Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971)

G | 116-117 mins | Children's works, Musical | November 1971

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HISTORY

Working titles of the film were The Magic Bedknob and The Magic Bedpost . Opening and ending cast credits differ in order. The opening credits introduce child actors Cindy O’Callaghan, Roy Snart and Ian Weighill, who marked their film debuts in Bedknobs and Broomsticks . After the opening credits there is a written prolog that reads: "England August in the Year 1940/Again--A time for valor. A time of whispered events. Now faded with the passing years." The underwater and Kingdom of Naboombu sequences combine live-action characters with animation, a device the Disney studio had recently used in its popular 1964 film, Mary Poppins (see below). As noted in the New Yorker review, adult characters appear “elongated” when shown at a distance. According to that review, director Robert Stevenson’s solution to enabling Americans to understand the children’s heavy Cockney accent was to shoot them close-up when they were speaking, allowing the audience to "practically read the lips.”
       English author Mary Norton (1903--1992) published her first children’s book, The Magic Bed-Knob , in 1945 and, according to an Aug 1945 DV news item, Walt Disney purchased the film rights to the book that year. Bonfires and Broomsticks , Norton’s second book to feature the characters "Eglantine Price" and the three children, was published in 1957. Some of the differences between the film version and the two books on which it was based are as follows: In the first book, the war is not explicitly mentioned. The children, who are not orphans, are sent to spend the ... More Less

Working titles of the film were The Magic Bedknob and The Magic Bedpost . Opening and ending cast credits differ in order. The opening credits introduce child actors Cindy O’Callaghan, Roy Snart and Ian Weighill, who marked their film debuts in Bedknobs and Broomsticks . After the opening credits there is a written prolog that reads: "England August in the Year 1940/Again--A time for valor. A time of whispered events. Now faded with the passing years." The underwater and Kingdom of Naboombu sequences combine live-action characters with animation, a device the Disney studio had recently used in its popular 1964 film, Mary Poppins (see below). As noted in the New Yorker review, adult characters appear “elongated” when shown at a distance. According to that review, director Robert Stevenson’s solution to enabling Americans to understand the children’s heavy Cockney accent was to shoot them close-up when they were speaking, allowing the audience to "practically read the lips.”
       English author Mary Norton (1903--1992) published her first children’s book, The Magic Bed-Knob , in 1945 and, according to an Aug 1945 DV news item, Walt Disney purchased the film rights to the book that year. Bonfires and Broomsticks , Norton’s second book to feature the characters "Eglantine Price" and the three children, was published in 1957. Some of the differences between the film version and the two books on which it was based are as follows: In the first book, the war is not explicitly mentioned. The children, who are not orphans, are sent to spend the summer with their aunt in Bedfordshire, where they meet Eglantine, who gives them the magic bedknob in exchange for not revealing that she is a witch. Adventures ensue, including a trip to a land of cannibals. In the second book, which is set two years after the first, the children travel back in time to 1666, in the days before the Great Fire of London. There they meet "Emelius," whose last name is "Jones" in the book, and return with him to the present. While the children try to restore him to his own time, he is almost burned at the stake as a witch, but Eglantine rescues him using an "intrasubstantiary locomotion" spell. At the end of the second book, Eglantine returns with Emelius to live with him in his time, traveling on the bed, thus removing any chance for the children to take more trips.
       In an interview filmed for the thirtieth anniversary of the film that was included as added content on the DVD release, Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman, the brothers who were the film’s composer-lyricists, stated that they were given the task to write songs for Bedknobs and Broomsticks while the studio awaited permission from author P. L. Travers to film Mary Poppins . In an interview reprinted in a modern source, the brothers reported that Disney assured them that he owned another story about magic for which their songs could be used if Mary Poppins was not produced. According to the Shermans, the song “The Beautiful Briny” actually was written for, but never used in, Mary Poppins .
