Dame Angela Lansbury

I still watch Murder, She Wrote because I like the show and the character Jessica Fletcher played by the great Angela Lansbury.  My 7 year old son is also a fan of Jessica Fletcher’s.  Before taking on the role of a mystery writer in one of the longest running detective drama series in television history, Angela was a silver screen movie star.  My husband thought she was hot then.

Angela is a versatile actress, easily portraying an unlikable and cheeky maid in Gaslight opposite Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer to the music hall singer who, unfortunately and tragically, falls in love with the protagonist, Dorian Gray in the movie, The Picture of Dorian Gray to the frightening and domineering mother in The Manchurian Candidate.  Her performance as Mrs. John Iselin in The Manchurian Candidate is ranked #21 in the American Film Institute’s 100 Years…100 Heroes and Villains for villains.

Angela was born to an upper middle class family on October 16, 1925 in Regent’s Park, central London. Her mother, Moyna Macgill, was a Belfast born Irish actress and her father was the wealthy English timber merchant and politician Edgar Lansbury.  He was a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain and former mayor of the Metropolitan Borough of Poplar.  Her paternal grandfather was the Labour Party leader and anti-war activist George Lansbury.  Angela was in awe of him and to her, he was “a giant in my youth”.  Angela had an older half-sister, Isolde from her mother’s previous marriage.  When Angela was four, her mother gave birth to twin boys, Bruce and Edgar, prompting the Lansburys to move from their Poplar flat to a house in Mill Hill, North London.  In the weekends, they went to a rural farm in Berrick Salome, Oxfordshire.

She was nine years old when her father died from stomach cancer.  To cope with her loss, she played characters, describing the event as “the defining moment of my life.  Nothing before or since has affected me so deeply.”  Faced with financial difficulty, her mother got engaged to a Scottish colonel and moved into his house in Hampstead.  Angela attended South Hampstead High School from 1934 to 1939.  She considered herself to be largely self-educated, learning from books, theatre and cinema.  She became a “complete movie maniac”, going regularly to the cinema and imagining herself as certain characters.

Angela’s grandfather died in 1940 and with the onset of the Blitz, her mother, Moyna took her and her brothers to the United States.  Her half-sister, Isolde remained in Britain with her new husband, actor Peter Ustinov.  Angela’s mother got a job supervising sixty British children who were evacuated to North America aboard the Duchess of Athol, arriving with them in Montreal, Canada in mid-August.  From Montreal they went by train to New York City where Moyna was sponsored financially by a Wall Street businessman and moved in with his family at their home in Mahopac, New York.  Angela got a scholarship from the American Theatre Wing which allowed her to study at the Feagin School of Drama and Radio.  There she appeared in performances of William Congreve’s The Way of the World and Oscar Wilde’s Lady Windermere’s Fan.  By the time she graduated, she and her family had moved to a flat in Morton Street, Greenwich Village.

Moyna got work in a Canadian touring production of Tonight at 8:30.  Angela joined her mother who got her first theatrical job as a nightclub act at the Samovar Club in Montreal.  She lied about her age to get the job and earned $60 a week.  She returned to New York city but her mother had moved to Hollywood to revive her cinematic career.  Angela and her brothers joined her.  After moving into a bungalow in Laurel Canyon, Angela and her mother got Christmas jobs at the Bullocks Wilshire department store in Los Angeles but unfortunately, Moyna got fired for incompetence.  The family had to live on Angela’s wages of $28 at week.

Angela met John van Druten at a party hosted by her mother.  He recently co-authored a script for Gaslight.  He suggested that Angela would be perfect for the role of Nancy Oliver, a conniving cockney maid and she accepted the part although at the time she was only 17.  A social worker had to accompany her on the set.  She got an agent and was signed to a seven-year contract with MGM, earning $500 a week.  She adopted “Angela Lansbury” as her stage name.  The movie received mixed reviews although Angela’s role was widely praised.  It received six Academy Award nominations, one of which was for Best Supporting Actress for Angela.

Following Gaslight, Angela starred in a supporting character in National Velvet which was a major commercial hit.  Angela developed a lifelong friendship with co-star Elizabeth Taylor.  I remember that the two friends appeared together in Agatha Christie’s The Mirror Crack’d with Angela in the role of the endearing Miss Marple.

Angela next starred in The Picture of Dorian Gray with Hurd Hatfield, George Sanders, Donna Reed and Peter Lawford.  Surprisingly, at least to me, the film was not a financial success.  However, it garnered Angela her second Best Supporting Actress nomination.  She lost to her National Velvet co-star Anne Revere.

Angela married Richard Cromwell, an artist and a decorator.  When I saw a photo of him, I recognized him as the brother of Henry Fonda’s character in the marvelous movie, Jezebel.  Angela’s marriage to Richard was a trouble one.  She would later disclose that he was gay, something she was not aware of until after their separation.  The marriage ended in less than a year and Angela filed for a divorce.  They remained friends, however, until his death.

