Julie Andrews: An intimate biography

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9780749951627: Julie Andrews: An intimate biography

Julie Andrews is, quite simply, a phenomenon. She has probably brought more joy to more people than any other star of her generation' - Richard Attenborough. Julie Andrews is the last of the great Hollywood musical stars - her extraordinary career spans more than forty years. Her first film, Mary Poppins, was Disney's most successful film, and in 1965 The Sound of Music rescued Twentieth Century Fox from bankruptcy. Three years later, Star! almost put the studio back under, and the leading lady of both films fell as spectacularly as she had risen.But Julie Andrews is nothing if not a survivor; and despite many setbacks - including the tragedy of losing her singing voice in 1997 after a botched operation - she's still a performer, recently starring in Shrek and The Princess Diaries. Richard Stirling's deeply researched biography - based on many years of contact with Julie - is a frank but affectionate portrait of an enduring icon of stage and screen.

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About the Author:

Actor Richard Stirling has appeared on television and on screen - including parts in Great Expectations, The Secret Agent and Mrs Dalloway. He has interviewed Julie Andrews and curated a film tribute to her at the National Film Theatre for her 70th birthday in 2005.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter One

 

Weather and Tide Permitting

 

Julia Elizabeth Wells entered the world at six o"clock in the morning of Tuesday 1 October 1935, at Rodney House Maternity Home, Walton-on-Thames, Surrey. The healthy eight-pound baby, named after her grandmothers Julia Morris and Elizabeth Wells, was born under the star sign of the Balancing Scales, indicating what she later defined to me as her "typically Libran" ambivalence. Other characteristics – ruthless objectivity, a horror of confrontation, maintaining a positive outlook – would not be long in developing. Given the childhood in store for her, baby Julia would need them all.

 

At the height of Julie worship in the 1960s, an astrologer at the London Daily Express, given only the time and date of her birth, concluded of the mystery subject:

 

This woman is a fundamentally an idealistic person, and one who has a basic compulsion for harmony. She will perpetually strive to "strike a balance" – in her activities, relationships, aspirations.

 

She will have a streak of reserve, due to shyness and lack of complete self-confidence; thus, she will assume a mask of apparent self-assurance which she does not actually possess . . . The personality she reveals to the world at large will be charming, friendly and seemingly rather naïve, but there is a part of herself which she never reveals – not so much because of a desire to deceive others, but due to her shyness and sensitivity.

 

Blake Edwards later confirmed this aspect of his wife: "She"s still finding out about herself. She"s a good lady. But she"s shy."

 

In one of the most negative articles ever written about Julie, Esquire journalist Helen Lawrenson thought otherwise, defining her as having "a background not customarily compatible with reticence and timidity". But there was never anything remotely customary about Julie Andrews, in personality or circumstance. Her abilities came not from her stars, but from the widely disparate natures of her parents: practical common sense from her father, and – more than she knew – artistic brilliance through her mother"s line.

 

Her father, Ted Wells, the son of a carpenter, was a handicrafts schoolteacher, a quiet romantic with a deep love of poetry and the English countryside – passions he would pass on to his daughter. Winning a scholarship to Tiffin School in Kingston-upon-Thames, Ted had gained an excellent basic education, but could ill afford further study. After six years, he took up an apprenticeship with a local construction company, specialising in the production of transformers: there, he fell in love with a vivacious redhead of seventeen named Barbara Morris.

 

In complete contrast to Ted, Barbara was a larger-than-life show-business personality, helping her sister Joan run a local dance school while pursuing a career as a popular pianist. Julie was taught to sing and dance – "almost from the time I could toddle" – but Barbara would play even more of a key role in her daughter"s career after marrying her second husband, Julie"s stepfather Ted Andrews.

 

This much was well-documented family history, to which Julie would always have a characteristically well-versed set of responses. Yet her lineage was more disturbing, so well hidden that she was sixty-seven before she learned the story of her maternal grandparents. Only then could she fully understand her mother"s frustration and later alcoholism – and, perhaps, know herself rather better too.

 

On Saturday 3 July 1976, a letter appeared in the South Yorkshire Times. Jim MacFarlane, of the University of Sheffield, had tried to research an almost forgotten local hero, commonly known as "The Pitman"s Poet". He knew the best-known examples of the writer"s work but little else, merely that the poet had left South Yorkshire in the interwar years and that his daughter Barbara had, he said, been "a very good piano player" – just as Julie would later describe her mother as "a fine pianist".

 

MacFarlane made the connection for himself. "Arthur Morris, our Celebrated Colliery "Deputy" Artiste," he wrote, "had another claim to fame – as the grandfather of Julie Andrews, actress."

 

At the time nobody seemed very interested. In 1976, Julie Andrews had been absent from the big screen for six years (with the exception of a low-budget thriller made by Blake Edwards – himself at a low ebb – two years earlier). Her much-vaunted television series had been axed after only one season. Even so, there was a remarkable lack of effort to contact the coal miner"s granddaughter.