       An Apr 1966 DV news item reported that the Sherman brothers were working on The Magic Bedpost [possibly an erroneous title] and that Irwin Kostal, who served as Mary Poppins ' conductor, music supervisor and arranger, would repeat his roles for the second film. In Dec 1966, Walt Disney died. Although the studio hoped that Bedknobs and Broomsticks would duplicate the success of Mary Poppins , according to modern sources, Walt Disney decided to delay production of the second picture because of the many similarities between the two films. In Oct 1968, a HR news item reported that Disney’s producer-writer Bill Walsh planned to make a $50,000 production of Bedknov and Broomstick [sic], which was being adapted by Walsh and Don DaGradi from Mary Norton’s two children’s books and that the Sherman brothers had already worked on the score. In a filmed interview, the Shermans claimed that they were given the “go ahead” in late 1969 for Bedknobs and Broomsticks . Among the songs they wrote was one that was not used in the film, the vaudeville-style "Solid Citizen," which was to be used in the plot as a distraction for the "King" while Browne, Eglantine and the children steal the star. The song was later replaced with the soccer game sequence.
       Modern sources report that Ron Moody was considered for Emelius and, at various times, Lynn Redgrave, Judy Carne and Leslie Caron were considered for the role of Eglantine. Julie Andrews, who had starred in Mary Poppins , was offered the role, but she turned it down. In a modern interview, Andrews reported that she had second thoughts about turning down the role, feeling that she was indebted to Disney for much of her success, and later called to accept, but by then it had been offered to Lansbury. Production of Bedknobs and Broomsticks , which occurred entirely at the Disney Studio, did not begin until 1970. According to 1971 studio production notes, three blocks of Portobello Road as it looked in 1940 were reproduced on Disney Studio soundstages. Among the props used for this sequence were carts rented from A. Keehn, a company that had a monopoly on them, according to set decorator Emile Kuri, who stated that for over a hundred years the company had collected a shilling a day for each barrow rented by vendors on Portobello Road. The studio notes reported that bit parts in this sequence were portrayed by British performers then living in the “British colony in Hollywood,” among them, Ben Wrigley, a celebrated eccentric dancer; John Orchard of the original London cast of Oliver! ; Morgan Farley, who began his career in 1917 with Ruth Gordon on Broadway; and Chris Marks, who was immortalized in Ripley’s Believe It or Not for being able to spin his eyeballs. Although their appearance in the film has not been confirmed, a May 1970 HR news item reported that Edith Leslie and Clive Halliday were added to the cast. Modern sources add the following actors to the cast: Maxine Semon ( Portobello Road dancer ), Ina Gould ( Shopkeeper ), Arthur Malet ( Museum guard ), James Brugman ( Soldier playing saxophone ), Conrad Bachmann ( German soldier ), Eric Brotherson and Barbara Morrison. A modern source also lists Delos Jewkes and Patrick Dennis-Leigh as “Soldiers of the Old Home Guard.”
       As noted in several reviews, Roddy McDowall appears briefly in the film as the local pastor "Mr. Jelk," who unsuccessfully tries to court Eglantine and is frightened away from her home by clothing enchanted by the substitutiary locomotion spell. Part of his performance was cut from the film prior to the premiere, according to an Aug 1998 LAT article. Although the film was originally 140 minutes in length and planned as a holiday roadshow, when the New York premiere was booked in Radio City Music Hall, approximately twenty-three minutes were cut to fulfill the conditions of the contract to accommodate the theater's stage show. Shortly after the release of the film, the ten-minute Portobello Road dance sequence was cut to about four minutes.
       Although the film was promoted as the successor to Mary Poppins , many reviewers, including the Var critic, felt that Bedknobs and Broomsticks lacked the charm of the earlier picture. Many critics were impressed by the animated sequence, often comparing it favorably to Disney's earlier cartoons, but the Portobello Road dance received mixed criticism. The HCN reviewer felt it was arbitrarily placed in the film, and the critics for The Times (London) described it as a "terrible knees-up dance.” Most reviews, though, praised Angela Lansbury's performance as Eglantine, as did NYT , which stated that she projected a "healthy sensuality." Bedknobs and Broomsticks was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Scoring, Best Original Song ("The Age of Not Believing"), Best Art Direction and Best Costume Design. Alan Maley, Eustace Lycett and Danny Lee won an Oscar for Best Special Visual Effects.