Angela met her second husband, Peter Pullen Shaw at a party held by her former co-star Hurd Hatfield.  Hurd would later be a guest star on Murder She Wrote.  Peter was an aspiring actor also signed with MGM and had recently left a relationship with Joan Crawford.  He and Angela became a couple, living together before she proposed marriage.  They wanted to get married in Britain but the Church of England refused to marry two divorcees.  So, they wed at St. Columba’s Church which was under the jurisdiction of the Church of Scotland in Knightsbridge, London.  They had their honeymoon in France.  They returned to the United States and settled in Angela’s home in Rustic Canyon, Malibu, each becoming naturalised U.S. citizens with dual British citizenship.

Angela’s contract with MGM ended in 1952.  She was miscast, playing older and often villainous women.  Earlier in her career, MGM loaned her to United Artists for The Private Affairs of Bel Ami in 1947 and then to Paramount for Samson and Delilah (1949).  Unhappy with the roles MGM was giving her, Angela instructed her manager to terminate her contract.  At the time she was pregnant with her first child, Anthony whom she gave birth to that year.  Soon after he was born, she joined the East Coast touring productions of two former Broadway plays, Remains to be Seen and Affairs of the State.  In 1953, Angela gave birth to her daughter, Deidre Angela.  Angela’s husband, Peter had a son by a previous marriage and had legal custody of him.  He brought the boy to California to live with the family.  They moved to a larger house in Santa Monica.

In the mid-fifties Angela entered the world of Broadway theatre.  In 1957 she debuted in Hotel Paradiso, a French burlesque set in Paris, at the Henry Miller Theatre.  Although the play ran for only 15 weeks, earning her good reviews, she later stated that had she not appeared in the play, her “whole would have fizzled out”.  Next she appeared in A Taste of Honey, playing Helen, a boorish and verbally abusive absentee mother of Josephine played by Joan Plowright who was only four years younger.  Angela became friends with Joan and Laurence Olivier, Joan’s lover.  It was from Angela’s rented apartment on East 97th Street that Joan and Laurence eloped to get married.

Angela didn’t feel comfortable in the Hollywood social scene.  She chalked this up to her British roots. “In Hollywood, I always felt like a stranger in a strange land.”  In 1959, the family moved to Malibu where they settled into a house on the Pacific Coast Highway where she and Peter were able to escape the Hollywood scene and send their children to state school.

In 1962, Angela starred opposite Lawrence Harvey in The Manchurian Candidate, playing his manipulative mother even though she was only three years older than him.  The role earned her her third Best Supporting Actress Award nomination.  It bothered her that she didn’t win.  Angela starred in several movies in the 1960s but although her performances were well received, the kind of roles she wanted evaded her and she became dissatisfied with the minor roles she was getting, feeling that none of them allowed her to explore her potential as an actress.

I was a wife and a mother, and I was completely fulfilled. But my husband recognised the signals in me which said ‘I’ve been doing enough gardening, I’ve cooked enough good dinners, I’ve sat around the house and mooned about what more interior decoration I can get my fingers into.’ It’s a curious thing with actors and actresses, but suddenly the alarm goes off. My husband is a very sensitive person to my moods and he recognised the fact that I had to get on with something. Mame came along out of the blue just at this time. Now isn’t that a miracle? – Angela Lansbury

In 1966 Angela took on the title role of Mame Dennis in the musical Mame, the musical adapted from the novel, Auntie Mame.  The director’s first choice for the role was Rosalind Russell who played Mame in the non-musical adaptation but she declined.  Theatre critics were surprised that Angela was chosen for the role, believing that the role would go to a better known actress.  Angela was forty-one at the time and this was her first starring role.  She trained extensively for the role which involved over twenty costume changes throughout the play and ten songs and dance routines.  Auntie Mame opened on Broadway in May 1996, gaining Angela rave reviews.  She received her first Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical.  Following her success as Mame, Angela appeared in Dear World, the musical adaptation of The Madwoman of Chailott, as a 75 year old Parisian eccentric.  Angela found the experience “pretty depressing” but received positive reviews for her performance and her second Tony award.   The show, however, received critical reviews and ended after 132 performances.  After Dear World, Angela played the title role of the musical Prettybelle, based on Jean Arnold’s The Rape of Prettybelle, set in the Deep South.  It was a controversial play because it dealt with issues of racism with Angela as a wealthy alcoholic who seeks sexual encounters with black men.  It opened in Boston to poor reviews and was cancelled before it even reached Broadway.  Angela would later say that the play was a “complete and utter fiasco.”  She felt that her performance was awful.

