Now here’s an actor, I never fully thought ever got his due. He was utterly brilliant in several films, mostly Bedknobs and Broomsticks, Mary Poppins and The Love Bug for Disney, but also a few others. He played the foil in so many of these films, and was so believable and real that he was never fully embraced for his contribution for the success of these films. For these films to be as successful as they were they had to have a bad guy that was convincing and despicable. He could come off as slimy and snooty and arrogant, and so much of it was so totally opposite of his true lovable persona off-screen.
Of the more than 50 motion pictures he appeared in during his career, however, his most popular role was as the rigid and positively clueless father George Banks in Mary Poppins. As Ed Weiner wrote in TV Guide, “Of all the movie moments we hold dear from childhood and revisit most often with our children on video, Tomlinson as a changed and suddenly life-loving George Banks happily singing ‘Let’s Go Fly a Kite’ is one of the sweetest.” Tomlinson also voices several of the animated characters that Bert and Mary Poppins encounter in the chalk drawing, including a penguin waiter and the jockey who allows Mary Poppins to pass on her carousel horse. He also voices the Parrot Umbrella Handle at the end of the movie. Robert Stevenson who directed Mary Poppins, liked working with Tomlinson so much that he cast him in two more of his movies; The Love Bug (1968) and Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971).
Tomlinson was a generous and gregarious man by nature and had some famous life-long friends, like Peter Sellers. Peter Sellers and David performed in The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu and David brought out the best in Sellers. He said of him, “The only person I want to see is David,” Sellers remarked in hospital shortly before his death. This was the last film for both of them as David would retire and was only seen on the stage after that. Another friend, Griff Rhys Jones said of him, “His was an act, a good one, supplemented by an outrageous baby face and upswept eyebrows. The reality was a sympathetic and understanding man. He was as funny off as he was on, which was invariably very funny indeed.”
Craig Brown also tells a great story about Tomlinson, “Many years later, I became friends with David Tomlinson, the marvellous English character actor who played Mr Banks. We were once having lunch in a crowded restaurant with David, when our little son asked him if he would sing: Let’s Go Fly A Kite. Without hesitating, David, who was then in his late 70s, launched in to a hearty rendition at the very top of his voice. The restaurant came to a standstill. When he came to an end, everyone burst into applause.”
Read more about Mary Poppins from Craig Brown: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2111741/When-Mary-Poppins.html#ixzz4CE52227E