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.
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/