Cast & Crew
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.
Arthur E. Gould-porter
Robert O. Cook
John B. Mansbridge
La Rue Matheron
Robert J. Schiffer
Richard M. Sherman
Robert B. Sherman
Mike St. Hillaire
James W. Swain
Arthur J. Vitarelli
Jack Whitman Sr.
Best Visual Effects
Best Visual Effects
Best Costume Design
Bedknobs and Broomsticks
Between 1945 and 1971 various mentions were made in the trade press regarding Disney's intention to film Norton's novels. At various times, the working title was The Magic Bedpost but eventually it was changed to incorporate both of the books titles. The composing team of brothers Richard M. and Robert B. Sherman, who had written the score for Mary Poppins (1964), said in an interview for the thirtieth anniversary of the film's release that while waiting for Disney to get permission to film Mary Poppins by the author P. L. Travers, they were told by Disney that if he couldn't get permission for Poppins, their songs could be used in another film about magic, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, for which he did have the rights. The song The Beautiful Briny was one of the songs that was written for Mary Poppins but was used in Bedknobs. When Mary Poppins became a smash hit, Disney decided to put Bedknobs on the back burner for a few years because the stories were similar. Walt Disney died in December 1966 and the project languished in limbo.
Finally, in 1969 the Shermans were given approval to start composing for Bedknobs and Broomsticks and pre-production on the film began. David Tomlinson, who had become popular because of his role in Mary Poppins, was given the role of Emelius Browne over other actors such as Ron Moody. Angela Lansbury won the role of apprentice witch Eglantine after Lynn Redgrave, Leslie Caron and Judy Carne were tested. Julie Andrews was approached by Disney, but refused the role. Several months later, she phoned the Disney company to say she'd changed her mind and wanted to do the film because she felt that she owed Disney for her success. By then, however, Lansbury had already secured the part.
Shot entirely at the Disney Studios in Los Angeles from early March until June 10, 1970, Bedknobs and Broomsticks faithfully recreated London's Portobello Road as it was in 1940 including authentic carts by A. Keehn, the company that had rented them to Portobello merchants for over a hundred years. Originally the dance sequence on Portobello Road lasted a full ten minutes but was cut down to four. When the film was complete it ran 140 minutes but the studio decided to cut twenty-three minutes for the premiere in New York at the Radio City Music Hall, supposedly because they were contractually obligated to accommodate for the Radio City stage show that accompanied the film. When Bedknobs and Broomsticks was restored twenty-five years later, much of the missing footage was put back, with missing audio re-looped by Lansbury and other actors to replace those who were unavailable for the voice session or had died since 1971.
Author Martin Gottfried wrote in his biography of Angela Lansbury that "As a singing and dancing apprentice witch, Angela is game at best, but uncharacteristically detached from the material at hand. At times, she seems downright bored with the picture, and is virtually blank-faced during a long stretch of stupid animated action late in the proceedings." But the picture was a great commercial hit and Angela is partial to it, saying, "It secured an enormous audience for me." Lansbury once explained that it was "all peaches and cream, an introduction for me to movie audiences singing and dancing, which turned the corner for me. It's not an acting role, it's a performing role. There's a difference. The techniques used in shooting a Disney picture are specific and quite unique. They pre-plan every shot. There's no room for improvisations...the trick is to make it seem alive and fresh and improvisational."
Critics noticed the similarity between the film and Mary Poppins and the comparisons were not always flattering. Roger Ebert was lukewarm on the film at its release in November 1971, "Bedknobs and Broomsticks is the new Disney production from the team that made Mary Poppins, and it has the same technical skill and professional polish. It doesn't have much of a heart, though, and toward the end you wonder why the Poppins team thought kids would like it much. They sit still for part of it; they like the flying bed and the scenes with animated animals, and when the empty suits of armor attack the Nazis there's a kind of Creature Features enjoyment. But what are Nazis doing in this picture, anyway? And why is it necessary for a character to exclaim, toward the end of the movie: "We have driven the Hun into the sea"? What do kids known from Huns anyway?...Kids like villains they have been introduced to. They like to meet evil old queens and tyrannical kings and pirates and alligators. They KNOW these types are up to no good. But...Nazis? And without character development? Nazis can be used as shorthand in adult movies, where it's unnecessary to establish their villainy, but 5 year-olds don't automatically know Nazis are bad guys (and a Disney movie is the wrong place for them to learn, anyway). So the Hun is driven to the sea and the kids to the john and the candy counter."