       In 1979, an additional twenty minutes was cut from the film for a re-release, according to an Aug 1998 LAT article. According to a 1996 press release for the film’s twenty-fifth anniversary, Bedknobs and Broomsticks was restored “as close as is possible, to the version previewed at the Walt Disney Studio in early 1971,” which was twenty-four minutes longer than the version at its initial release. Two songs were reinstated, "With a Flair," which was sung by David Tomlinson as Emelius and deleted after the film's premiere, and Lansbury’s ballad, “Nobody’s Problems for Me,” which, according to the Sherman brothers, had only been recorded by Lansbury with a rehearsal pianist. In addition, the "Portobello Road" dance was expanded to nine minutes. Five shots from that sequence, which existed only as a faded workprint, were digitally revitalized to recapture their lost color.
       In a filmed interview, the Sherman brothers reported that the original soundtrack for the song "A Step in the Right Direction" was found, but according to them and an Aug 1998 LAT article, the song’s corresponding footage was not, despite a search of the Walt Disney Archives. According to information on the twenty-fifth anniversary video, Lansbury and McDowall re-looped several pieces of soundtrack that no longer existed, and other voices had to be cast to replace performers who were deceased, had grown up or were unavailable. A modern source states that the following actors provided voice-overs for the restoration: Joe Baker ( Capt. Greer ), Jeff Bennett ( Emelius ), Corey Burton ( Bookman/Mr. Widdenfield ), Fay DeWitt ( Mrs. Hobday ), Amanda McQueen ( Carrie ) and Gregory Grudt ( Charlie ).
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SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Citizen Newspapers
18 Nov 1971
p. 5.
Cue
13 Nov 1971.
---
Daily Variety
9 Aug 1945.
---
Daily Variety
6 Apr 1966.
---
Daily Variety
5 Aug 1969.
---
Daily Variety
12 Sep 1996.
---
Filmfacts
1971
pp. 701-703.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Oct 1968.
---
Hollywood Reporter
6 Mar 1970
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Mar 1970.
---
Hollywood Reporter
20 May 1970.
---
Hollywood Reporter
11 Jun 1970
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Jun 1970
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Nov 1971
p. 3.
Los Angeles Herald Examiner
19 Nov 1971.
---
Los Angeles Times
19 Nov 1971.
---
Los Angeles Times
7 Aug 1998.
---
New York Times
12 Nov 1971
p. 54.
New Yorker
11 Dec 1971
pp. 138-39.
The Saturday Evening Post
Summer 1971
pp. 86-87.
The Times (London)
8 Nov 1971.
---
Time
22 Nov 1971.
---
Variety
13 Oct 1971
p. 16.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Anim dir
2d unit dir
2d asst dir
2d asst dir
2d asst dir apprentice
PRODUCER
Prod
WRITERS
Anim story
Anim story
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Cam asst
Stills
Gaffer
Best boy
Key grip
2d grip
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
Asst art dir
Ànim-Live action des
FILM EDITORS
Anim film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
Prop master
Asst prop master
COSTUMES
Cost des
Asst to the des
Men's on-set cost
Men's on-set cost
Women's on-set cost
MUSIC
Mus supv, arr and cond
Asst to the cond
SOUND
Sd supv
Sd mixer
Boom op
Cableman
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Spec eff
Spec eff
Title des
Set eff
DANCE
Choreog
Dance accompanist
Asst choreographer
Asst choreographer
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Tech consultant
Tech consultant
Tech consultant
Tech consultant
Tech consultant
Scr supv
Prod mgr
Pub
Rental of barrows for "Portobello Road" seq
ANIMATION
Anim
Anim
Anim
Background
Background
Background
Background
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novels The Magic Bed-Knob (London, 1945) and Bonfires and Broomsticks by Mary Norton (London, 1957).
AUTHOR
SONGS
"The Old Home Guard," "A Step in the Right Direction," "The Age of Not Believing," "Eglantine," "Portobello Road," "The Beautiful Briny," "Substitutiary Locomotion" and "With a Flair," music and lyrics by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman.
