George Banks, more commonly known as "Mr. Banks", is the main redeemed hero in the 1964 film Mary Poppins. He is similar in character to George Darling from Peter Pan, and was inspired by P.L. Travers' own father, himself a strict, no-nonsense banker and was inspired by Elias Disney as well.
George is a junior officer in one of London's banks. According to dialogue, he has worked there for many years. It is also mentioned that his father (thus Jane and Michael's paternal grandfather) had worked there too.
George believes that his family should be run like a bank, making the family efficient, but also making him a distant husband and father. He's not really considered to be an evil person, but he is a stern, practical man, and initially believes that his children (and all children of the time in general for that matter) should be prepared for adult life in their youth, rather than allowed to have fun, as he believe having fun is "ridiculous". He also callously dismisses the "Votes for Women" movement that his wife is involved in, as her cause makes him furious. However, after the events of the film, he changes and becomes a much more caring and devoted family man.
According to the Special Edition Soundtrack Bonus Disc, it was originally intended that the script hint in several places that Mary Poppins was George's nanny when he was a child. However, this seems to have been largely left out of the film.
Role in film
George is initially seen at the beginning of the film walking home from work. He runs into Katie Nanna on his way in, but doesn't know she has quit. After his introductory song, which reveals his opinions on how a family of his day must be led, he realizes that his daughter, Jane, and son, Michael, are missing and thus takes matters into his own hands. As he is calling the police, Constable Jones brings the children home; they had become separated from Katie Nanna while having trouble with their kite. He tells Ellen to take the children to the nursery (term used in those days to refer to the children's quarters), and declares that he intends to discuss the matter with Katie Nanna, only to find out that she had quit due to the children's seeming unruliness, enraging him.
Noting that his wife Winifred's choices for a nanny have failed for a quarter of a year, he decides that he will select the next person himself. He drafts an advertisement, calling for a strict nanny who "can give commands" and "mold the breed". Jane and Michael come with their own advertisement, calling for a kind nanny who will play with them, sing songs, be very beautiful, and give them rewards for being good. George politely dismisses his kids and when they are not looking; he tears it up and throws it in the fireplace before lighting it for the night.
The next day, he prepares to interview the nanny applicants. However, the only applicant is Mary Poppins, who mysteriously has the advertisement that Jane and Michael had written. While Mary discusses her hiring with George, he himself is so confused about the recovery of the advertisement that he mumbles to acknowledge her as he looks in the rubble in the fireplace; as a running gag every time somebody asks him something or comes next to him he hits his head on the fireplace roof. When he mumbles during his look at it; he unintentionally mumbles out a "Yes" when Mary asks if she can have the job; thus unwittingly hiring her.
The next morning, George is puzzled by the unusual cheerfulness of the rest of the household, and is rather annoyed by it, as he expects everyone to be more practical and less noisy. He is accused of being out of sorts by Winifred, which infuriates him, and he storms out the door to work. That night, he becomes worried by his children's outrageous tales of their adventures with Mary. He asks to speak to Mary, and dialogue from Ellen and Mrs. Brill suggest that he is preparing to fire her. However, Mary turns the discussion around in her and the kids' favor, and is able to make him believe that he has suggested that he take the children to the bank where he works. George is pleased with the idea, as he believes that it will help the children to be more practical.
The next morning, George walks with his children to the bank. On the way, the children see the Bird Woman, whom Mary had told them about the night before. They ask permission from their father to feed the birds, but he angrily refuses, believing it to be a waste of money and time, and he suggests what he believes to be a better way. At the bank, he introduces the children to his bosses, Mr. Dawes Sr. and Jr.. Alongside the other officers, George attempt to convince Michael to deposit his tuppence into the bank by telling them about the world of finance and what he can do with all the money he can accumulate in a bank account of his own. Michael of course refuses and says he wants to donate to the Bird Woman, but Mr. Dawes, Sr., finds an opportunity, and takes the tuppence from him anyways. Michael's attempts to retrieve it cause a run on the bank. In the chaos, the children run away with the tuppence as George tries to help the Dawes stop the chaos and stop his kids.
