“A writer is, after all, only half his book. The other half is the reader and from the reader the writer learns.” – P.L. Travers
While she spent her professional life as writer and actress under the name of P.L. Travers – Pamela Lyndon Travers was, in actuality, Helen Lyndon Goff. And, regardless of her name, she will forever be engrained in our psyche for her creation of a magical English nanny named Mary Poppins.
As alluded to in the recent movie Saving Mister Banks, Goff utilized the pen and stage name of Travers because she wanted to honor the memory of her father, who died when she was 7. She said her father was the most important man in her life, particularly in her growing up years – setting examples about life and living it that stayed with her all through her own life. “He shared a world of ideas about a world that both was and might be.”
Born this day in Australia, Travers emigrated to England in the early 1920s and became a successful actress before deciding to work as a journalist and write poetry. In the early 1930s she tried creative writing and the result was a series of books about Mary Poppins.
It was while working for the British Ministry of Information in World War II that the wheels began grinding woard what ultimately would become one of the ultimate success stories in film. Travers traveled to New York for meetings for the Ministry and while there was contacted by Roy Disney, Walt’s brother and business manager, about making a Mary Poppins movie. After nearly 20 years of contact, Walt Disney finally convinced the irascible Travers to let him adapt the book and, of course, it became one of the most beloved films of all time, leading also to a Broadway play.
P.L. Travers – the “real” Mary Poppins
Often asked about her creation, she never gave a definitive answer about who Mary was based on or how she came about. “For me,” she said, “there are no answers, only questions, and I am grateful that the questions go on and on. I don’t look for an answer because I don’t think there is one.” Except, of course, in the creative mind of a writer.
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