Deeper into Jeopardy! XLI: Disney Songs – Final Jeopardy!

Final Jeopardy! category: DISNEY SONGS (24-5-2013)

Final Jeopardy! clue: This 1964 song was inspired when one of the writer’s sons took the oral polio vaccine

Correct response

The gist: Apparently, you used to get more than a lollipop after your polio vaccine. Robert Sherman came up with the idea for the song “A Spoonful of Sugar” for the film Mary Poppins when he asked his son if the polio vaccine hurt, and got the unexpected response that it had been put on a sugar cube and given to him to eat. He had been struggling to come up with a catchy song that would hook Julie Andrews into the title role. Thinking that his son’s medical experience might be just what he was looking for, he convinced his brother and writing partner Richard the next day that his idea had legs. Together they composed the beloved song that also served as Andrews’ character’s leitmotif throughout the film.

The polio vaccine that Sherman’s son took would have been the one developed by Albert Sabin, an oral vaccine commonly that consists of attenuated poliovirus and commonly administered via sugar cube. The more better-known vaccine, based on dead poliovirus, was developed by Jonas Salk in the early 1950s. The development, testing, and rolling out of the vaccine comprises the largest medical experiment in human history, including throughout its duration 1.8 million American children, including the test, placebo, and control groups. The results of the experiment were announced on April 12th, 1955, the tenth anniversary of the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt (in office 1933-1945), whose childhood adult (thanks, Kevin!) bout with polio confined him to a wheelchair in his private life, though never in public. Of the four strains of polio the vaccine was meant to inoculate against, it conferred 60% protection against one, 90% against two, and 94% against the remaining one – a wild success by anyone’s estimation. It was licensed and introduced into the childhood vaccine schedule soon after the results were announced, and U.S. polio cases fell from 35,000 to 161 cases between 1953 and 1961. More recently, international bodies have launched worldwide inoculation programs, usually using the Sabin oral vaccine. Today the disease is endemic only to Nigeria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, and efforts are fully underway in those areas as well.

Sabin's oral vaccine being put on sugarcubes

Sabin’s oral vaccine being put on sugarcubes

The clue: The key here is to generalize from “polio vaccine” – what are film songs (Disney movies if you like, but if you’re unfamiliar with studios that might just confuse you) from that era that involve medicine in some capacity? “A Spoonful of Sugar” ought definitely to come to mind, and all three contestants responded correctly to this one. Plus, the clue mentions kids, and it’s not only a children’s song but it’s sung in the movie to a group of children. But as a fact that few people are likely to know as-is, this clue makes a great FJ! clue, requiring a bit of thought to arrive at a song that everybody knows.

In Jeopardy!: A film standard, “A Spoonful of Sugar” is in ten regular clues in the J!Archive, plus this one FJ!. Mary Poppins, naturally, appears in six of them. The rest either want “spoonful” as an inexact measurement or are about sugar and are using the “spoonful” as a coy clue. Plus, it’s always good to know that Mary Poppins came out in 1964 – by the way, Ms. Andrews won Best Actress and the Sherman brothers Best Original Score at the 1965 Academy Awards, but the film lost Best Picture to My Fair Lady.

2 thoughts on “Deeper into Jeopardy! XLI: Disney Songs – Final Jeopardy!

  1. Really like these recaps. Always learn a lot quickly. Just wanted to point out that FDR got polio as an adult and well into his political career.

    • Whoops, absolutely right. I had thought for so long that he was a childhood polio sufferer that I didn’t even bother to check that bit of readily-available information. Thanks for the correction, and for keeping me honest!

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