(The following is a guest post from Mike Mashon, head of the Moving Image Section in the Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division.)
The Library of Congress’s collection of television programs is broad and deep, consistently revealing some rather unexpected finds. A recent case in point: in the course of selecting two-inch Quadruplex tapes for preservation by the Packard Campus for Audio Visual Preservation video lab, I recently came across a title inventoried as, simply, “P.L. Travers.” Now, I like the Disney version of “Mary Poppins” just fine, but all I really knew about P.L. Travers was that she thought so little of the adaptation that she refused all entreaties for further film treatments of Poppins stories. Suitably intrigued, I asked for it to be preserved.
A few days later, I downloaded the digital file from our archive server and was quite surprised to see an opening slate with the words “Library of Congress” on it. It turns out that the program was one in a series of late-Sixties joint productions between the Library and public television station WETA in Washington, D.C., each featuring well known authors and poets like John Updike, Rod Serling and James Dickey discussing their work. With the kind and generous permission of WETA, we will share more of these shows in future blog posts.
The program with P.L. Travers is quite different from the others in that she takes questions from a group of children – who prove to be adept interviewers – even if one gets the sense that some of their inquiries might have been provided to them beforehand. Everyone studiously avoids any mention of the film – released two years before this November 1966 recording – but it remains a fascinating and rare television appearance by Mary Poppins’ creator. If you know anything about this production (especially if you are one of the children!), we’d love to hear from you.
And in a welcome instance of serendipity, between the time of the tape’s preservation and this online presentation, “Mary Poppins” was named to the 2013 National Film Registry by Librarian of Congress James Billington. While one hesitates to hazard what P.L. Travers would think of the coincidence, it does seem practically perfect in every way.