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
The Magic Bedpost
The Magic Bedknob
Release Date:
November 1971
Premiere Information:
London opening: 7 October 1971
New York opening: 11 November 1971
Los Angeles opening: 19 November 1971
Production Date:
early March--10 June 1970
Copyright Claimant:
Walt Disney Productions
Copyright Date:
3 June 1971
Copyright Number:
LP39817
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound Recording
Color
Technicolor
Widescreen/ratio
1.75:1
With animated sequences
Duration(in mins):
116-117
Length(in feet):
10,530
Length(in reels):
15
MPAA Rating:
G
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

During World War II, in the seaside village of Pepperinge Eye, England, members of the Home Guard, elderly veterans who fought during the previous World War, prepare the village against German invasion. At the historical museum, good-natured Mrs. Hobday finds homes for refugee children sent from London. Unable to find a place for three orphaned siblings, eleven-year-old Charlie, six-year-old Paul and their sister Carrie, Mrs. Hobday asks a genteel, eccentric spinster, Miss Eglantine Price, to take them until another home can be found. Apprehensive in the isolated country home Eglantine shares with her cat, Cosmic Creeper, the children long for bangers and mash instead of the strange, healthy meals she serves. That night, after the children are asleep, Eglantine opens her mail, a package from Prof. Emelius Browne of London, containing a witch's broomstick. The accompanying letter congratulates her for completing most of the lessons from Browne's "Correspondent College of Witchcraft" and for earning the title "Apprentice Witch." Outside, she manages to fly on her broomstick, but is seen tumbling out of the sky by the children. The next day, the street-smart Charlie tries to blackmail Eglantine into feeding them fried foods and not making them take so many baths by threatening to reveal to the villagers that she is a witch. When he also, to the dismay of his siblings, demands money, Eglantine casts a spell that turns him into a rabbit. After he returns to his original form, Eglantine explains that she is learning magic in hopes of helping the war effort. She puts a spell on a bedknob that Paul has pilfered from the bed in his ... +


During World War II, in the seaside village of Pepperinge Eye, England, members of the Home Guard, elderly veterans who fought during the previous World War, prepare the village against German invasion. At the historical museum, good-natured Mrs. Hobday finds homes for refugee children sent from London. Unable to find a place for three orphaned siblings, eleven-year-old Charlie, six-year-old Paul and their sister Carrie, Mrs. Hobday asks a genteel, eccentric spinster, Miss Eglantine Price, to take them until another home can be found. Apprehensive in the isolated country home Eglantine shares with her cat, Cosmic Creeper, the children long for bangers and mash instead of the strange, healthy meals she serves. That night, after the children are asleep, Eglantine opens her mail, a package from Prof. Emelius Browne of London, containing a witch's broomstick. The accompanying letter congratulates her for completing most of the lessons from Browne's "Correspondent College of Witchcraft" and for earning the title "Apprentice Witch." Outside, she manages to fly on her broomstick, but is seen tumbling out of the sky by the children. The next day, the street-smart Charlie tries to blackmail Eglantine into feeding them fried foods and not making them take so many baths by threatening to reveal to the villagers that she is a witch. When he also, to the dismay of his siblings, demands money, Eglantine casts a spell that turns him into a rabbit. After he returns to his original form, Eglantine explains that she is learning magic in hopes of helping the war effort. She puts a spell on a bedknob that Paul has pilfered from the bed in his room and explains that if Paul places the knob on the bedframe and turns it, the bed will take them anywhere they wish to go. When Eglantine later receives a letter announcing that the witchcraft school has been closed due to the war, she asks Paul, who is the owner of the bedknob and therefore the only one who can work the spell, to take her to Browne. As they prepare to leave, Charlie stubbornly refuses to go and Eglantine tells Carrie that he is at the "age of not believing." Just before the bed and its occupants disappear from the room, Charlie jumps on. They fly over English terrain and land on a London street, close to where Browne, a con man and street magician, commences his performance. Browne is more showman than magician, and when his tricks backfire, causing his audience to disperse, Eglantine introduces herself. When she asks him for the last lesson, he tries to flee, but she turns him into a rabbit and grabs him. Upon regaining human form, Browne is surprised that the spell works and invites them to his residence, a mansion deserted by its rightful owners after an unexploded bomb landed nearby. Inside, while the children explore the toys in the nursery, Browne shows Eglantine the library. She tries to explain how the last spell promised by the course curriculum, called substitutiary locomotion, could be used to help