In the early 1970s Angela turned down several cinematic roles, including the role of Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest which went to Louise Fletcher who won the Oscar for Best Actress.  In 1970 Angela appeared as the middle-aged English witch in the Disney film, Beadknobs and Broomsticks, her first lead in a screen musical.  1970 was a traumatic year for the Lansbury family.  Peter underwent a hip replacement, their son Anthony suffered a heroin overdose and went into a coma and the family’s home in Malibu was destroyed in a bush fire.  They bought a farmhouse constructed in the 1820s located near the village of Conna in rural County Cork.  It was there Anthony was taken to receover from his drug addiction after he quit using cocaine and heroin.  He enrolled in the Webber-Douglas School, his mother’s alma mater and became a professional actor before becoming a television director.  Angela and her husband did not return to California, instead, they divided their time between Cork and New York City.  They lived opposite the Lincoln Centre.

Angela returned to theatre in 1972, performing in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s theatrical production of Edward Albee’s All Over in London’s West End.  Although reviews of the play were mixed, her performance was widely praised.  She did a revival of Mame which was touring the United States at the time.  She returned to the West End to play Rose in the musical Gypsy.  Initially, she turned down the role because she didn’t want to be in Ethel Merman’s shadow.  Ethel had portrayed the character in the original Broadway production.  Eventually, Angela accepted the role and she received a standing ovation and rave reviews.  Not at all in anyone’s shadow, she was in demand among the London society, having dinners in her honour.  When Gypsy went to Broadway, it was a critical success, earning Angela her third Tony Award.

Eager to move on from musicals, Angela decided to tackle a production of one of William Shakespeare’s plays and landed the role of Gertrude in The National Theatre Company’s production of Hamlet.  The play received mixed reviews.  Angela later admitted that she hated the role because it was too restrained. To make matters worse, she learned that her mother had died in California. Angela had her mother’s body cremated and her ashes scattered near to her own County Cork home.

Angela appeared in Edward Albee’s Counting the Ways and Listening.  Her performance was praised.  She followed this with another revival tour of Gypsy.  She appeared in the revival of The King and I musical at Broadway’s Uris Theatre.  After seven years, she starred in her first cinematic role in Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile, opposite her brother-in-law Peter Ustinov and Bette Davis who became a close friend. Of Bette, she had this to say, “She is an original. There has never been anyone, before or since, who could touch her.”

In 1979 she earned her fourth Tony Award playing Nellie Lovett in Sweeney Todd:  The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.  In 1982 she played an upper middle class housewife in A Little Family Business which also starred her son, Anthony.  The movie was panned and accused of racism by the Japanese-American community.  She co-starred with friend Bette Davis in the film made for television, Little Gloria…Happy at Last.  She appeared in other television movies, one of which was BBC’s A Talent for Murder which she jumped at the chance to take in order to work with co-star Laurence Olivier.

Then in 1983, Angela was offered two television roles–one was in a sitcom and the other was in a detective series.  She was unable to do both so her agents advised her to accept the sitcom role but she decided to accept the other role.  And we are thrilled that she did!  Angela described her character Jessica Fletcher as “an American Miss Marple”.  It’s interesting that she said that because she played Miss Marple in The Mirror Crack’d.  She played the sleuth the way Agatha Christie described the her unlike Margaret Rutherford who made the role famous.  The role of Jessica Fletcher had been offered to Jean Stapleton first but she turned it down.  I must say that I am happy that she did because I can’t imagine anyone else playing the part.  Angela was the perfect choice.

Angela took her role as Jessica Fletcher very seriously and had creative input over the character’s costumes, makeup and hair.  Network executives wanted to put the character in a relationship which Angela strongly rejected, believing that the character should remain a strong single female.  She changed any script which did not fit Jessica’s personality.  She saw Jessica as a role model for older female viewers and praised her “enormous, universal appeal” and admitted that, “It was an accomplishment I never expected in my entire life.”  Murder, She Wrote was described as a television landmark in the U.S. for having an older female character as the protagonist, paving the way for series like The Golden Girls, another show I enjoyed tremendously.  “I think it’s the first time a show has really been aimed at the middle aged audience,” Angela said.  It was the most popular show among senior citizens but it gradually gained a younger audience.  By 1991, a third of the viewers were under fifty.  It gained high ratings throughout most of its run.

I know why [Murder, She Wrote was a success]. There was never any blood, never any violence. And there was always a satisfying conclusion to a whodunit. The jigsaw was complete. And I loved Jessica’s everywoman character. I think that’s what made her so acceptable to an across-the-board audience – Angela Lansbury, 2014.