Bedknobs and Broomsticks was nominated for six Academy Awards Best Music Scoring and Adaptation, Best Music Original Song for "The Age of Not Believing," Best Costume Design and Best Art Direction-Set Direction and won for Best Effects, Special Visual Effects. For the Shermans, it would be the last Disney feature film they worked on until The Tigger Movie in 2000.
Producer: Bill Walsh
Director: Robert Stevenson
Screenplay: Bill Walsh and Don DaGradi (screenplay), Mary Norton (book), Ralph Wright and Ted Berman (animation story)
Cinematography: Frank Phillips
Art Direction: Peter Ellenshaw and John B. Mansbridge
Film Editing: Cotton Warburton
Cast: Angela Lansbury (Eglantine Price), David Tomlinson (Mr. Emelius Browne), Roddy McDowall (Mr. Jelk), Sam Jaffe (Bookman), John Ericson (Colonel Heller).
C-118m. Closed Captioning.
by Lorraine LoBianco
Balancing Act: The Authorized Biography of Angela Lansbury by Martin Gottfried
Bedknobs and Broomsticks review by Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times November 24, 1971
Angela Lansbury: A Life on Stage and Screen by Rob Edelman and Audrey E. Kupferber
Bedknobs and Broomsticks
Observe the fundamental weakness of the criminal mind. They will believe in no one nor anything.- Mr. Browne
Women always lose things.- Mr. Browne
I don't believe in giving animals ridiculous names. I name my cat Cosmic Creepers.- Eglentine Price
Excuse me, which way to Pepperidge Eye?- Officer
Couldn't tell ya, I was told to paint out the sign posts incase the Nazis show up.- Workman
I'm not a Nazi. I'm a British officer.- Officer
That's what you'd say if you was a Nazi.- Workman
That's my nightgown.- Miss Price
Is it really, my dear?- Mr. Browne (dancing with it)
Yes, and I'm not responsible for its behavior.- Miss Price
Obviously not, my dear.- Mr. Browne
The ancient armor in the climactic battle with the Nazis utilized authentic items of medieval armor, previously used in Camelot (1967) and El Cid (1961). When any item of armor was to be destroyed, exact fiberglass replicas were used.
'Andrews, Julie' , Leslie Caron, Lynn Redgrave, and Judy Carne were considered for the role of Miss Price before Angela Lansbury was cast.
Ron Moody was considered for the role of Mr. Browne before 'Tomlinson, David' was cast.
In the establishing shot of the animated soccer game, a bear wearing a Mickey Mouse T-shirt can be spotted in the crowd on the right side of the picture.
The film's opening credits sequence is a homage to the Bayeux Tapestry, a seamless linen cloth made by the French in Medieval times which tells the story of the Norman Conquest of England.
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 August 1945 Daily Variety 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 April 1966 Daily Variety 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 December 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 October 1968, a Hollywood Reporter 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 Hollywood Reporter 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 August 1998 Los Angeles Times 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 Variety 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 Hollywood Citizen-News 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 New York Times, 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 August 1998 Los Angeles Times 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 August 1998 Los Angeles Times 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).
Released in United States Fall November 1971
Released in United States January 13, 1996
Released in United States August 9, 1998
Based on the Mary Norton novels "The Magic Bed-Knob" (London, 1945) and "Bonfires and Broomsticks" (London, 1957).
Released in United States Fall November 1971
Released in United States January 13, 1996 (Shown in Los Angeles (American Cinematheque) January 13, 1996.)
Released in United States August 9, 1998 (Restored version shown on the Disney Channel August 9, 1998.)