Bedknobs and Broomsticks

Yesterday was Angela Lansbury day on Turner Classic Movies. Today she’s probably best known as author/sleuth Jessica Fletcher from “Murder She Wrote”, or Mrs. Potts from Beauty and the Beast The one from her repertoire that we chose to watch was the 1971 film Bedknobs and Broomsticks.

In a WWII English village, Miss. Price is less than thrilled to receive three orphaned evacuee children. After all, she’s secretly busy trying to complete Mr. Brown’s mail-order course on witchcraft in the hope of contributing to the war effort. However, when the course ends without the final promised “substitutiary locomotion” spell, she and the children go off of the flying bed to track down both Mr. Brown and the spell–and wind up on a zany adventure!

I can’t tell you how much I love this movie. When we were younger we had a few videocassettes of movies taped from the library for whenever we were home sick. All of them were favorites we had watched countless times over–The Rescuers; Robin Hood; Milo and Otis; The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe; and Bedknobs and Broomsticks. For some reason many of the older movies are not as widely known today, and I’m not sure why.

Many have pointed out the similarities between this Disney film and Mary Poppins from the same era. Both feature a single female caretaker with magical powers, and a fabulous soundtrack by the Sherman brothers (including “The Age of Not Believing” and “Portobello Road”). Both have actor David Tomlinson in the male role. And there are parallels to many Mary Poppins scenes–the great dance on the roof, popping into the chalk pictures, and the out-of-control tidying up. Nevertheless, it is still a fresh and entertaining film that somehow missed the success of it’s twin.

One more similarity–both were based on popular children’s book. I knew about Travers’ Mary Poppins series, but was suprised at a booksale a few years ago to find a copy of Bed-Knob and Broomstick. It was written by none other than Mary Norton, of Borrower fame. I’m sure the movie made some changes other than pluralization, so I’ll have to read it one of these days and compare.

My mom recalls seeing the movie in theatres when in first came out, and she commented that no one at the time made any fuss whatsoever about Miss Price learning to be a witch, a far cry from the parents up in arms over Harry Potter. Harry is a little darker than the splendid technicolor special effects here, but her observation is valid. Isn’t the value of make-believe the whole point of the song “The Age of Not Believing”?

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Published in: on August 24, 2009 at 10:58 am  Leave a Comment  

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