As the show went on Angela assumed a larger role behind the scenes with her own company, Corymore co-producing the show with Universal.  After a while, though she began to get tired of the series, especially of the long working hours and said that the 1990-1991 would be the show’s last season.  However, she changed her mind after she was appointed executive producer for the 1992-1993 season, which made it far more interesting for her.  For the seventh season, the show’s setting moved to New York where Jessica had taken a job teaching criminology at Manhattan University in an attempt to attract younger viewers.  Angela encouraged this move.  The show aired on Sunday where its ratings improved in the early 1990s.  People had gotten used to tuning in every Sunday night to see what murder mystery Jessica Fletcher would be solving so it was unfortunate when CBS executives got the bright idea to move it to Thursdays opposite NBCs new sitcom, Friends with the hope of drawing a larger audience.  Not surprisingly, Angela was angry at this move, believing that it ignored the show’s core audience.  The show’s final episode aired in May 1996 and ended with Angela voicing a “Goodbye from Jessica” message.  The role of Jessica Fletcher would prove to be the most successful and prominent of Angela’s career.  It must have been hard saying goodbye to Jessica Fletcher for Angela and the faithful viewers.  All good things must come to an end.  Sigh.

After the end of Murder, She Wrote, Angela returned to the theatre.  Fast forward to March to June 2014 when Angela reprised her 2009 Tony winning Broadway performance as Madame Arcati in Blithe Spirit at the Gielgud Theatre in London’s West End, marking her first London stage appearance in nearly 40 years.  She picked up her first Olivier award, Britain’s most prestigious prize a the age of 89 for Blithe Spirit.  It’s worth mentioning that Angela received an Academy Honorary Award for her lifetime achievement at the Governors Awards on November 16, 2013 and received the Oscar Hammerstein Award for Lifetime Achievement in Musical Theatre on November 16, 2015.

I read a few interesting things about Angela.  I will just mention a few.  In the late 1940s, MGM planned to cast her as the female lead in a film entitled “Angel’s Flight” with Clark Gable but the project never came through because Mr. Gable disliked the storyline, so the studio had to squash the entire project.  She was considered for the role of Miss Caswell in All About Eve (1950), but Marilyn Monroe was cast in the role instead.  Frank Sinatra wanted Lucille Ball for the role of Mrs. Iselin, the manipulative mother in The Manchurian Candidate but Angela got the part and played it convincingly.  I don’t know if Lucille Ball would have pulled it off.  Angela is a staunch Democrat and a solid supporter of Barack Obama.  She was very close friends with Bob Hope.  She gave a speech at his memorial service on August 27, 2003.  Her nephew David Lansbury was married to actress Ally Sheedy, The Breakfast Club.

Angela was self-professed homebody who preferred spending quiet evenings inside with friends to the Hollywood night live.  She is a supporter of the United States Democratic Party and the British Labour Party.  Notes to Women celebrate this remarkable woman who is a staunch supporter of charities such as Abused Wives in Crisis which combated domestic abuse and those who worked toward rehabilitating drug users.  She supported charities dedicated to fighting against HIV/AIDs.  She was a chain smoker early in life but gave up the addiction cold turkey in the mid-1960s.  We congratulate her on her promotion to Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in the 2014 New Year Honours for services to drama and to charitable work and philanthropy.  Last year she was made a Dame by the Queen at Windsor Castle.  This honour couldn’t have happened to a more deserving lady.  Dame Angela, we applaud you for the work you have done in movies and in theatre and most importantly, your charitable deeds.

The older I get, the more I realize how much I have missed because I was so busy entertaining that audience and so busy pursuing a career.
I just went along for the ride. It was a God-given gift. It is. So you can’t say well, you wasted your life because you spent all of it acting, but I think gosh, I’ve never been to China, I’ve never been to Japan. I’ve never been to Yellowstone Park.
I had no idea that such a thing could happen. It never occurred to me.My son told me. He called me and said, “Darling, I just wanted you to know that you have been chosen to receive an honorary Academy Award.” I was in the back of this car, and I said, “Oh,” and burst into tears, of course, because it was so unexpected and quite wonderful. I thought it’s been worth hanging around all these years.
I honestly consider that the greatest gift to me, is the reaction that I get from my work. That is a given which I never, ever take for granted. But to be given that by audiences, individuals, on the street, in the theater, is an extraordinary feeling.
My mother was one of the most beautiful women, I have to say, of her generation. She was absolutely lovely. She was a very, extremely sensitive, Irish actress. She came from Belfast, Northern Ireland, and she came to London, and she was sort of discovered by several people.
~Angela Lansbury~

Sources: azquotes; Wikipedia; IMDB; Hollywood Reporter; Deadline Presents

 

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Margaret Trudeau

How many women can claim to be the wife of one Prime Minister and the mother of another?  On Monday, October 19, 2015, Margaret Trudeau watched as the results came in announcing her son Justin Trudeau as Canada’s next Prime Minister.  She watched as her son and his party went from being third in the long race to head the race and then make history as they won, garnering 184 seats, exceeding the majority of 170 seats.  According to Michael Den Tandt:

Justin Trudeau, the eldest son of Pierre Elliott Trudeau, has resurrected his party, confounded his critics, defied the naysayers and trolls, overcome his own mistakes and resoundingly defeated two tough, smart, determined opponents who cannot have imagined anything like this outcome.

