15Julie Andrews, Mary Poppins
Andrews made one of the most auspicious debuts in cinema history as the practically perfect nanny of the title. Producer Walt Disney had a notoriously difficult time dealing with P.L. Travers, the author of the original Poppins books. In a testament to Andrews’ considerable appeal, however, both Travers and Disney
agreed that they’d found the perfect actress for the role in Julie Andrews. Andrews had just become a Broadway star playing the lead in My Fair Lady when she caught Disney’s attention.
Mary Poppins isn’t exactly Tennessee Williams, but in a way, that makes the material even harder. Andrews has to avoid playing Mary Poppins as a caricature while still maintaining the whimsical feel of the piece. Somehow, she succeeds, playing the role with a twinkle in her eye and a Mona Lisa smile that never quite betrays what she really feels. Andrews snagged an Oscar for her performance in her first movie, and critics at the time claimed that sentiment for her not getting to repeat her role in the film version of My Fair Lady. Time has suggested otherwise: hers is one of the most beloved portrayals in history.