the very first movie that I can recall seeing in a theater during one of its re-releases and how it impacted my life then and afterwards. Since that, I've had tributes to Eleanor Parker (twice, even!) and Christopher Plummer, but not till now one for Dame Julie Andrews, a performer who has brought untold amounts of light to millions of viewers (not to mention listeners) of the stage and screen. She's had a remarkable life and career, with not only the Austrian Alps serving as her peaks and valleys, that we'll shine a light on today.
Initially, Julia lived with her father and brother, but by the age of five, her burgeoning talent as a child singer caused him to send her to live with her mother and stepfather where their own connections to the entertainment world might help to further it. This worked, in fact, as The Andrews became more and more successful as an act and allowed them to send the little girl to an arts school for vocal training. The unhappy trade-off was having to fend off the occasional drunken advances of her stepfather when she was only a little girl.
In 1950, her mother relayed the staggering news that Ted Wells, the man she had always believed to be her (by now estranged) father was, in fact, not so and that another man, a family friend (apparently a pretty close one!), was her biological father. Andrews never learned his identity.
The expensive, custom-made musical was overseen by the famed song-writing duo in nearly every detail and was broadcast in color (though only a back & white kinescope, made for west coast viewers, was preserved.) Andrews was Emmy-nominated for the live, wildly popular special, but lost to Polly Bergen in The Helen Morgan Story.
Andrews went back home in order to have the baby she was carrying, a daughter to be called Emma. As luck would have it, she was offered what would ultimately be a life-changing role in a motion picture, but felt that she must turn it down due to her pregnancy! Fortunately, Walt Disney, who had attended Camelot and fallen for her charms, told her he would wait until she was ready before beginning production on Mary Poppins (1964)...
The fanciful, effects-laden Mary Poppins was an elaborate production blending song, dance and even animation. Andrews was cast opposite Dick Van Dyke as a cockney chimney sweep (succeeding greatly in the dancing, but floundering with his accent.) Interestingly, Nixon provided singing voices in this one, too, specifically a trio of geese.
Armies of moviegoers, young and old, flocked to the cinema to see this colorful, well-appointed fantasy, causing it to earn back five times its cost on initial release and making it the most financially successful film of its year (and Walt Disney's greatest hit to that date.)
quitepossibly my favorite Andrews number in any of her films!)
It was later discovered that there were no nodules in the first place and that it was muscular striation, along with vocal chord tissue, that was removed, permanently destroying one of the stage and screen's most notable and beloved voices. A (reported) $30 million settlement did little to allay Andrews' personal devastation at this news and she had to undergo extensive psychological therapy to come to grips with the loss. She also underwent four additional operations, which helped her speaking voice, but her once four-octave singing voice has remained a highly limited alto.