A minority was presaged by many polls. A majority, and a broad one at that, is beyond the Liberals’ wildest hopes.

In pulling this off, Trudeau, 43, has made history. Canada has its first political dynasty.

I can just imagine the pride that filled Margaret and no doubt, she thought of her former husband, Pierre and how proud he would have been of their son.   When she held the infant Justin in her arms, did she ever imagine that he would one day follow in his father’s footsteps?

As I watched her with her daughter-in-law, son and grandchildren in their hotel room watching the results, I wondered who this woman was.  What was her story?

Margaret was born in Vancouver to Doris Kathleen and James Sinclair, a former Liberal member of the Parliament of Canada and the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans.  She attended Simon Fraser University where she studied English Literature.

At the age of 18, when vacationing in Tahiti, she met Pierre Trudeau, then Minister of Justice.  It seemed like she was destined to be in the world of politics.  Interestingly enough, Margaret didn’t recognize Pierre and thought little of their encounter.  However, he was captivated by this carefree “flower child”.  She was thirty years his junior but that didn’t stop him from pursuing her.

When he became Prime Minister in 1968, Pierre was still a bachelor.  After keeping their relationship private, he stunned the country by marrying 22 year old Margaret in 1971 at a private ceremony in West Vancouver.  Not surprisingly, the age difference raised some eyebrows among Canadians but this behaviour was typical of the Prime Minister who “prided himself on his progressive  views and youthful vigour”.

Pierre Trudeau was a Catholic so Margaret converted to his religion.  When asked about her role in her marriage to the Prime Minister, she said, “I want to be more than a rose in my husband’s lapel.”

Life as the wife of a Prime Minister was not easy.  It took some adjusting for Margaret.  She wrote in her memoirs, “a glass panel was gently lowered into place around me, like a patient in a mental hospital who is no longer considered able to make decisions and who cannot be exposed to a harsh light.”  They had three children, Justin being the eldest.  They appeared to have a very close and loving relationship but the marriage soon began to fall apart.  Margaret resented her husband’s frequent work-related absences.  She was forced to raise their sons on her own.  What a change this must have been for the woman who was once described as “carefree”.

Her publicity didn’t come solely from her high-profile position, unfortunately.  She made headlines when she smuggled drugs in her husband’s luggage, made scantily clad appearances at Studio 54 and ripped apart a tapestry in the Prime Minister’s official residence in Ottawa because it celebrated “reason over passion”.

The marriage disintegrated.  This led to an affair with U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy.  She associated with Ronnie Wood and Mick Jagger, members of the Rolling Stones.  She suffered from stress and bouts of bipolar depression.   In 1977, she separated from her husband.  She became a jet-setter and gave many “tell-all” interviews to Canadian and American magazines.    She even appeared in two motion pictures. Pierre Trudeau won custody of the children and did not pay spousal support.  Margaret had a difficult time earning a learning after her marriage.  She wrote Beyond Reason, a book about her marriage.  On the eve of 1979 Pierre’s party lost the majority of seats in the House of Commons.   At the same time, Margaret was at Studio 54 in New York.  A photo of her was featured on many front pages across Canada.

The Trudeaus divorced in 1984.  Not long after, Margaret married Fried Kemper, Ottawa real-estate developer.  They had two children.  Unlike her first marriage, Margaret was able to disappear from the public eye.  In 1998, Margaret experienced a devastating tragedy.  Michel, her youngest son with Pierre, was killed in an avalanche.  This led to another major depressive episode which ended her second marriage.

In 2000, when Pierre died Margaret was at his bedside with their sons, Justin and Alexandre.

Just because our marriage ended didn’t mean the love stopped – Margaret speaking of Trudeau.

What is Margaret up these days?  She is the honorary president of WaterAid Canada, an organization in Ottawa, dedicated to helping the poorest communities in developing countries to have access to safe water, improved hygiene and sanitation.  She has written the book, The Time of Your Life:  Choosing A Vibrant Joyful Future in which she offers insights into how women can live healthy, happy lives and provides stories about her own life..

Notes to Women would like to commend Margaret for the work she has been doing since she announced in 2006 that she had been suffering from bipolar disorder.  Through speaking engagements across North America, she has advocated for reducing the social stigma of mental illness, particularly bipolar disorder.  She is an honorary patron of the Canadian Mental Health Association.  She wrote about her personal experience with bipolar disorder in Changing My Mind.

She now resides in Montreal so she can be closer to her sons Justin and Alexandre.  She was there in person to celebrate Justin’s historic win with him.  Margaret Trudeau is not just the wife of Pierre Trudeau or the mother of Justin Trudeau. She is the voice of those who suffer from mental illness.  She is an inspiration for women who have battled and are battling mood swings.  She has shown that with the right doctors and right treatment, women who suffer from mental illness can rebuild their lives.