That night, George angrily returns home, to find Mary, Bert, and a swarm of chimney sweeps partying in his home. Bert sends the sweeps away and hires himself as the family sweep in a similar manner to Mary's hiring. He strictly finally asks Mary what is going on in her career with the family, but she refuses to tell him. Bert talks to him while he is gathering his brooms. He recounts his belief that Mary had tricked him into the bank outing in order to embarrass him. Bert sympathizes, but hints that George has become so consumed by work, that he has failed to be a loving father to his children, and a loving husband to Winifred. After Bert leaves, the children come (dressed in their nightclothes) and Michael gives his father the tuppence, innocently believing that that will fix everything. George, slowly changing his heart, gently accepts the offering and politely asks his kids to go to bed.
George is called back to the bank. There, the bank's senior officers hold him responsible for causing the bank run, which has been the bank's greatest money loss "since we financed that tea shipment to the American Colonies that got ruined by those rebels" (The Boston Tea Party). As punishment, he is fired, by being cashiered, in which his bowler hat is torn and his umbrella is pulled inside out. Momentarily somber, he then feels happy and wears the smashed bowler hat with pride and uses the destroyed umbrella like a walking stick. When asked if he had anything to say, he remembers and for the first time correctly pronounces Mary's special word, "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious". Laughing, because the word serves to make him feel better, he leaves in a better mood, even stopping to tell a joke to Mr. Dawes Sr.. Notably, the joke was one that Michael had told him earlier, but one that George had shrugged off at the time. Soon after he leaves, Mr. Dawes Sr. rapidly laughs his guts out and his lifeless body flies in the air (he dies laughing).
The next morning, it is revealed that he had spent the night in the basement, fixing Jane and Michael's broken kite. He then takes his entire family kite-flying, having apparently resolved to be a better father and husband. While kite-flying, he is met by Mr. Dawes Jr., who informs him that Mr. Dawes Sr. died laughing the night before. He expresses his condolences, but Mr. Dawes, Jr., notes that his father had died happier than ever in his life as a result of hearing George's joke. In gratitude, Mr. Dawes Jr. (who has now taken over the bank) promotes him to a partner to fill the vacancy that was left by him taking over the bank. At the film's close, George is seen happily flying kites with his family.
Mary Poppins (musical)
Like the film, the musical depicts George as a stern, practical man, who is somewhat out of touch with his family. But rather than being fired for indirectly causing a bank run, George is shown having to choose accounts for the bank to invest in. He chooses a middle class man's factory over a rich man's Ponzi scheme, which appears to harm the bank. As a result, he is suspended and he takes his anger out on his family.
The second act reveals that George had a very harsh nanny (named Mrs. Andrews) growing up, whom he describes as a holy terror after Winifred hires her in an attempt to please him. Later on, George hides in the park, depressed about his lack of achievements. Winfred discovers him, and learns how he suffered at the hands of Mrs. Andrews. After returning home, he receives a telegram requesting his presence at the bank. He worries that he is to be fired, and decides to sell the family heirloom. However it is accidentally broken by Mrs. Brill, who had been cleaning it. As he is cleaning up the pieces, he finds some gingerbread stars from his childhood.
He briefly reflects, and then goes to meet the bank chairman. At the bank, he is amazed to learn that the bank considers him a hero, as his previous investment has made a fortune for the bank. He gives Mary Poppins's word as the word of success. He apologizes to Winifred, who had come to the bank to defend him, for his treatment of her. George then returns home, happily waltzing with his wife, as his children look on.
- He shares a similairty to Sheldon Cooper from the CBS sitcom The Big Bang Theory. They both have compulsive personalities and cannot tolerate changes to their routine.
- He is one of five Disney fathers who have serious personalities the others being Simba, George Darling, Robert Philip and King Triton.
- He is similar in appearance to Charlie Chaplin including his moustache, suit, and bowler hat.