- “The man's gone mad. Call the guard!”
- ―Mr. Dawes Sr.
Mr. Dawes Sr. is the director of London's main financial center, George Banks's former greedy and serious boss and the main antagonist in Mary Poppins despite his small role. In the closing credits, Dick Van Dyke was credited as Navckid Keyd, an anagram of his name, for Mr. Dawes Sr. The letters arranged themselves to reveal the actor's real name.
Considered a giant in the world of finance (impressing even Michael) during the year 1910, Mr. Dawes is the elderly chairman of the London bank that employs George Banks. He has apparently been in charge for a good many years, as he is able to recall when George's father worked for the bank. By the time of the film, however, he has become very elderly. He is known to lose his balance easily, even when walking with a cane, and wheezes often. However, he still seems to have his wits about him, as he is able to successfully run the bank. George, as well as the other bank members, try hard to please him.
However, this success does not seem to continue into other aspects of his life. Mr. Dawes, like his employee George, is a very practical man and believes such things as feeding birds to be a waste of time and money. He has one known son, Mr. Dawes Jr., who also works at the bank, and their relationship does not appear to be very loving.
Role in the film
Mr. Dawes appears as George is taking Jane and Michael on a tour of his bank. He quietly explains to them about Mr. Dawes and his prestigious reputation. Mr. Dawes, after hearing from George that his children wish to open an account with their tuppence, he appears delighted, as he started around the same age. Michael rejects this idea, saying that he simply wanted to feed the birds. Mr. Dawes scoffs at the notion and begins trying to convince the children of the wonders of finance. Michael starts to consider the offer, but when he starts to open his hand, Mr. Dawes takes the tuppence without asking. Enraged, Michael attempts to retrieve it, unintentionally causing a run on the bank. Finally, he snatches it from Mr. Dawes and runs off with Jane.
Later that night, Mr. Dawes summons George back to the bank. With Mr. Dawes instructing his son on what to say, Mr. Dawes Jr. fires George, for indirectly causing the bank run by failing to control Michael's behavior. Mr. Dawes then asks if George has anything to say, but is frightened when he suddenly begins laughing. George, in a sudden good mood, says "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious", then tells Mr. Dawes a joke, one which Michael had told him earlier. He then leaves singing "A Spoonful of Sugar". While Mr. Dawes Jr., comments that George must have gone mad, Mr. Dawes ponders the joke. He suddenly gets it and begins laughing. Much to the surprise of the other bank officers, he floats up into the air.
The next morning, George takes his family kite flying as part of his new resolution to be a better family man. There, he meets Mr. Dawes Jr., who is flying kites with the other bank officers. He compliments George on his joke, stating that Mr. Dawes had literally died laughing. George expresses his condolences, but Mr. Dawes Jr. responds that there is nothing to be sorry about. He continues, saying that his father had never been happier in his life, and offers George a partnership in the bank, which has been left open by Mr. Dawes' death.
Mary Poppins (musical)
Though unnamed, a character with the same position as Mr. Dawes, appears in the musical version of Mary Poppins. Known as the bank manager, he is George's boss. In the musical, the bank run scene is cut, and replaced with a situation in which George, choosing potential bank investments, chooses a middle-class man's factory project over a rich man's money making scheme. When things look bad at the bank, the manager suspends him without pay.
In the second act, the manager summons George to the bank. But instead of firing him, he commends him. Apparently, his earlier choice had made a fortune for the bank. He asks what word made him so successful, to which him responds with Mary Poppins' magic word. In another scene, Winifred mentions his old cruel nanny, Ms. Andrew, to which the manager responds, "The Holy Terror", hinting that he had her as a child.