If you or someone you know would like to learn more about bipolar disorder, visit this link.

TORONTO, ON- MARCH 25 - Margaret Trudeau has written a new book,The Time of Your Life....about enjoying a joyful old age .She is seen here in Harper Collins office downtown Toronto at in Toronto, March 25, 2015. Colin McConnell/Toronto Star

TORONTO, ON- MARCH 25 – Margaret Trudeau has written a new book,The Time of Your Life….about enjoying a joyful old age .She is seen here in Harper Collins office downtown Toronto at in Toronto, March 25, 2015. Colin McConnell/Toronto Star

Sources:  Wikipedia; National Post

Dame Julie Andrews

Recently, I read how Dame Julie Andrews is still dealing with the death of her husband Blake Edwards, director of The Pink Panther and Breakfast At Tiffany’s.  Blake died in 2010 at the age of 88.  They were married for 41 years.  That is remarkable and wonderful.  Dame Julie revealed that the secret to their successful marriage was “to take it one day at a time and so, lo and behold, 41 years later there we still were.”  She admitted that there are times when she is perfectly fine and then, “it’s suddenly—sock you in the middle of your gut and you think, ‘Ah God, I wish he were here.’ But he is in a way, I think one carries that love always.”

Dame Julie had been married before to Tony Walton but they divorced in 1967.  And in 1969 she married Blake.  She describes in an article in US Magazine how they met.  “We met about ten years before we — I mean, literally ships that passed in the night at some event — but we actually… our cars, I was going one way and he was going the other,” Andrews spilled of her meet-cute with her longtime love. “Blake rolled down the window after smiling a couple of times and said, ‘Are you going where I just came from?’ I was going to a therapist and he was coming from… very corny!”

Dame Julie was born in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, England to Barbara Ward Wells and Edward Charles “Ted” Wells.  It later turned out that Edward Wells was not Dame Julie’s father.  Years later, in 1950, she learned from her mother that she was conceived as a result of an affair her mother had with an unnamed family friend.  What a shock that must have been.  Dame Julie didn’t disclose this family secret until 2008 in her autobiography.

When World War II broke out, Barbara and Ted Wells separated.  Ted Wells stayed to help to evacuate the children from Surrey to the Blitz while Barbara joined Ted Edwards in performing for the troops through the Entertainments National Service Association (ENSA).   Barbara and Ted Wells soon divorced and remarried.  Barbara married Ted Edwards.  Dame Julie lived with Ted Wells and her brother in Surrey and then in 1940, Mr. Wells sent her to live with her mother and step-father, believing that Andrews would be better able to provide for his talented daughter’s artistic training.

Dame Julie was used to calling her step-father, Ted Andrews, “Uncle Ted” so, when her mother suggested that she address him as “Pop”, it didn’t bode well with Dame Julie.  And it didn’t help that during the times that the family was very poor and lived in a bad slum area of London, that Ted Andrews was violent man and an alcoholic.  Twice while drunk, he tried to get into bed with his step-daughter, forcing her to lock her door.  Dame Julie described these times as a “very black period in my life.”

Thankfully, life got better for Dame Julie.  Her lovely voice launched her career in Britain where she became the youngest solo performer in a Royal Command Variety Performance at the London Palladium.  She performed along with Danny Kaye, the Nicholas Brothers and the comedy team of George and Bert Bernard for members of King George VI’s family.

In the United States, she made her Broadway debut playing Polly Browne in the already highly acclaimed London Musical, The Boy Friend.  As far as the critics were concerned, she stole the show.  Towards the end of her contract with The Boy Friend, she was asked to audition for My Fair Lady on Broadway and got the part.  In 1956, she starred opposite Rex Harrison as Eliza Doolittle.  Surprisingly, while Rex Harrison reprised his role for the movie, Dame Julie was passed over because, according to Jack Warner, she lacked sufficient name recognition and therefore the part went to Audrey Hepburn.  For Warner the decision was easy.  “In my business I have to know who brings people and their money to a cinema box office.  Audrey Hepburn had never made a financial flop.”

Dame Julie got to play the title role of Mary Poppins, a Disney film.  Her turn in Camelot had impressed Walt Disney so much that he thought that she would be perfect for the role of an English nanny who is “practically perfect in every way”.  In fact he wanted her for the part so badly that when she declined because of pregnancy, he insisted that they would wait for her.  No doubt he was happy that he did.  Mary Poppins became the biggest box-office draw in Disney history.  And the icing on the cake was, Dame Julie won the Academy Award and Golden Globe for Best Actress.  At the close of her acceptance speech, Dame Julie said, “And, finally, my thanks to a man who made a wonderful movie and who made all this possible in the first place, Mr. Jack Warner.”  My Fair Lady was in competition for awards at the same ceremony.  I wonder how Mr. Warner felt.

