Bedknobs and Broomsticks

Bedknobs and Broomsticks is a 1971 American musical fantasy film directed by Robert Stevenson and songs written by the Sherman Brothers. It was produced by Bill Walsh for Walt Disney Productions. It is based upon the books The Magic Bedknob; or, How to Become a Witch in Ten Easy Lessons (1943) and Bonfires and Broomsticks (1947) by English children’s author Mary Norton. The film, which combines live action and animation, stars Angela Lansbury, David Tomlinson, Ian Weighill, Cindy O’Callaghan, and Roy Snart.

During the early 1960s, Bedknobs and Broomsticks entered development when the negotiations for the film rights to Mary Poppins (1964) were placed on hold. When the rights were acquired, the film was shelved repeatedly due to the similarities with Mary Poppins until it was revived in 1969. Originally at a length of 139 minutes, Bedknobs and Broomsticks was edited down to almost two hours prior to its premiere at the Radio City Music Hall.

The film was released on December 13, 1971, to mixed reviews from film critics, some of whom praised the live-action/animated sequence. The film received five Academy Awards nominations winning one for Best Special Visual Effects. This was the last film released prior to the death of Walt Disney‘s surviving brother, Roy O. Disney, who died one week later. It is also the last theatrical film Reginald Owen appeared in before his death next year in 1972; his last two acting credits were for television. It is also the last film work of screenwriter Don DaGradi before his retirement in 1970, and death on August 4, 1991.

In 1996, the film was restored with most of the deleted material re-inserted back into the film. A stage musical adaptation has been produced. The musical had its world premiere at the Theatre Royal, in Newcastle upon Tyne, on 14 August 2021 before embarking on a UK and Ireland tour, until May 2022.[5]


In August 1940, during the Blitz, three orphaned children named Charlie, Carrie, and Paul Rawlins are evacuated from London to Peppering Eye near the Dorset coast where they are placed in the reluctant care of Miss Eglantine Price, who agrees to the arrangement temporarily. The children attempt to run back to London, but after observing Miss Price attempting to fly on a broomstick, they change their minds. Miss Price reveals she is learning witchcraft through a correspondence school with hopes of using her spells in the British war effort against the Nazis, and offers the children a transportation spell in exchange for their silence. She casts the spell on a bedknob, and adds only Paul can work the spell, as he is the one who handed the bedknob to her. Later, Miss Price receives a letter from her school announcing its closure, thus preventing her from learning the final spell. She convinces Paul to use the enchanted bed to return the group to London, and locate Professor Emelius Browne.

Browne turns out to be a charismatic street magician who created the course from an old book as a joke, only to be shocked to learn the spells work. He gives the book to Miss Price, who is distraught to discover the final spell, Substitutiary Locomotion, is missing. The group travels to Portobello Road to locate the old bookseller who gave Browne the book, revealing that the spell is engraved on the Star of Astaroth, a medallion that belonged to a sorcerer of that name. The bookseller explains that Astaroth experimented with his magic on animals, giving them anthropomorphism. They later killed him, took the medallion, and fled to a remote island called Naboombu. A 17th-century lascar had claimed to have traveled to Naboombu, but the bookseller never found it. Paul confirms its existence by revealing a storybook he found in Mr. Browne’s playroom.

The group travels to Naboombu and land in a lagoon; there, the bed goes underwater, where Mr. Browne and Miss Price enter a dance contest and win first prize. Just then, the bed is fished out of the sea by a bear, who informs the group that humans are not allowed on the island by royal decree. They are brought before the island’s ruler King Leonidas, who is wearing the Star of Astaroth. Leonidas invites Mr. Browne to act as a referee in a football match. The chaotic match ends in Leonidas’ self-proclaimed victory, but Mr. Browne swaps the medallion with his referee whistle as he leaves, and the group escapes.

Back home, Miss Price exercises the spell, which imbues inanimate objects with life. When Miss Price is informed that the children can be moved to another home, she decides to let them stay, realizing she has come to love them and vice versa. The children declare they want Mr. Browne to be their father, but Mr. Browne, wary of commitment, bids goodbye to the group and attempts to take a train back to London. A platoon of Nazi German commandos land on the coast via U-boat as part of an exercise and invade Miss Price’s house, imprisoning her and the children in the local museum. At the train station, Mr. Browne fends off two Germans cutting phone lines and heads back to Miss Price’s house where he uses the white rabbit spell that he taught Miss Price so he can disguise himself to avoid the Germans. He finds Miss Price and the children at the museum and inspires Miss Price to use the spell to enchant the museum’s exhibits into an army. The army of knights’ armor and military uniforms chases the Germans away but as the Germans retreat, they destroy Miss Price’s workshop, ending her career as a witch. Though disappointed her career is over, she is happy she played a small part in the war effort.

