Friday, October 01, 2010

Happy Birthday Julie Andrews

As part of our ongoing celebration of the world's most fabulous people the Pop Culture Institute would like to wish one of the most fabulous - namely, Dame Julie Andrews - all the best. I mean, it's only fair; whether on stage or screen, in recordings or in person, she's always given us all her best...

PhotobucketBorn on this day in 1935, Andrews was a child actor in English music halls who made her Broadway debut all the way back in 1954, in the musical The Boy Friend; she followed it up with My Fair Lady (opposite Rex Harrison) in 1956, and Camelot (opposite Richard Burton) in 1960.

Handily making the jump to movies, Andrews was offered the title role in Mary Poppins as her film debut but had to turn it down because she was pregnant; Walt Disney held up production in order to wait for her, and when the film was finally released in 1964 Disney's patience paid off... Although Andrews had originated the role of Eliza Doolittle on stage she'd been passed over for the film version of My Fair Lady in favour of Audrey Hepburn, only to be offered Mary Poppins as a kind of consolation prize; yet it was Andrews who received that year's Best Actress Oscar, beating out Hepburn - some consolation indeed! Despite the fact that the press tried to bait the two into a rivalry, both Andrews and Hepburn were far too classy to fall for that.

Proving that she was no fluke, Andrews' film follow-up was The Sound of Music, the all-singin' all-dancin' juggernaut that had the von Trapp family and their nun/governess defeating both the Anschluss and the Nazi menace seemingly all by themselves; it made so much money a new number - the kazillion - had to be made up to calculate the profits. Such success allowed Andrews the luxury of choosing idiosyncratic material, and boy did she ever! That one career could contain (among others) those films already mentioned plus Alfred Hitchcock's Torn Curtain, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Star!, 10, S.O.B., and my personal favourite Victor/Victoria is a testament to the lady's immense talent.

Although at one time blessed with perfect pitch - and a four octave range besides - surgery to remove non-cancerous nodules from her throat did a Little Mermaid trick on her, and she will never sing again. Andrews filed a malpractice suit against the doctors who did the deed, but it might as well have been a class-action suit filed by her legions of fans. Despite the loss of her unique gift, her career has experienced a resurgence in the 21st Century, largely as a result of her many other gifts: namely charm, style, and verve. As one of the few people in the entertainment business whose appeal is truly universal it shows no sign of dimming; in fact, since she's started writing books, it can safely be said that the career of Dame Julie Andrews is going stronger than ever. I can almost hear Eliza Doolittle exclaiming 'PHWOOO-AAAR!'
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