Dame Julie starred in other well known movies such as, The Americanization of Emily, which she described as her favourite film, Torn Curtain, opposite Paul Newman. She starred with Mary Tyler Moore in Thoroughly Modern Miller for which she received a Golden Globe nomination.  Thoroughly Modern Millie and Torn Curtain were at that time, the biggest and second biggest hits in Universal Pictures history, respectively. In 1982, she and James Garner, her The Americanization of Emily co-star would star opposite each other in Victor/Victoria.  In 1995, she starred in the stage production of the movie, making this her first appearance in a Broadway show in 35 years.  Two years, later, she was forced to quit the show when she developed hoarseness in her voice.

Dame Julie had surgery at New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital to remove non-cancerous nodules from her throat.  She recently stated that the problem with her voice was due to “a certain kind of muscular striation that happens on the vocal cords as a result from the strain from Victor/Victoria.  She came out of the surgery with permanent damage that destroyed the purity of her singing and left her with a raspy speaking voice.  In 1999, she filed a malpractice lawsuit against the doctors at Mount Sinai, including the two who had operated on her throat.  The doctors had assured her that she should regain her voice within six weeks but two years had passed and her singing voice still hadn’t returned.  The lawsuit was settled in 2000 for an undisclosed amount.

In spite of this setback, Dame Julie has kept herself busy with many projects.  During the 2000s, enjoyed the successes of The Princess Diaries and its sequel and the Shrek animated film and Despicable Me.  In 2001, she was reunited with her Sound of Music co-star, Christopher Plummer in a live television performance of On Golden Pond.  In 2007, she was honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Screen Actors Guild.  In 2010, Dame Julie appeared with Christopher Plummer and the actors who portrayed the Von Trapp children on Oprah to commemorate the film’s 45th anniversary.

Dame Julie is an author of children’s books.  In 2011, she and her daughter won a Grammy for A Collection of Poems, Songs and Lullabies, the best spoken word album for children.  That same year she received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.  In addition to her three Grammys, Dame Julie is the recipient of a BAFTA, five Golden Globes and two Emmys and the Disney Legend Honor and the Kennedy Center Honors.

Just recently Dame Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer celebrated the 50th anniversary of The Sound of Music.  In a Vanity Fair interview, they reflect on the making of the great musical classic.

I will always think of her as Maria, singing, “The Hills are alive with the Sound of Music” on top of that picturesque mountain in Austria.  One day I hope that my family and I will visit Salzburg where this wonderful movie was filmed.  The Sound of Music will always be one of the best musicals of all time and my favourite.  It is the third highest grossing film of all time.

Notes to Women applauds this classy lady.  She has had an amazing career.  She has appeared on stage, acted in top grossing movies, appeared in TV specials such as The The Ed Sullivan Show, The Dinah Shore Chevy Show, The Jack Benny Program and Julie and Carol at Carnegie Hall, the CBS special with Carol Burnett, voice work for animated movies and penned children’s books.  In 1980, she headlined “Because We Care”, a CBS TV special with 30 stars to raise funds for Cambodian Famine victims.

We congratulate her for being made a Dame by Queen Elizabeth II for services to the performing arts.  Not surprisingly, Dame Julie is ranked number 59 in the BBC’s poll of the 100 Greatest Britons.  We wish this dear Lady continued success and all the very best.

Perseverance is failing 19 times and succeeding the 20th

Sometimes oppurtunities float right past your nose. Work hard, apply yourself, and be ready. When an opportunity comes you can grab it.

Sometimes I’m so sweet even I can’t stand it.

Premiere Of Disney's "Saving Mr. Banks" - Arrivals

 

 

Sources:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julie_Andrews; http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000267/; http://ca.eonline.com/news/632214/julie-andrews-reveals-the-secret-to-her-long-lasting-41-year-marriage; http://thinkexist.com/quotes/julie_andrews/

Star’s Baby-Weight Criticism

I first learned about this story about Bollywood actress Aishwarya Rai who silenced and stunned her critics when she showed up at Cannes, flaunting her post pregnancy body on Yahoo.  I couldn’t believe that she was criticized for not losing weight fast enough like Victoria Beckham and Angelina Jolie.  It should not be a matter of how fast you lose the baby weight but how you lose it.  And why is having baby weight such a bad thing?  Only shallow people would have a problem with it.

Imagine commentators blasted her for letting her fans down because of her weight gain.  Many went as far as suggesting that the star has a ‘duty’ to her fans to regain her pre-pregnancy figure.  One website posted a video of the star called ‘Aishwarya Rai’s shocking weight gain.  The clip was  accompanied by elephant sound effects and has been seen more than 500,000 times.  The comments left after the video were unsympathetic and insensitive.