Shortly afterwards, Miss Price has officially adopted and committed herself to raising the children, Mr. Browne also made a commitment to becoming the father of children and moved in with them. Mr. Browne enlists in the army and departs with the local Home Guard escorting him, promising the children he will return soon. Paul reveals he still has the enchanted bedknob, hinting they can continue on with their adventures.


  • Angela Lansbury as Miss Eglantine Price. Miss Price is initially a somewhat reclusive woman, reluctant to take in children from London as she believes they will get in the way of her witchcraft, which she prefers to keep secret but hopes to use to bring the nascent World War II to an end. However, she bonds with the children and falls in love with Mr. Browne during their journey. She becomes the adoptive mother to the Rawlins siblings at the end of the film.
  • David Tomlinson as Mr. Emelius Browne. Introduced as « Professor Browne, » the title by which Miss Price knows him, he is running a Correspondence College of Witchcraft based on what he believes to be « nonsense words » found in an old book. When Miss Price and the children find him in London, he is revealed to be a street performer and con artist, and not a very good one. He is, however, a smooth talker, which proves useful on the group’s adventures, and believes in doing everything « with a flair. » As the adventures unfold, he finds himself developing an attachment to Miss Price and the children, a feeling he struggles with; Browne becomes the adoptive father to the Rawlins siblings at the end of the film and enlists himself in the military, while promising his new family that he’ll return.
  • Roddy McDowall as Mr. Rowan Jelk, the local clergyman. Deleted scenes reveal Mr. Jelk to be interested in marrying Miss Price, largely for her property.
  • Sam Jaffe as Bookman, a mysterious criminal also in pursuit of the Substitutiary Locomotion spell. It is implied that there is some history and bad blood between him and Mr. Browne.
  • John Ericson as Colonel Heller, leader of the German raiding party which comes ashore at Pepperinge Eye.
  • Bruce Forsyth as Swinburne, a spiv and associate of the Bookman’s who acts as his muscle.
  • Cindy O’Callaghan as Carrie Rawlins. Slightly younger than Charlie, she takes on a motherly attitude toward her brothers, especially Paul. She is the first to encourage a friendly relationship between Miss Price and the children.
  • Roy Snart as Paul Rawlins. Paul is about six; his possession of the bedknob and the Isle of Naboombu children’s book lead to the group’s adventures as well as the eventual solution to the quest for the Substitutiary Locomotion spell. Paul is prone to blurting out whatever is on his mind, which occasionally leads to trouble.
  • Ian Weighill as Charles « Charlie » Rawlins. Charlie is the eldest of the orphaned Rawlins children; eleven, going on twelve, according to Carrie, an age which Miss Price calls « The Age of Not Believing. » Accordingly, he is initially cynical and disbelieving of Miss Price’s magical efforts, but comes around as time goes on; it is at his initial suggestion that Ms. Price uses the Substitutiary Locomotion spell on the museum artifacts.
  • Tessie O’Shea as Mrs. Jessica « Jessie » Hobday, the local postmistress of Pepperinge Eye and chairwoman of the War Activities Committee.
  • Arthur Gould-Porter as Captain Ainsley Greer, a British Army captain who comes from HQ in London to inspect the Home Guard and becomes lost in the area. He is constantly running into locals who suspect him of being a Nazi in disguise.
  • Reginald Owen as Major General Sir Brian Teagler, commander of the local Home Guard.
  • Cyril Delevanti as Elderly Farmer
  • Hank Worden as Old Home Guardsman (uncredited)


  • Bob Holt as Codfish, a denizen of the Naboombu lagoon who judges the underwater dance contest.
  • Lennie Weinrib as King Leonidas, a lion who is the ruler of the Isle of Naboombu. He is a devoted soccer player with a fearsome temper, as well as a notorious cheat who is known to make up the rules as he goes along – according to Paul’s book.
    • Weinrib also voices Secretary Bird, a prim and proper type who is King Leonidas’s secretary, and often bears the brunt of the King’s outbursts.
  • Dallas McKennon as Bear, a brown bear who is a sailor and fisherman on the Isle of Naboombu. He is the one who pulls the bed, with Miss Price’s group on it, out of the lagoon with his fishing pole, and takes them to see the King after warning them of his temper.


