‘Mary Poppins’-still supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!

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Paramount Ranch was purchased by the Hertz family in 1952 and operated it for several years. The National Park Service contacted the Hertz family in the '80s to have them help revitalize the defunct Western-themed ranch, and filming continues there today.

Dick Van Dyke talks about his role in one of Disney’s most

enduring films of all time.

By Melonie Magruder / Special to The Malibu Times

There may be snow on the rooftop, but there is more than fire in the chimney below. It’s hard to believe Dick Van Dyke is 82 years old when he bounds to his feet to greet people, his warm blue eyes and broad smile enveloping a person with the geniality remembered by those familiar with the iconic “Dick Van Dyke Show” and Disney movies of the mid-60s.

Van Dyke was on hand Saturday night for the outdoor Bluff Parks screening of the Oscar-winning, 1964 blockbuster film “Mary Poppins,” hosted by Malibu Celebration of Film and CineMalibu. When MCOF executive director Kim Jackson introduced Van Dyke, who is a festival board advisor, to the audience, she asked, “How many of you have seen this film?” Nearly every hand shot up. Then, “How many of you were born when this film came out?” Most of the hands dropped.

Van Dyke has exemplified the consummate entertainer for about seven decades now. “I started singing when I was around five and I always loved performing,” he said at Saturday’s appearance.

Van Dyke started in television with CBS’ “The Morning Show” in 1955 and made his name on Broadway with the Tony-award winning musical “Bye Bye Birdie” before breaking new television ground with the “Dick Van Dyke Show,” the Carl Reiner-created series that is arguably the apogee of TV sit-com-dom.

“That show was complete serendipity,” Van Dyke said. “We had a team of absolute pros and we improvised everything.”

Then came “Mary Poppins,” one of Disney’s most enduring films of all time. The tale of a proper English nanny who reunites a stiff British banker with the love of his children blends a live action musical with signature Disney (pre-computerized) animation, highlighted by a memorable score from Richard Sherman and Robert Sherman.

“It was absolutely the best fun I ever had,” Van Dyke said.

The film captured 12 Academy Award nominations and Oscars for best actress (Julie Andrews), visual effects, editing, original song and original score.

Van Dyke admitted that his favorite part of the movie was the extended animated section featuring the charming “Jolly Holiday,” wherein he dances alongside animated penguins, and the rousing “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” a tune you could hear being hummed by more than a few in the audience Saturday night.

The author of the original children’s book of “Mary Poppins,” P.L. Travers, famously disliked the film, believing it subverted her work. “I remember when Travers first saw a screening of the movie,” Van Dyke recalled. “She came out of the theater and went right up to Walt, saying, ‘It’s OK, but you should take out the animated part.'”

The film showcased Van Dyke’s talents as an actor, comic, singer and athletic dancer. “I was never trained as a dancer,” he said. “But Walt asked if I knew a choreographer; Marc Breaux and Dee Dee Wood knew what I could do and the result was just terrific.”

“Terrific” is the film’s climactic rooftop dance to “Step in Time,” led by Van Dyke with a group of acrobatic chimney sweeps. “We rehearsed that dance for two weeks on a lot next to one of Disney’s sound stages in Burbank,” Van Dyke said. “It was about 95 degrees in the Valley then. Not fun.”

When asked what it was like to work with Julie Andrews, Van Dyke grinned. “Well, Julie has this amazing pure voice of an angel and I sort of always sounded flat next to her.”

Flat or not, their chemistry on screen is palpable and is one of the reasons “Mary Poppins” is able to transcend the category of merely being a “children’s movie” to one that appeals to adults as well.

Van Dyke was also thrilled to work with the radio and vaudeville star Ed Wynn, who played Uncle Albert. “Ed had a bit of palsy then and would shake whenever he talked to you,” Van Dyke said. “But the minute the director shouted ‘action!’ his shaking would stop and he was dead-on perfect throughout the take.”

Wynn died shortly after “Mary Poppins” was released.

One of the movie’s subtler pleasures is learning, at the end of the rolling credits, that Van Dyke also played the role of the ancient bank president, with a bald cap and hilarious pratfall physicality. “I was so keen for that role I even did it for free,” he said, chuckling.

As MCOF’s Jackson said, “It is rare that movies get to do good in this world and ‘Mary Poppins’ exemplifies that opportunity.”

Saturday’s audience, 43 years removed from the original magic, couldn’t have agreed more.