fight the Germans, but Browne is more interested in convincing her to become his partner in a stage act. When he becomes too persistent, she again turns him into a rabbit, which climbs to a shelf and knocks off an old manuscript titled The Spells of Astoroth . Eglantine flips to the end of the manuscript, hoping to find the directions for substitutiary locomotion and discovers that the last pages containing the spell's five mystic words are missing. In human form, Browne explains he got the manuscript from a street vendor on Portobello Road, who tore out the last few pages while trying to get it back. Eglantine, Browne and the children fly to the market on Portobello Road, and as Eglantine and Browne search for the bookseller, the children enjoy the sights and sounds. At the end of the day, when the street empties of vendors and their barrows, Swinburne, an unsavory man who has been eavesdropping on them, orders the group at knifepoint to the establishment of Bookman, who possesses the last part of the manuscript and wants the rest. There Eglantine reads the last pages, which state that the five mystic words are engraved on a star-shaped medallion worn by an ancient sorcerer, Astoroth. Bookman explains that Astoroth magically experimented on animals to make them more human. According to legend, the animals rebelled and killed him, stole many of his powers and sailed away on a ship, never to be seen, until a dying sailor in the seventeenth century claimed to have spotted them on the Isle of Naboombu. When Paul announces that a book he took from the nursery describes the island, Browne, Eglantine and the children get on the bed and fly away before Bookman and Swinburne can take the book away. Ordered to fly them to Naboombu, the bed carries the group to the island's lagoon and takes them underwater. At Browne's suggestion, they all enjoy "bobbling along" at the bottom of the lagoon, where they meet interesting underwater creatures and Eglantine and Browne dance at the Beautiful Briny Ballroom. Then a fish hook descends and catches on the bed, pulling the children upward. Eglantine and Browne manage to grab the bed before it is reeled out of the water by Bear, an old mariner who is fishing. At their request, Bear takes them to the King of Naboombu, a roaring lion who wants to play soccer. Browne soothes the beast, a show of courage that wins the admiration of Eglantine and results in the King appointing Browne to the position of referee. As a soccer match commences, Eglantine and the children see that the King is wearing the star of Astoroth on a ribbon around his neck. The players of the two teams, all animals, are clever, forceful and ruthless, and Browne gets knocked around and trampled before the King's team wins. After the game, Browne deftly switches the whistle around his neck with the star around the King's, and Eglantine, Browne and the children run to the bed and fly away before the King can catch them. However, back at home, the star disappears from their hands, because objects from one world cannot be taken to another. A radio announcement warns of a possible German invasion, but unable to remember the magic words written on the star, Eglantine cannot carry out her defense plans until Paul shows them an illustration of the star in his book that clearly shows the five engraved words. Eglantine explains that substitutiary locomotion is a way to cause inanimate objects to take on a life force of their own. When they sing the five mystic words, unoccupied shoes begin to dance. Soon pieces of everyone's wardrobe enter the room to join in, becoming so rowdy that Eglantine must use a cutoff spell to stop them. When Mrs. Hobday arrives to say that a farmer and his wife will take the children, Paul, assuming that they have become a family, announces that Browne is now their father. Frightened of commitment, Browne walks to the train station to wait for the morning train. Meanwhile, U-boats approach the coast and, after rowing to shore, Germans take over Eglantine's house. Although Eglantine tries to turn their leader into a rabbit, she forgets the spell, and she and the children are imprisoned in the museum. By turning himself into a rabbit, Browne hops into the museum to be with them. Using substitutiary locomotion, they animate the medieval armor on display, which knocks out the German guard and marches to battle. Flying on a broomstick, Eglantine leads the ghost-like army, which is joined by a troupe of animated kilts marching to the sound of old bagpipes. When German bullets do not stop the armors' momentum, the enchanted fists and boots punch and kick, and arrows shot from the ancient bows frighten the outnumbered soldiers into retreat. Before fleeing, the Germans set off a bomb that knocks Eglantine off her broomstick and causes the ghostly army to sag to the ground, but members of the Home Guard, who are now alert to the invasion, take over and shoot at the departing enemy. Afterward, Eglantine gives up witchcraft and Browne, promising to reunite with Eglantine and the children after the war, joins the army and is escorted away by the Home Guardsmen, who believe they were responsible for repelling the German attack. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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