Guilty Pleasures: Ann Parker

Man With No Name vs. Mary Poppins…


I’ve been mulling over this idea of a “guilty pleasure movie” for a while now, as I dashed hither and thither.


The first one(s) that popped to mind were the spaghetti westerns of yore (mid-1960s vintage), most famously Sergio Leone’s “Dollar” movies featuring Clint Eastwood as the Man with No Name: For a Fistful of Dollars , in 1964, For a Few Dollars More , and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly  (what a GREAT title that is!). The dusty, bleak landscape (not quite the U.S. Southwest, but a pretty good imitation), the music by Ennio Morricone, and the anti-hero twist were so different from the TV westerns of the time—the squeaky-clean Bonanza and even the eclectic Wild Wild West. Even now, decades later, as I zipped around Youtube, looking for “Dollar” scenes I remembered (and spending way too much time doing so), I found myself getting sucked back in. I spotted echoes of Deadwood in the ambiguous moral atmosphere, the question of who are the good guys and who are the bad guys.


But I don’t know if these films exactly fit the bill as “guilty” pleasures. After all, I own up to liking them, when asked, so how guilty could they be?

So… I thought some more. And the guilty pleasure movie I finally settled on is…

Mary Poppins.

Now, it may seem a stretch from six guns a-blazing in the “Old West” under the hot Spanish sun (most of the Dollar movies were filmed in Spain), to a spoonful of sugar in rainy London circa 1910… but there are some similarities that explain this odd juxtaposition in my mind.

I’ll start by saying Mary Poppins definitely fits the “guilty” requirement. I don’t believe I’ve ever owned up to how much I enjoy this movie. I watched it as a child, when it came out in theatres. I watched it on VHS with my children. I loved the setting, and the blurring of the real and imaginary realms (for instance, when Mary and the crew “hop” through a chalk drawing into an animated world, all very pre-CGI, of course). And wow, Julie Andrews can belt it out in a voice of pure gold, so the music is fun as well. There are references to first-wave feminism (Mrs. Banks, fighting for “women’s votes”), and frankly, the Mary Poppins character herself is no slouch in the assertiveness department. It’s interesting to realize that some of women (and girls) watching this movie no doubt became part of the “Women’s Liberation Movement” that was gathering steam in the mid-60s.

In looking over the films (well, bits of them) online, I started thinking about the parallels between the Man with No Name (MWNN) and Ms. Poppins. They both got their ways, bringing “justice” to their worlds, but how they accomplished such certainly differed. The MWNN used guns and various tricks, schemes, and doublecrosses to get his way. Mary Poppins was a master manipulator, a great reader of people, and with a look, a snap of the fingers, and a well-placed remark or two, always set things to rights. Plus, she didn’t take guff from anyone.

So, for your viewing pleasure (and mine), here are two clips, one from each movie. The first is from Fistful of Dollars showing the MWNN’s “technique” for getting hired in a strange town. I tried mightily to find the parallel scene for Mary Poppins, in which she basically marches in and talks Mr. Banks into giving her the job as nanny. No dice, but for an example of the verbal manipulation and how Mary “worked,” I found one in which Mr. Banks prepares to fire her, and she deftly turns the entire confrontation around. (Editor’s note: I could not find an embed-able clip of this.)



So there you have it. Guns and words.


Come to think of it, guns and words are the “weapons of choice” for my Silver Rush protagonist, Leadville saloon-owner Inez Stannert. Could it be that somewhere deep in my fevered imagination, when I began writing my first book, Inez was born as an unconscious “mash-up” of two of my “guilty pleasure” movie characters?

More food for thought… at least, for me.

Ann Parker is a science writer by day and an historical mystery writer by night. Her Silver Rush historical mystery series, featuring saloon-owner Inez Stannert, is set in 1880s Colorado, primarily in the silver-mining boomtown of Leadville. The series includes SILVER LIES, IRON TIES, LEADEN SKIES, and the newest release, MERCURY’S RISE. Her books have won the Willa Literary Award and the Colorado Book Award, and MERCURY’S RISE was recently nominated for the Bruce Alexander and the Agatha historical mystery awards. Ann’s ancestors include a Leadville blacksmith, a Colorado School of Mines professor, and a gandy dancer. Ann and her family live in the San Francisco Bay Area (although she’d really really prefer to be in Colorado). You can find her on Facebook , Twitter, and her website. Ann also posts every other Thursday on The LadyKillers blog and sporadically on her own Silver Rush blog