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Feed the birds. On this day 50 years ago, Mary Poppins was first seen in cinemas

Having been an iconic part of London's skyline for more than 300 years, St Paul's has regularly found its way into popular culture.
 
From Canaletto's oil paintings of the 1700s to Doctor Who's Cybermen invading the City in the 1960s, Wren's great dome has provided a fitting backdrop to many a scene.
 
But one of the most-cherished moments for many, is the use of the Cathedral's steps in the set for the now iconic Feed the Birds song from the Disney film version of Mary Poppins.
 
Released for the first time exactly 50 years ago on 27 August 1964, Mary Poppins has remained one of the silver screen's most enduring classics, watched by children and families the world over.
 
And right at the very heart of the movie, highlighting the merits of giving to charity, is Feed the Birds - a song which shows the Bird Woman sitting on the Cathedral steps selling crumbs for tuppence a bag.

Watch Feed the Birds


Written by Richard and Robert Sherman, the famous tune recurs throughout the film, but features most prominently when Mary, played by Julie Andrews, sings to the Banks children about the Bird Woman.

Referring to the numerous statues atop the Cathedral, one verse is sung:
All around the cathedral the saints and apostles
Look down as she sells her wares
Although you can't see it, you know they are smiling
Each time someone shows that he cares
 
Although the part of the Bird Woman only has one line in the film, far from being an obscure actress, the role was played by Oscar winner Jane Darwell, who picked up the award for Best Supporting Actress in 1940 film, The Grapes of Wrath. Talked out of retirement by a persistent Walt Disney, her appearance in Mary Poppins would be her last, at the age of 84.
 
It is reputed that Feed the Birds became Walt Disney's most loved song and also that it was a part of the film that Mary Poppins' author, P L Travers, did not object to.

Watch Victoria Coren Mitchell talk about Feed the Birds in a BBC Culture Show special, The Secret Life of Mary Poppins, broadcast earlier in 2014
 
Today, St Paul's association with Mary Poppins remains as strong as ever. Although visitors are now encouraged not to feed the pigeons on the steps, many come to have their photos taken in the same spot as the Bird Woman.
 
And the Cathedral shop continues to sell a number of Feed the Birds inspired gifts.