February 4, 2024 | Sarah Ng

Matthew Garber, The Tragic Mary Poppins Star


Matthew Garber is best known for his role in 1964’s Mary Poppins—but few know that the adorable child actor met a tragic end.


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A Promising Child Star

When it came to his early success, seven-year-old Matthew Garber had a natural acting talent. He impressed Disney casting agents with his “artful dodges” and easy mannerisms, landing his debut role in The Three Lives of Thomasina, quickly followed by the beloved classic, Mary Poppins. But following this bright start, Garber struggled to maintain his grip on stardom.

Sadly, the actor had to wait three, long years before landing his third and final role in The Gnome-Mobile, which was a disappointment at the box office. Afterward, Garber made a shocking move: He completely abandoned the acting world. Returning to his studies, Garber had his whole life ahead of him. Then everything went wrong.

"Mary Poppins" Film StillDonaldson Collection, Getty Images

A Tragic End

At the age of 21, Garber’s life took a horrific turn. While spending some time in India in 1976, he contracted hepatitis. His father rushed him to London for treatment—but it was already too late. The disease had reached his pancreas. On June 13, 1977, Matthew Garber tragically died from haemorrhagic necrotising pancreatitis.

Down the road, Garber’s old co-star on Mary Poppins, Karen Dotrice, made a heart-wrenching confession: “I wished I had picked up the phone over the years, I wished I had treated him more like a brother; but he’s indelibly printed in all of our minds, he’s eternal. An amazing little soul.”


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