This was a lovely showbiz memoir to read – Julie has the ability to see the good in everybody and make friends wherever she goes. This first volume of memoirs stops at the point Walt Disney was poised to make her an Oscar-winning megastar, but is no less interesting for that. I hope there will be volume two before long as I’d love her take on the first two films I saw at the cinema which were a soundtrack to my childhood – Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music. But enough of that, back to her early years…
Julie had an interesting childhood in Surrey, as her vaudeville entertainer mother split with her father quite early to take up with her Canadian stage partner. Once they realised that Julie had a voice, her path was set and she entered the world of showbiz. Soon she was supporting her mother’s side of the family as her stepdad fell into alcoholism and her mother not being able to cope.
Meanwhile, her loving Dad was a refuge of calmness for her – and remained so even after she found out he wasn’t actually her biological father. This was something her mother threw into conversation one day – Julie was very level-headed about it and after meeting him wrote saying she didn’t want to develop a relationship.
Her squeaky clean image as the virginal teenager with a glorious voice served her well on stage, managing complex arias with ease. Eventually she was spotted for a TV variety show, leading to recruitment for her first starring role on the London stage as the original Eliza Doolittle, opposite Rex Harrison, in My Fair Lady. Despite having no real acting experience she made the role her own, repeating it on Broadway, but famously lost out in the film to Audrey Hepburn as the studios wanted a film star, not a film unknown.
She eventually married her childhood sweetheart Tony Walton, with whom she had corresponded throughout the war and her first stints in the USA. He was a skilled theatre designer and his career fitted nicely with hers. So next she went on to play opposite Richard Burton on Broadway in Camelotand the rest, as they say, is history.
Her image is no accident. From reading these memoirs, I think she grew up that way having seen and rejected some of the downsides early on. As she blossomed it stayed with her – and of course made her fortune. She has barely a bad word to say about anyone really except her stepdad – but even then explains it away as an effect of his alcoholism. She obviously does have a fun-loving side (there is a lovely photo of her posing with Nureyev), but realising that her voice was her career – chose not to abuse it and moderated her activities accordingly. This book was a lovely read with some great photos – and so much better than any misery memoir!
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Source: Own copy. To explore further on Amazon UK, please click below:
Home: A Memoir of My Early Years by Julie Andrews, Phoenix paperback.