English author Mary Norton published her first children’s book, The Magic Bed-Knob, in 1943. In August 1945, Variety reported that Walt Disney had purchased the film rights to the book. Norton then published Bonfires and Broomsticks in 1947, and the two children’s books were then combined into Bed-Knob and Broomstick in 1957. During the negotiations for the film rights to Mary Poppins with P. L. Travers in 1961, a film adaptation of Bedknobs and Broomsticks was suggested as an alternative project. When the negotiations stalled, Disney instructed the Sherman brothers to begin working on the project.[6] During a story conference with producer Bill Walsh and writer Don DaGradi, as the Sherman brothers were singing the song « Eglantine », Walt fell asleep in his chair.[7] When Disney purchased the rights to Mary Poppins, the Bedknobs project was shelved.[6][8]

In spring 1966, the Sherman brothers resumed their work on Bedknobs and Broomsticks, but the project was shelved again due to the similarities with Mary Poppins (1964). As the Sherman brothers’ contract with the Disney studios was set to expire in 1968, they were contacted by Bill Walsh in their office to start work on the film. Then, Walsh, DaGradi, and the Sherman brothers re-assembled to work on the storyline for several months. Although there was no plan to put the film into production at the time, Walsh promised the Shermans that he would call them back to the studio and finish the project, which he eventually did in November 1969.[8] Throughout 1970 and 1971, the Sherman brothers reworked their musical compositions for the film. The song « The Beautiful Briny » was originally written for Mary Poppins, for a sequence where Mary sends the Banks children to several exotic locations by spinning a compass, but that sequence was deleted, and the song was ultimately used in Bedknobs and Broomsticks instead.[9][10]


Leslie Caron, Lynn Redgrave, Judy Carne, and Julie Andrews were all considered for the role of Eglantine Price.[11] Andrews was initially offered the part, but hesitated. Walsh later contacted Angela Lansbury, who signed onto the role on Hallowe’en: October 31, 1969. Shortly after, Andrews contacted Walsh again only to learn that Lansbury had been cast.[12][13] Although Peter Ustinov was considered,[13] Ron Moody was originally slated as Emelius Brown, but he refused to star in the film unless he received top billing which the studio would not allow. He was ultimately replaced with David Tomlinson.[11]

The three Rawlins children—Charlie, Carrie, and Paul—were played by Ian Weighill, Cindy O’Callaghan, and Roy Snart respectively. Weighill had previously dropped out of school and began his acting career in an uncredited role as a schoolboy in David Copperfield (1969). He auditioned before Disney talent scouts for one of the child roles in Bedknobs and Broomsticks in London, and was cast as Charlie. Prior to Bedknobs, Snart was a child actor appearing in numerous commercials, and was cast as Paul for his « impish, cheeky look ». For the part of Carrie, O’Callaghan had previously acted in television commercials and later made her stage debut in a production of Peter Pan at the Scala Theatre. There, she caught the attention of Disney’s talent scouts.[14]


Filming took place at the Disney studios in Burbank, California, from early March to June 10, 1970.[15] The coastal scenes featuring German soldiers were shot on location at a nearby California beach. Additional scenes were shot on location in Corfe Castle in Dorset, England.[13] Filming lasted fifty-seven days while the animation and special effects required five months each to complete.[16]

For the Naboombu soccer sequence, the sodium vapor process was used, which was developed by Petro Vlahos in the 1960s.[17] Animator and director Ward Kimball served as the animation director over the sequence.[18] Directing animator Milt Kahl had designed the characters, but he was angered over the inconsistencies in the character animation. This prompted Kimball to send a memo dated on September 17, 1970, to adhere to animation cohesiveness to the animation staff.[19] Because of the heavy special effects, the entire film had to be storyboarded in advance, shot for shot, which Lansbury later said resulted in her acting being « very by the numbers ».[20]


