Saturday, December 21, 2013


She danced, sang, acted, studied with a guru, was an alleged bisexual, and as a journalist in Australia, P.L. Travers wrote erotic poetry. Oh, yeah, and she also came up with Mary Poppins.  For anyone who's curious to know more about the bristly author played by Emma Thomspon in Saving Mr. Banks, they can turn to Mary Poppins, She Wrote: The Life of P.L. Travers, by Valerie Lawson.  The film barely hints at her background and interest in Eastern mysticism (one scene shows Travers practicing a special meditation). Fascinated with the occult, magic, and myth, she spent time with the celebrated Armenian-born spiritual teacher George Gurdjieff and spent a summer on a Navajo reservation.  For an interview for The Paris Review Travers shared some unique insights, some sexual in nature.
P.L. Travers as an actress

My Zen master, because I’ve studied Zen for a long time, told me that every one (and all the stories weren’t written then) of the Mary Poppins stories is in essence a Zen story. And someone else, who is a bit of a Don Juan, told me that every one of the stories is a moment of tremendous sexual passion, because it begins with such tension and then it is reconciled and resolved in a way that is gloriously sensual.
So people can read anything and everything into the stories?

Indeed. A great friend of mine... said, “I have to tell you that I loathe children’s books.” And I said to him, “Well, won’t you just read this just for my sake?” And he said grumpily, “Oh, very well, send it to me.” I did, and I got a letter back saying: “Why didn’t you tell me? Mary Poppins with her cool green core of sex has me enthralled forever.”
 Disney with Travers (right)

As for realism in Saving Mr. Banks, there's plenty of truths mixed with questionable moments. The filmmakers make use of Traver's recordings and letters between Disney, Travers, the Shermans, and writer Don DaGradi (tapes of Travers can be heard in the end credits).   They also had access to a documentary called The Shadow of "Mary Poppins".  But despite a hands-off effort by Disney brass in the making of the film, some critics had a hard time looking at the film without thinking it was a clever marketing tool to re-promote one of the studio's most famous films.


  1. The uplifting turn of the story likely is complete fiction, but it's heart-tugging, joyful fiction, lifted to the highest heights by a lovely song or two and Thompson's career-capping performance.

    1. I agree on the fiction aspects. The biggest being the role of the driver, completely invented, but helps bring out Travers' humanity.

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