Julie An­drews plays Mary in first movie

He­len More­head

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