Bedknobs and Broomsticks had an original runtime of 141 minutes, and was scheduled to premiere at Radio City Music Hall. However, in order to accommodate for the theater’s elaborate stage show, the film had to be trimmed down to under two hours, and 23 minutes were ultimately removed from the film. The removed scenes included a minor subplot involving Roddy McDowall‘s character (which was reduced to one minute) and three entire musical sequences, titled « A Step in the Right Direction », « With a Flair », and « Nobody’s Problems ».[21] Additionally, almost three minutes were removed from the « Portobello Road » sequence, and the song « Eglantine » was also shortened.[22][23]

When the film was reissued theatrically on April 13, 1979, an additional twenty minutes of footage were deleted.[23]

1996 restoration

Intrigued with Lansbury’s song, « A Step in the Right Direction » on the original soundtrack album, Scott MacQueen, then-senior manager of Disney’s library restoration, set out to restore the film in conjunction with the film’s 25th anniversary.[13] Most of the deleted film material was found, but some segments of « Portobello Road » had to be reconstructed from work prints with digital re-coloration to match the film quality of the main content.[23] The footage for « A Step in the Right Direction » was unrecoverable,[23] but the sequence was reconstructed for inclusion as a supplemental feature on home media releases of the film by linking the original music track up to existing production stills. The edit included several newly discovered songs, including « Nobody’s Problems », performed by Lansbury. The number had been cut before the premiere of the film. Lansbury had only made a demo recording, singing with a solo piano because the orchestrations would have been added when the picture was scored. When the song was cut, the orchestrations had not yet been added; therefore, it was finally orchestrated and put together when it was placed back into the film.

The soundtrack for some of the spoken tracks was unrecoverable. Therefore, Lansbury and McDowall re-dubbed their parts, while other actors made ADR dubs for those who were unavailable. Even though David Tomlinson was still alive when the film was being reconstructed, he was in ill-health, and unavailable to provide ADR for Emelius Browne,[23] so he was replaced by Jeff Bennett.

The restored version of the film premiered on September 27, 1996, at the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills, California, where it was attended by Lansbury, the Sherman Brothers, Ward Kimball, and special effects artist Danny Lee.[13] It was later broadcast on Disney Channel on August 9, 1998.[23]

Home media

In 1980, Disney partnered with Fotomat Corporation on a trial distribution deal,[24] in which Bedknobs and Broomsticks was released on VHS and LaserDisc on March 4, 1980. In October 1982, Disney announced it had partnered with RCA to release nine of their films on the CED videodisc format,[25] and Bedknobs and Broomsticks was re-released later that year. The film was issued on VHS on October 23, 1989.[26] It was released on VHS as an installment in the Walt Disney Masterpiece Collection on October 28, 1994.[27]

The restored version of the film was released on VHS and DVD on March 20, 2001, as part of the Walt Disney Gold Classic Collection, to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the film.[28] The reconstruction additionally marked the first time the film was presented in stereophonic sound. Along with the film, the DVD included a twenty-minute making-of featurette with the Sherman brothers, a recording session with David Tomlinson singing the ending of « Portebello Road », a scrapbook containing thirteen pages of concept art, publicity, and merchandising stills, and a Film Facts supplement about the film’s production history.[29]

A new edition called Bedknobs and Broomsticks: Enchanted Musical Edition was released on DVD on September 8, 2009. This new single-disc edition retained the restored version of the film and most of the bonus features from the 2001 DVD release.[30] The film was released on Special Edition Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital HD on August 12, 2014, in its original 117-minute version, with the deleted scenes used in the previous reconstructed version presented in a separate section on the Blu-ray disc.


Box office

By January 1974, the film had grossed $8.25 million in box office rentals from the United States and Canada,[31] with its final domestic rentals totaling $8.5 million.[32] The 1979 re-release increased its North American rentals to $11.4 million.[33]

Critical reaction

Vincent Canby of The New York Times wrote that the film is a « tricky, cheerful, aggressively friendly Walt Disney fantasy for children who still find enchantment for pop-up books, plush animals by Steiff and dreams of independent flight. » He further highlighted the Naboombu live-action/animated sequence as « the best of Disney, going back all the way to the first Silly Symphonies. »[34] Variety wrote that « what it may lack in the charm of [Mary Poppins] it more than measures in inventiveness. Indeed, it is doubtful if special effects or animation have been ever bettered or used to greater advantage. Alone they are a reason for seeing the film », and the reviewer praised the Naboombu sequence as containing « not only sheer delights but technical masterpieces. »[35] Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times awarded the film two-and-a-half stars out of four, claiming that, while the film has the « same technical skill and professional polish » as Mary Poppins, « [i]t doesn’t have much of a heart, though, and toward the end you wonder why the Poppins team thought kids would like it much. »[36] Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune gave Bedknobs two stars out of four, calling the film « a mishmash of story ideas and film styles. » He further added that the live action/animated sequence was « one bright spot in the story », but felt « the difference between scenes of sea horses and storm troopers is so great that probably no story could manage it. Bedknobs tries and fails. »[37]

