The Mary Poppins Moment That Made Julie Andrews Panic

"Mary Poppins" is a miracle of a movie. Between the fraught adaptation process that saw Walt Disney clashing with author P.L. Travers and the immensely complicated production that blended live-action footage and animation, the fact that "Mary Poppins" comes off as effortlessly brilliant makes it all the more extraordinary. If you ask me what my favorite movie is, I would tell you it is "Mary Poppins" on most days because of how enchanted I am by its ingenuity, buoyancy, and commitment to its own world. Plus, every single song by the Sherman Brothers is an absolute banger.

More than anything though, what dazzles me about "Mary Poppins" is the performance by Julie Andrews as the titular character. It goes without saying that few people have ever had a more sterling, pristine voice as Andrews. Her soprano manages to blend a forceful clarity and a light touch, which is a combination that doesn't even really make sense. That balancing act extends out to her entire performance. Mary Poppins is a shrewd taskmaster yet full of joy and love. She can order some children around but also sing "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" (a word I embarrassingly don't need to look up how to spell). If she leans just slightly too much in one direction, the whole house of cards collapses.

Even more remarkable is that "Mary Poppins" was Julie Andrews' first movie. On-camera acting was new to her, coming from the stage. She was given this role that presents so many challenges in a medium she was not familiar with, and she could not have crushed it harder, even winning the Oscar for her performance. And while she loved making the film, there was one moment that acted as a "Welcome to Hollywood" wake up call.

The perils of flying

Out of all the technical challenges in "Mary Poppins," the one that gave Julie Andrews a good deal of panic was a fairly old school effect. There are several scenes in the film where Mary Poppins has to fly, which means Andrews had to perform some wirework. In speaking with The Hollywood Reporter, she recalled a flying scene where things went pretty haywire, leading her to crash to the ground:

"So I was up there for hours hanging around in my flying harness, doing bits and pieces and pickups and so on. And I felt myself drop like about a foot and I got panicked like you don't believe and said, 'I think I'm feeling a little nervous about this today. Could you let me down very carefully when I come down?' And they said, 'Yes. Down carefully, down carefully, Joe!' And then I dropped to the floor like a ton of bricks. Luckily there was a lot of balancing equipment helping me when I fell, so I didn't thunder through the stage, but I did let fly a few expletives that I didn't know if anybody had ever heard me utter before. Then there was this long silence and suddenly the gentleman from the back, who had been letting me down gently, said, 'Is she down yet?'"

Stunt work always comes with an inherent risk of danger. She was being suspended in the air by only a couple of thin wires, all of which were being manually operated. You would hope that the people handling them were slightly more cautious when doing their jobs. Julie Andrews is the lead of the picture! 

Luckily, she ended up not getting hurt too bad, and everyone could laugh about it. Still ... take care of your actors!