“She is a Bollywood actress and it is her duty to look good and fit,” the Daily Mail quoted one comment.

“She needs to learn from people like Victoria Beckham who are back to size zero weeks after their delivery,” another said.

This kind of attitude is explained by show business columnist Shobhaa De in the New York Daily News.  Aishwarya is like a goddess.  She is held up as the ideal of beauty and so there is an expectation on her to look perfect at all times.”  Shobhaa makes  a good point when she adds, “The role models being held up are Angelina Jolie and Victoria Beckham, but our body frames are different ?” we have wider hips and curves ?” so this whole business of looking desperately skinny two weeks after giving birth is a western import.”

Aishwarya saw no reason to go back to her pre-pregnancy state soon after the birth of her daughter.  She wanted to enjoy motherhood and that is her right.  No one should dictate to her how she should or should not look.  She’s a mother now.  She’s putting that role first.  As some supporters stated, the focus should be on the baby not her weight.  Aishwarya proves that she is not selfish, thinking only of herself and her looks.  And as one smart person pointed out, “She is a real women looking after a baby. We should be concern for her health and happiness especially if she is nursing the baby. Not the Western belief of expecting people in the spot light to lose all weight in month. If she dieted what will happen to the baby’s diet,” one said.

Notes to Women applaud Aishwarya Rai for showing such grace under fire and for standing up to the critics.  She is proud to be a mother and not ashamed of the weight gain.  Aishwarya, congratulations on being a Mom and we wish you and your family well.

‘Haters don’t matter’
I’ve always said that haters are a drop in the ocean. There’s that much more love. Any kind of negativity in any case just doesn’t stick, it drops off and it doesn’t matter. People have given me so much love throughout my career, my life in the public eye, at every phase.

I’ve never endorsed size zero’
This is who I am. I am a mother. This can happen and it has happened with me and it’s fine (weight gain). I’ve never been the one who endorse size zero anyway. You guys speculated I was pregnant way before I actually was. It goes to show that I have lived real life in the public eye. That continues.

‘Only reality matters’
There are lot of people out there who recognise that, see that, and share that energy with me. And that’s what matters – reality

Aishwarya Rai

Agatha Christie

I have watched her characters Miss Jane Marple, an astute spinster whose sharp eyes miss nothing and the meticulous, funny mustached Hercule Poirot come to life on the screen and today I thought that it would be fun to find out a little bit about Agatha Christie. 

She came from a well-to-do family and was taught at home by a governess and tutors.  She never attended school and she became adept at creating games to keep herself occupied at a very young age.  A shy child, unable to adequately express her feelings, she first turned to music as a means of expression and, later in life, to writing.  I can relate to this.  I am more comfortable expressing myself through writing.

In 1914, at the age of 24, she married Archie Christie, a World War I fighter pilot. While he was off at war, she worked as a nurse. It was while working in a hospital during the war that Christie first came up with the idea of writing a detective novel. Although it was completed in a year, it wasn’t published until 1920, five years later.

Two years later, Archie asked Agatha for a divorce.  He had fallen in love with another woman.  What a blow that must have been for her.  This happened in the wake of her mother’s recent death.  Perhaps she was unable to cope with these two major upsets in her life, Agatha disappeared causing an uproar in all of England as everyone wondered what had become of the mystery writer.  Her disappearance was a mystery in itself until three weeks later when the police found her in a small hotel, apparently suffering from memory loss.  Thereafter, it was never again mentioned or elaborated upon by Christie (http://christie.mysterynet.com/).

In 1930, Agatha found happiness again with an archaeologist, Max Mallowan.  She met him on a trip to Mesopotamia.  Christie’s travels with Mallowan contributed background to several of her novels set in the Middle East. 

I always wondered what it would be like for Poirot and Miss Marple to team up on a mystery or two but Agatha had a very good reason for not permitting this to happen.  “Hercule Poirot, a complete egoist, would not like being taught his business or having suggestions made to him by an elderly spinster lady.”  I found it amusing that Agatha found Poirot insufferable while she was fond of Miss Marple.  Still, as insufferable as Poirot was, he was popular.  The public liked him so Agatha had to resist the temptation to kill him off.

Agatha had her fans and she had her critics.  Others have accused her of anti-semetism and of stereotyping.  Christie often characterised the “foreigners” in such a way as to make the reader understand and sympathise with them; this is particularly true of her Jewish characters, who are seldom actually criminals.  I noticed that in a few Poirot episodes, that the guilty party referred to him as a “foreigner” with much distaste. 

Still, Agatha Christie Agatha Christie was revered as a master of suspense, plotting, and characterisation by most of her contemporaries (Wikipedia).  And she has created two of the greatest fictional characters of all time and has swept us into the exciting twists and turns of great mystery plots.

“I like living. I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing.”

Agatha Christie