Pauline Kael, reviewing for The New Yorker, panned the film, writing that there is « no logic in the style of the movie, and the story dribbles on for so long that it exhausts the viewer before that final magical battle begins. » She concluded her review by stating: « This whole production is a mixture of wizardry and ineptitude; the picture has enjoyable moments but it’s as uncertain of itself as the title indicates. »[38] Charles Champlin of the Los Angeles Times wrote that the film was « pleasant enough and harmless enough. It is also long (almost two hours) and slow. The songs are perfunctory (nothing supercalifragi-whatever) and the visual trickeries, splendid as they are, are sputtery to get the picture truly airborne. By the standards Disney has set for itself, it’s a disappointing endeavor. »[39]

On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 67% based on 36 reviews, with an average score of 6.1/10; the site’s « critics consensus » reads: « Bedknobs and Broomsticks often feels like a pale imitation of a certain magical guardian and her wards, but a spoonful of Angela Lansbury’s witty star power helps the derivativeness go down. »[40] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 59 out of 100 based on 11 reviews, indicating « mixed or average reviews ».[41]


At the 44th Academy Awards, the film was nominated in five categories: Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design, Best Scoring: Adaptation and Original Song Score, Best Song Original for the Picture, and Best Special Visual Effects, winning the latter award.[22]

Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) Result
Golden Globe Awards February 6, 1972 Best Actress – Motion Picture Comedy or Musical Angela Lansbury Nominated
Academy Awards April 10, 1972 Best Art Direction Art Direction: John B. Mansbridge and Peter Ellenshaw; Set Decoration: Emile Kuri and Hal Gausman Nominated
Best Costume Design Bill Thomas Nominated
Best Scoring: Adaptation and Original Song Score Song Score: Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman; Adaptation: Irwin Kostal Nominated
Best Song Original for the Picture Richard M. Sherman, Robert B. Sherman Nominated
Best Special Visual Effects Alan Maley, Eustace Lycett, and Danny Lee Won


The musical score for Bedknobs and Broomsticks was composed by Irwin Kostal, with all songs written by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman. A soundtrack album was released by Buena Vista Records in 1971. While the film was released in mono sound, the musical score was recorded in stereo, and the soundtrack album was released in stereo. An expanded soundtrack album was released on CD on August 13, 2002.

« The Age of Not Believing » received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Original Song. « With a Flair », « Don’t Let Me Down », and « Nobody’s Problems » are only present in the reconstructed version of the film. « Solid Citizen » was replaced by the soccer match. Parts of « Fundamental Element » were incorporated into « Don’t Let Me Down ».

The songs include:

No. Title Performer(s) Length
1. « The Old Home Guard » Reginald Owen  
2. « The Age of Not Believing«  Angela Lansbury  
3. « With a Flair » David Tomlinson  
4. « Eglantine » Tomlinson  
5. « Don’t Let Me Down » Lansbury  
6. « Portobello Road«  Tomlinson  
7. « The Beautiful Briny«  Tomlinson & Lansbury  
8. « Substitutiary Locomotion » Tomlinson, Lansbury]], Ian Weighill, Cindy O’Callaghan & Roy Snart  
9. « A Step in the Right Direction«  Lansbury  
10. « Nobody’s Problems » Lansbury  

Stage musical adaptation

There is a stage musical adaptation of Bedknobs and Broomsticks, which features the songs from the film by the Sherman Brothers, with additional music and lyrics by Neil Bartram, and a book by Brian Hill. The original production, which was directed by Candice Edmunds and Jamie Harrison, opened at the Theatre Royal, Newcastle, in August 2021 and is currently touring the UK and Ireland. It was produced by Michael Harrison, by special arrangement with Disney Theatrical Productions.


Vous aimerez aussi...

Laisser un commentaire

Votre adresse e-mail ne sera pas publiée. Les champs obligatoires sont indiqués avec *