OFF BEAT

OFFBEAT: Walt Disney in 'Saving Mr. Banks' not only film portrayal

Phil Potempa's daily entertainment news column
2014-03-06T00:00:00Z 2014-03-06T12:55:08Z OFFBEAT: Walt Disney in 'Saving Mr. Banks' not only film portrayalBy Philip Potempa philip.potempa@nwi.com, (219) 852-4327 nwitimes.com

Walt Disney Pictures' film "Saving Mr. Banks" was virtually shut out at Sunday's 86th Annual Academy Awards.

The movie, which releases on DVD March 18, is about Walt Disney's chilly, uneasy partnership with London authoress P.L. Travers in 1961, while securing the rights to her book character Mary Poppins to make his now iconic 1964 film version starring Julie Andrews.

Uncle Walt, played by Tom Hanks, had spent 20 years campaigning and wooing the bristling Travers, played by Emma Thompson.

Director John Lee Hancock went to painstaking levels to recreate 1961 decor, fashion and landscapes.

The film's producers also promised there weren't any "spins" on any of the facts or images of this "based on true events" story as told by Hancock. Hanks as Disney, smokes, drinks and displays a shrewd business mind responsible for running an empire. Hancock and the media also played up the fact that this film is "the first time Walt Disney the man is depicted on the silver screen in a fictional manner."

However, there have been a few other portrayals of Walt Disney, as played by other actors from original movies made for television. One that still most stands out in my mind is from the 1999 HBO original film "RKO 281," which was about the Hollywood battle over the release of the 1941 legendary film "Citizen Kane."

Actor Roger Allam plays Walt Disney at a special meeting of all the studio chiefs called by Louis B. Mayer, the head of MGM. Media titan William Randolph Hearst, who was the unwilling subject the main character is based on in "Citizen Kane," used all of his might to threaten the studios that if the film was ever released, he'd use secret files of "suppressed scandalous information" about the studios and their lead stars to release to the public. He used his powerful syndicated gossip columnist Louella O. Parsons to do his bidding.

In the scene with Allam playing a very nervous Disney, he says: "I don't mean to be funny, but what could he have on Mickey Mouse?" to which Mayer replies: "He's got you so tied in with J. Edgar Hoover and America First Committee that you might as well put on a brown shirt and kiss those happy little kiddies so-long."

(America First Committee was a group against involvement in World War II, which disbanded after the attack on Pearl Harbor, while the "brown shirt" reference alluded to the brown shirts worn by Nazi soldiers.)

In the film, fellow studio chief Jack Warner adds: "Relax, Walt, at least he don't have you screwing Snow White. I got Errol Flynn on my payroll!"

According to the film, Disney joined Mayer and other studio heads Jack Warner, David O. Selznick, Sam Goldwyn, Harry Cohn and Darryl Zanuck contributing to a fund of $1 million in an unsuccessful attempt to purchase the negative and all of the prints of "Citizen Kane" to destroy them.

Today, "Citizen Kane," directed by and starring the late Orson Welles as the title character based on Hearst, is still ranked as "the greatest film of all time."

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at philip.potempa@nwi.com or (219) 852-4327.

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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