Mary Poppins is the ultimate family adventure that continues to bring smiles and joy to children and adults all over the world to this day.
For a nostalgic dose of flying nannies, penguin picnics, carousel horse races and dancing chimney-sweeps, relive some of the best moments from the magical adventure with the supercalifragilisticexpialidocious trailer here:
Bringing us legendary performances from Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke, the 1964 movie, laden with iconic songs and incredible special effects, remains one of the greatest musicals in the history of cinema.
Yet, whilst we may recall at least some projects in which Andrews and Van Dyke went on to star after Mary Poppins, this can't be said for the two other main leads, Jane and Michael Banks.
Following on from news of the upcoming Mary Poppins remake, I decided to delve a little bit into what happened to child actors Karen Doctrine and Matthew Garber, and quite frankly, I was not prepared for the tragic information that I found out.
Ultimately, if this isn't enough to dispel the facade of magic and happy smiles that was Mary Poppins, I don't know what is:
Jane Banks played by Karen Dotrice
You'd think that being a daughter of two Shakespearean actors, Karen Doctrice would have an easy career in the entertainment industry. However, the reality was far from it.
In fact, after being cast in the part of Jane in Mary Poppins due to her parents' industry connections, she barely worked again as a child actor apart from piecemeal projects such as The Gnome-Mobile a couple of years later with Matthew Garber. And although in her teenage years, the budding actress' career picked up again thanks to roles in numerous TV series such as Upstairs, Downstairs in 1975, she still struggled to find stable work in the business.
Her biggest role after Mary Poppins came in The Thirty-Nine Steps in 1978, but following a series of scathing reviews of her performance in Shakespeare's Othello, Dotrice gave up on the industry altogether.
"I've seen my peers go through terrible times"
And recently, looking over her short movie career, Karen went as far as to admit that she regrets ever taking on the role of Jane Banks at all. Explicitly, she's said:
If I’d had my way, I’d still never have done any of those films, because kids should be kids. They should be learning and growing at their own pace – and learning things at the right time, rather than when it’s convenient for others.
Speaking of the perils of being a child star, she also added:
It’s just not normal for a child to have that kind of focus on them and then trot off into life thinking that everyone’s going to pamper them and treat them as if they’re ‘special’. The fact is that if you’re living in a Justin Bieberesque type world surrounded by a bunch of yes people, the odds are you’re going to struggle in later life. I’ve seen a lot of my peers go through terrible times and have to deal with all sorts of demons.
Of course, it is very sad to learn about the pressure that child actors experience in the film industry. But who would have thought that little Jane would ever regret starring in one of the happiest musicals of all time?
It's certainly a shame that Karen has had to live on with the burden of these regrets.
Michael Banks played by Matthew Garber
Turning to Matthew, it can't be denied that we all loved the mischevious little Michael Banks from the very first moment we laid eyes on him. Relive one of his best bits in the clip below:
Yet, if only Matthew had a similarly easy life as his on-screen character. Although his acting career was already short and comprised entirely of minor Disney roles (for example, acting alongside his co-star Karen in The Gnome-Mobile), the young actor took a break from the big screen as he entered his teenage years.
Little did he know, that he would never appear in front of cinema audiences ever again at all. In 1976, during a trip to India, poor Matthew contracted hepatitis, which rapidly spread to his pancreas and became untreatable. Tragically, a year later, the young man died at the age of 21.
At the time, his brother denied that Matthew had contracted the disease from using drugs, speculating that the likely cause was probably eating bad meat.
"He did live a full life over his 21 years"
Naturally, close friends and family couldn't comprehend how such a young soul with so much potential could be ruthlessly taken away from them so suddenly.
Speaking about her on-screen brother, Karen once spoke out about the void that Matthew had left:
I can’t imagine making movies would have been half as much fun without him. He loved being naughty, finding and jumping off of small buildings on the back lot. While I was Victorian proper and wouldn’t let myself get dirty or muddy, Matthew had a great sense of fun and danger. He was a daredevil and could have been a race car driver. And he did live a full life over his 21 years.
It's always such a shame to hear that a beloved character suffered a terrible fate but despite being gone, Matthew will never be forgotten. And to ensure that, in 2004, he was inducted as a Disney Legend, being described with the most wonderful words:
A spirited and bright boy, who enjoyed pulling practical jokes on friends, competing in sports, and reading books rich with adventure, mythology, and even poetry.