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The Only Actors Still Alive From The Cast Of Mary Poppins

At the time of its release in 1964, Disney's adaptation of P.L. Travers' children's novel "Mary Poppins" was one of its most profitable films, netting $31 million in North America and eventually earning more than $100 million worldwide. Widely praised for its remarkable mix of animation and live-action, "Mary Poppins" was also a winner during award season, garnering five Oscars, two Grammys, and a Golden Globe. Its Oscar-winning songs by Robert and Richard Sherman, which included "Spoonful of Sugar," "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious," and "Feed the Birds," became part of the American songbook, while the film's popularity among generations of viewers remained powerful enough to warrant a sequel, "Mary Poppins Returns," more than 50 years later.

Credit for the film's enduring legacy must be shared equally with its cast, many of whom went on to long and celebrated careers. This includes Julie Andrews, who won an Oscar for the role of Mary Poppins, and Dick Van Dyke, who augmented his small-screen celebrity as the star of "The Dick Van Dyke Show" with his charming turn as chimney sweep Bert. The Banks family which comes under Mary's care — David Tomlinson, Glynis Johns, and child actors Karen Dotrice and Matthew Garber — and many of the supporting players all continued their careers onscreen. Sadly, many have since passed away. Of their number, only five actors remain.

Julie Andrews' magical movie career

Though she had appeared on stage and on television for several years prior to "Mary Poppins," the Disney film was Julie Andrews' movie debut. Her casting came on the heels of Warner Bros' decision to hire Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Doolittle in their film version of the Broadway musical "My Fair Lady," for which Andrews had earned a Tony nomination in 1957. Andrews won both the Oscar and Golden Globe for her performance as Mary Poppins; while accepting the latter, she wryly thanked Warner Bros. studio chief Jack L. Warner, who had refused to cast her in "My Fair Lady" for her alleged lack of star power.

Andrews went on to a long and celebrated career. Though musicals were the genre with which she was most frequently associated — she earned an Oscar nod and Golden Globe Award for both "The Sound of Music" and "Victor/Victoria," and Tony nominations for "Camelot" and the stage version of "Victor/Victoria" — Andrews also starred in dramas for directors like Alfred Hitchcock ("Torn Curtain") and netted multiple Emmy nominations for various television specials. Much of her film work was for her second husband Blake Edwards, who directed her in such hit comedies as "10." 

A botched surgery for what were thought to be cancerous nodules in 1997 robbed Andrews of her four-octave singing voice, but she has remained remarkably active as an actor, voice-over performer, author, and producer. She reunited with Disney for the successful "Princess Diaries" films, and lends earthy humor to the "Shrek" and "Despicable Me" franchises. Other voice-over work includes the leviathan Karathen in "Aquaman" and Lady Whistledown, the narrator of "Bridgerton." Andrews has also authored numerous books, including multiple memoirs and children's publications with her daughter, Emma Walton Hamilton. Andrews, who turned 86 in 2021, was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2000.

Dick Van Dyke's still dancing at 96

Actor Dick Van Dyke was in the midst of his multi-Emmy-winning run as the star of "The Dick Van Dyke Show" when he was cast as Bert the Chimney Sweep in "Mary Poppins." Van Dyke also lobbied to play the elderly Mr. Dawes, Sr., the director of the bank at which David Tomlinson's George Banks is employed. Van Dyke told the New York Times that to win the part, he had to both audition for Walt Disney and write a $4,000 check to the California Institute of the Arts (a school founded by Disney in 1961). "That's the first time I ever bought a part," he said.

Though the Cockney accent Van Dyke employed as Bert is frequently cited as one of the worst ever heard on film, his dancing (especially in the vigorous "Step in Time" number) and singing highlight his remarkable versatility, one of the key components of his long Hollywood career. It wasn't always easy for Van Dyke: The early success of his sitcom and "Mary Poppins" was followed by a long period of failed features and TV series, as well as struggles with alcoholism.

Van Dyke persevered and rebounded in the 1990s as the star of the medical mystery series "Diagnosis: Murder," which ran for eight seasons on CBS. He also returned to feature work in "Curious George" and the "Night at the Museum" franchise, and surprised many Disney viewers with his spry cameo — complete with dancing at the age of 93 — as Mr. Dawes Jr., in "Mary Poppins Returns." Despite turning 96 in 2021, Van Dyke remains active as a recording artist with a string of jazz and children's releases, and as this video shows, he's still dancing.

Karen Dotrice kept her Disney cred alive for five decades

The daughter of British actors Roy Dotrice ("Game of Thrones," "Hellboy 2: The Golden Army") and Kay Newman, Karen Dotrice made her feature film debut in the charming, if largely forgotten, Disney live-action film "The Three Lives of Thomasina" in 1963. Her endearing performance helped to win her the role of Jane Banks in "Mary Poppins," teaming up again with her "Thomasina" co-star Matthew Garber.

The pair partnered up for a third Disney film in 1967, "The Gnome-Mobile," but it failed to match the worldwide success of "Mary Poppins." Garber retired from acting (and sadly died of hemorrhagic necrotizing pancreatitis at the age of 21), while Dotrice continued to appear on television and in film for the next two decades.

Among her post-"Mary Poppins" screen appearances were the phenomenally popular '70s version of the UK TV series "Upstairs, Downstairs" and Don Sharp's remake of "The Thirty-Nine Steps." Dotrice parted ways with acting in the mid-1980s, but kept her connection to Disney alive through audiobook recordings and special video projects. Made a Disney Legend in 2004, Dotrice appeared in a cameo role as the Elegant Lady on Cherry Tree Lane in 2018's "Mary Poppins Returns."

Richard Sherman continues to write great music

In addition to writing the Academy Award-winning music and lyrics for "Mary Poppins," Richard M. Sherman and his brother, Robert, also lent their singing voices to two members of the animated Pearly Band, the bejeweled quartet that appears and performs briefly at the end of "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious." Richard also joined "Mary Poppins" cast member David Tomlinson, Oscar-winning special effects artist Peter Ellenshaw, and legendary voice actors Daws Butler, Dallas McKennon, and J. Pat O'Malley in voicing the Penguin Waiters who join Mary and Bert in "Jolly Holiday."

"Mary Poppins" was among the crowning achievements of the Sherman Brothers' career, which included nine additional Oscar nominations, two Grammy Awards, and more than 20 gold and platinum albums. Among their collaborations were songs for "The Jungle Book," "The Aristocats," "Charlotte's Web," and "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang," which, like "Mary Poppins," became a wildly successful stage musical. The pair also wrote such enduring songs as "It's A Small World (After All)" and "You're Sixteen," which twice hit the "Billboard" singles charts through versions by Johnny Burnette and Ringo Starr.

Following Robert's death in 2012, Richard, who turned 93 in 2021, has remained active as a songwriter, penning new material for the 2016 version of "The Jungle Book" and "Christopher Robin," while also serving as a music consultant on "Mary Poppins Returns." Their remarkable careers have been feted with the National Medal of Arts, the stage musical "A Spoonful of Sherman," and the 2009 documentary "The Boys: The Sherman Brothers Story." Richard was played by Jason Schwartzman in the 2013 biopic "Saving Mr. Banks," which cast B. J. Novak as his brother Robert.