Dick Van Dyke was one of the honorees at the 2021 Kennedy Center Awards. The movie and television legend’s career was showcased as he accepted the honor along with fellow honorees Debbie Allen, Joan Baez, Garth Brooks, and Midori.
At age 95, Van Dyke boasts a long resume in the entertainment industry, dating back to the late 1950s, per IMDB. One of his most beloved roles was in the 1964 movie “Mary Poppins,” in which he played dual roles as jack-of-all-trades Bert the chimney sweep, as well as the role of bank chairman Mr. Dawes.
In an interview with CNN, Van Dyke once said “Mary Poppins” was his favorite role in his six-decade career. “Probably the role in “Mary Poppins’ was the most fun I ever had,” he said. “It was so much fun. That’s my favorite movie too.”
The Oscar-winning classic film was a vast showcase for Van Dyke’s singing and dancing skills.
Here’s a look back at some of Van Dyke’s most iconic performances in “Mary Poppins.”
“Pavement Artist/Chim Chim Cher-ee”
One of the best-known songs from ”Mary Poppins” is “Chim Chim Cher-ee,” the famous duet by Van Dyke and Julie Andrews. But Van Dyke also performed a solo version of the song as his character drew his chalk art on the streets of London.
The character of Bert didn’t exist until composers Robert and Richard Sherman wrote the song. They were inspired by a sketch of a whistling chimney sweep and initially thought Mary Poppins would sing the tune to the children but Walt Disney stepped in and suggested it would better to create a new character.
“Walt said, ‘You know, we have this guy that draws pictures on the pavement and we have a one-man band and we have a fellow who flies kites – why don’t we make them all one fellow and call him Bert, and he’ll be the chimney sweep too?” Robert Sherman once said, per SongFacts.
“Step in Time” With the Chimney Sweep Cast
Who can forget “Step in Time,” Van Dyke’s famous number featuring Bert and the other chimney sweeps as they danced and chanted on the rooftops of London? It was one of the liveliest routines in the film.
More than 55 years later, Van Dyke’s iconic “Mary Poppins” performance was also remembered as professional dancer Derek Hough performed a version of “Step in Time” in his honor.
“Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” With Julie Andrews
One of the hardest song titles to say — let alone spell — “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” made its debut in the Mary Poppins story when the Sherman brothers adapted the P.L. Travers book into a big-screen film, per BBC News. Magical nanny Mary and her chimney sweep sidekick recited the tongue-twister word multiple times in one of the most famous sequences in the movie.
Richard Sherman once said the word was spawned in the same way he and his brother used to make up words when they were kids.
“We used to make up the big double-talk words, we could make a big obnoxious word up for the kids and that’s where it started,” he said. “We started with ‘atrocious’ and then you can sound smart and be precocious. We had ‘precocious’ and ‘atrocious’ and we wanted something super-colossal and that’s corny, so we took ‘super’ and did double-talk to get ‘califragilistic’ which means nothing, it just came out that way. That’s in a nutshell what we did over two weeks.”
“I Love to Laugh” With Ed Wynn & Julie Andrews
Van Dyke showcased his Cockney accent in the “I Love to laugh” sequence more than his singing skills. He told CNN he was mostly concentrating on the dancing for the film, and filmmakers gave him a voice coach who turned out to be an Irishman.
“And his Cockney wasn’t much better than mine,” Van Dyke dished.
“During the making of the picture nobody kidded me about the accent, but I sure took it afterwards,” he added.
As for the flying he did in the film–and especially during this song — Van Dyke told the New York Times, “We had to fly constantly. One day [on the original movie] we were all up there doing ‘I Love to Laugh’ and they broke for lunch, and everybody left and forgot that we were hanging up there. It must have been 15 minutes before somebody realized and came and let us down.”