Dame Julie Andrews DBE (born Julia Elizabeth Wells; 1 October 1935) is an English actress, singer, and author. Throughout her career of over 75 years, she has received numerous accolades, including an Academy Award, a British Academy Film Award, two Primetime Emmy Awards, three Grammy Awards, and six Golden Globe Awards.
Andrews was made a Disney Legend in 1991, and has been honoured with a Honorary Golden Lion as well as the AFI Life Achievement Award. In 2000, Andrews was made a dame by Queen Elizabeth II for services to the performing arts.
Andrews, a child actress and singer, appeared in the West End in 1948 and made her Broadway debut in The Boy Friend (1954). Billed as “Britain’s youngest prima donna“, she rose to prominence starring in Broadway musicals such as My Fair Lady (1956) playing Eliza Doolittle and Camelot (1960) playing Queen Guinevere. On 31 March 1957, Andrews starred in the premiere of Rodgers and Hammerstein‘s written-for-television musical Cinderella, a live, colour CBS network broadcast seen by over 100 million viewers. Andrews made her feature film debut in Walt Disney‘s Mary Poppins (1964) and won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance in the title role. The following year she starred in the musical film The Sound of Music (1965), playing Maria von Trapp and won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Comedy or Musical.
Between 1964 and 1986, Andrews starred in various films working with directors including her husband Blake Edwards, George Roy Hill, and Alfred Hitchcock in The Americanization of Emily (1964), Hawaii (1966), Torn Curtain (1966), Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967), Star! (1968), The Tamarind Seed (1974), 10 (1979), S.O.B. (1981), Victor/Victoria (1982), That’s Life! (1986), and Duet for One (1986). After 1986 her workload decreased, appearing in two films in 1991 and not again until 2000. After the turn of the new millennium, however, her career had a revival. From 2001 to 2004 Andrews starred in The Princess Diaries (2001) and The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement (2004). From 2004 to 2018 she lent her voice to the Shrek and Despicable Me animated films and Aquaman (2018). In 2017 she co-created and hosted a children’s educational show titled Julie’s Greenroom, for which she received two Daytime Emmy Award nominations. Beginning in 2020, Andrews voiced the narrator Lady Whistledown in the Netflix series Bridgerton. She has also worked hosting performance shows such as Great Performances and narrating documentaries such as the 2004 Emmy-winning series Broadway: The American Musical.
In 2002, Andrews was ranked No. 59 in the BBC’s poll of the 100 Greatest Britons. In 2003, she revisited her first Broadway success, this time as a stage director, with a revival of The Boy Friend. Apart from her musical career, she is also an author of children’s books and has published two autobiographies, Home: A Memoir of My Early Years (2008) and Home Work: A Memoir of My Hollywood Years (2019).
Julia Elizabeth Wells was born on 1 October 1935 in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, England. Her mother, Barbara Ward Wells (née Morris; 1910–1984) was born in Chertsey and married Edward Charles “Ted” Wells (1908–1990), a teacher of metalwork and woodwork, in 1932.
Andrews was conceived as a result of an affair her mother had with a family friend. Andrews discovered her true parentage from her mother in 1950, although it was not publicly disclosed until her 2008 autobiography.
With the outbreak of World War II, her parents went their separate ways and were soon divorced. Each remarried: Barbara to Ted Andrews, in 1943, and Ted Wells in 1944 to Winifred Maud (Hyde) Birkhead, a war widow and former hairstylist at a war work factory that employed them both in Hinchley Wood, Surrey. Wells assisted with evacuating children to Surrey during the Blitz, while Andrews’s mother joined her husband in entertaining the troops through the Entertainments National Service Association. Andrews lived briefly with Wells and her brother, John in Surrey. In 1940, Wells sent her to live with her mother and stepfather, who Wells thought would be better able to provide for his talented daughter’s artistic training. According to Andrews’s 2008 autobiography Home, while Andrews had been used to calling her stepfather “Uncle Ted”, her mother suggested it would be more appropriate to refer to her stepfather as “Pop”, while her father remained “Dad” or “Daddy” to her, a change which she disliked. The Andrews family was “very poor” and “lived in a bad slum area of London,” at the time, stating that the war “was a very black period in my life.” According to Andrews, her stepfather was violent and an alcoholic. He twice, while drunk, tried to get into bed with his stepdaughter, resulting in Andrews fitting a lock on her door.
As the stage career of her mother and stepfather improved, they were able to afford better surroundings, first to Beckenham and then, as the war ended, back to the Andrews’s hometown of Hersham. The family took up residence at the Old Meuse, in West Grove, Hersham, a house (now demolished) where Andrews’s maternal grandmother had served as a maid. Andrews’s stepfather sponsored lessons for her, first at the independent arts educational school Cone-Ripman School (ArtsEd) in London, and thereafter with concert soprano and voice instructor Madame Lilian Stiles-Allen. Andrews said of Stiles-Allen, “She had an enormous influence on me,” adding, “She was my third mother – I’ve got more mothers and fathers than anyone in the world.” In her memoir Julie Andrews – My Star Pupil, Stiles-Allen records, “The range, accuracy and tone of Julie’s voice amazed me … she had possessed the rare gift of absolute pitch”, though Andrews herself refutes this in her 2008 autobiography Home. According to Andrews, “Madame was sure that I could do Mozart and Rossini, but, to be honest, I never was”. Of her own voice, she says, “I had a very pure, white, thin voice, a four-octave range – dogs would come from miles around.” After Cone-Ripman School, Andrews continued her academic education at the nearby Woodbrook School, a local state school in Beckenham.
Termed “Britain’s youngest prima donna”, Andrews’s classically trained soprano voice, lauded for its “pure and clear” sound, has been described as light, bright and operatic in tone. When a young Andrews was taken by her parents to be examined by a throat specialist, the doctor concluded that she had “an almost adult larynx.” Despite the continual encouragement to pursue opera by her voice teacher, English soprano Lilian Stiles-Allen, Andrews herself felt that her voice was unsuited for the genre and “too big a stretch”. At the time, Andrews described her own voice as “extremely high and thin”, feeling that it lacked “the necessary guts and weight for opera”, preferring musical theatre instead.
As Andrews aged, so did her voice, which began to naturally deepen. Losing her vast upper register, her “top notes” became increasingly difficult to sing while “her middle register matured into the warm golden tone” for which she has become known, according to Tim Wong of The Daily Telegraph.
Musically, she had always preferred singing music that was “bright and sunny”, choosing to avoid songs that were sad or otherwise written in a minor key, for fear of losing her voice “in a mess of emotion”. She cited this as another reason for avoiding opera.
Additional informations about “the sound of music” : The original Broadway cast. The original Broadway cast was started by Mary Martin. Her singing style was very different than Julie Andrews’s style.
(Mary Martin was Larry hagman’s mother)
Sources Youtube / Wikipedia