Originally posted 02 May 2012
I was interviewed for a local paper about rum history, and when the piece came out I was puzzled by an allusion the writer made to Mary Poppins drinking rum. I wondered if there was perhaps a scene that I missed due to a trip to the snack bar at the theatre – perhaps a subplot where Mary gets tired of taking care of the kids, leaves them with Uncle Albert, and heads to the local pub for a double navy grog with a shot of old Jamaican heavy for a chaser. When she is thrown out of the place for being drunk and disorderly and singing lewd sea shanties, she lands in the arms of Mr. Binnacle, who is always at that location around closing time because it’s a good place to meet women who are being thrown out of bars for singing lewd sea shanties.
If Disney did film that scene, it ended up on the cutting room floor, but it is clear that Ms. Poppins did enjoy her tipple. In the scene after the rainstorm in which she informs the children of the virtues of taking a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down, she pours three colors of liquid from the same bottle. The two children take a sip and in turn report the flavor as lime cordial and strawberry. Mary takes her own sip and purrs, “Rrrrrrum punch” with much more enthusiasm than is usually shown for alcoholic beverages in movies made for children. You can see the clip here – go to the one minute mark.
I asked a friend who is a Disneyphile, and he thinks this may be the first instance in a Disney film of a woman drinking alcohol. It would also fit very well with the practice of an earlier era – in the early 1800’s rum punch was indeed recommended by doctors. So Mary was probably just following her mother’s family recipe for taking care of a sudden chill – a modest serving or rum punch for herself and the children.