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'Saving Mr. Banks' saves our Christmas spirit!

MoviesMary Poppins (musical)Emma ThompsonThe Spirit (movie)Disneyland ParkPope Francis

"Too caustic? To h--l with the cost, we'll make the picture anyway!" said the irrepressible Samuel Goldwyn.

I am grateful to Ted Bowden for this quote, which I had never seen or heard before. And that is saying something, when we have had Mr. Goldwyn's incredible sayings for what seems like a lifetime. He died in 1974.

Sam Goldwyn was the epic producer who, when his wife was asked if she wanted to be buried beside him, said she preferred director George Cukor instead. So, she is buried beside both men in the Goldwyn family plot.

Do one thing for me this Christmas season. Treat yourself to a Disney movie titled "Saving Mr. Banks." This tells the story of Walt himself, trying, over a period of two decades, to convince the writer of the hit book "Mary Poppins" (played by the great Emma Thompson) to sell him the rights.

The author, who calls herself " P.L. Travers," remained stubborn, even after Walt Disney brought her to Hollywood and treated her royally. Nothing could convince her that Mary Poppins needed music, animation (penguins dancing) and narrative to make an effective movie.

This film will end up clutching your heartstrings, for the little girl Travers had been in Australia and why she worshipped her father (played by one of the most appealing men I've ever seen on film, the surprising Colin Farrell, who I thought I first "discovered" in "Tigerland.")

P.L. Travers resisted Hollywood, Disneyland and everything from Mickey Mouse to the Seven Dwarfs, so you will love the befuddled, bemused, denizens of the Walt Disney group as they try to please Travers by writing delightful songs and pointing out the beauties of early Los Angeles and the conveniences of the Beverly Hills Hotel. Paul Giamatti, who is always terrific, is excellent here as the chauffeur who couldn't make a dent in Travers' reserve, but ended up becoming her great friend.

This is the kind of movie I didn't think Hollywood could make anymore -- beautiful to look at, meaningful, heartfelt, with no special effects, crashes or bangs, except for your beating sympathetic heart. Of course, it is a tribute to Walt Disney who wasn't exactly a Tom Hanks kind of guy, but Tom brings him off as a hero. (Tom seems to be able to lose himself entirely in any type of character! He is a genius.)

In "Mr. Banks" Emma Thompson plays against her fabled, real-life charm and humor. She is the most delightful human being with whom I've ever had the privilege to sit down over a martini. And I am the least of her fan club. But she is simply great as a stubborn, idealistic woman who is hiding her childhood heartbreak from herself. She will be nominated for many of the coming awards!

If you are an admirer of Robert Osborne, the savvy host of Turner Classic Movies -- and I don't know who isn't -- be sure you mark your 2014 calendar for January 6, as they'll be offering special host Alec Baldwin talking to Robert about his legendary life and career.

Osborne will follow this with an evening of his own favorite picks, including "The Third Man," "Libeled Lady," "Love Letters" and "The Bandwagon."

With Pope Francis named "Man of the Year" by both Time and the Advocate magazines, the Catholic Church is making a big-time comeback all over the world.

NYC itself has His Eminence Timothy Michael Cardinal Dolan leading the Archdiocese and he was very much in evidence this week when the Ladies of Charity held their 68th Annual Yule lunch at the Waldorf. (Anna Murdoch-Mann is the honorary chair of this with Joseph Spinnato and Mary Higgins Clark helping.)

None other than Putnam County News and Recorder publisher, Elizabeth (Mrs. Roger) Ailes was given the Christmas Angel Award and Pat and Lou DiCerbo received The Spirit of Saint Nicholas Award.

I love the slogan of Elizabeth Ailes' newspaper: "We are 147 Years Old but New Every Wednesday."

(E-mail Liz Smith at


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