 

Then, over a quarter of a century later, came sensational revelations from the research of a Yorkshire solicitor, Giles Brearley, into the history of his coal-mining community. A keen historian in his spare time, Brearley had happened upon the same pieces of Morris"s poetry. He recognised them as exceptional, capturing the desperate dignity of the coal mining towns in the early decades of the twentieth century. Brearley was determined to piece together the life of Arthur Morris. After endless hours spent trawling through archives, he succeeded, and in 2004 published his fascinating book The Pitman"s Poet.

 

Morris, a gregarious fellow with a fine speaking voice, had been a popular character in the mining villages of South Yorkshire, going from door to door, enveloped in a black cloak, to recite his poems. A book of his early work – containing "The Miner"s ABC", a definition of the collier"s lot – was sent to King George V. In 1924, one of his poems, "Wembley Colliery", exposed the resentment felt by many pit families at the sanitised model colliery built for the British Empire Exhibition:

 

Then hats off to our miners all and hats off to their wives,

They never know from day to day, "ere they may lose their lives.

And do not think our collieries are quite so danger free

As the perfect ideal pit you"ve seen called Wembley Colliery.

 

When, in 2003, Brearley wrote to Julie with the new-found information, she sent her half-brother up to Yorkshire to "make sure" of him. "You know what sisters are like," Christopher Andrews explained.

 

"It was amazing that Julie knew nothing of Arthur"s achievements," Brearley told me later. "I was astounded, when Chris came to visit, that the school where his mother had had so much happiness was unknown to him. He did not even know where she was schooled."

 

I asked Julie"s other half-brother Donald if the news made sense of unexplained family issues. "I can"t be specific," he replied, slowly, "but some pieces of the jigsaw would certainly fit into place."

 

On a Christmas trip to London, Julie hosted a family gathering at the Dorchester Hotel. So voluble was she about the discovery that Christopher had to remind her, "Remember, Jules, he"s my grandfather too."

 

Previously, all that Julie knew of her grandfather was that he had served in the army. In a magazine article of 1958, she had written of him as "a fine musician . . . a dr

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Richard Stirling
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Descrizione libro Little, Brown Book Group, United Kingdom, 2007. Paperback. Condizione libro: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. Julie Andrews is, quite simply, a phenomenon. She has probably brought more joy to more people than any other star of her generation - Richard Attenborough. Julie Andrews is the last of the great Hollywood musical stars - her extraordinary career spans more than forty years. Her first film, Mary Poppins, was Disney s most successful film, and in 1965 The Sound of Music rescued Twentieth Century Fox from bankruptcy. Three years later, Star! almost put the studio back under, and the leading lady of both films fell as spectacularly as she had risen.But Julie Andrews is nothing if not a survivor; and despite many setbacks - including the tragedy of losing her singing voice in 1997 after a botched operation - she s still a performer, recently starring in Shrek and The Princess Diaries. Richard Stirling s deeply researched biography - based on many years of contact with Julie - is a frank but affectionate portrait of an enduring icon of stage and screen. Codice libro della libreria AA29780749951627

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Descrizione libro Little, Brown Book Group, 2007. Condizione libro: New. 2007. Paperback. Julie Andrews is the last of the great Hollywood musical stars - her extraordinary career spans more than forty years. Her first film, "Mary Poppins", was Disney's most successful film, and in 1965, "The Sound of Music" rescued Twentieth Century Fox from bankruptcy. This is a portrait of an enduring icon of stage and screen. Num Pages: 384 pages, Section: 16, 16pp colour plates. BIC Classification: APB; APF; BGF. Category: (G) General (US: Trade). Dimension: 197 x 130 x 26. Weight in Grams: 320. . . . . . . Codice libro della libreria V9780749951627

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Descrizione libro Little, Brown Book Group, United Kingdom, 2007. Paperback. Condizione libro: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. Julie Andrews is, quite simply, a phenomenon. She has probably brought more joy to more people than any other star of her generation - Richard Attenborough. Julie Andrews is the last of the great Hollywood musical stars - her extraordinary career spans more than forty years. Her first film, Mary Poppins, was Disney s most successful film, and in 1965 The Sound of Music rescued Twentieth Century Fox from bankruptcy. Three years later, Star! almost put the studio back under, and the leading lady of both films fell as spectacularly as she had risen.But Julie Andrews is nothing if not a survivor; and despite many setbacks - including the tragedy of losing her singing voice in 1997 after a botched operation - she s still a performer, recently starring in Shrek and The Princess Diaries. Richard Stirling s deeply researched biography - based on many years of contact with Julie - is a frank but affectionate portrait of an enduring icon of stage and screen. Codice libro della libreria AA29780749951627

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Descrizione libro Little, Brown Book Group. Condizione libro: New. 2007. Paperback. Julie Andrews is the last of the great Hollywood musical stars - her extraordinary career spans more than forty years. Her first film, "Mary Poppins", was Disney's most successful film, and in 1965, "The Sound of Music" rescued Twentieth Century Fox from bankruptcy. This is a portrait of an enduring icon of stage and screen. Num Pages: 384 pages, Section: 16, 16pp colour plates. BIC Classification: APB; APF; BGF. Category: (G) General (US: Trade). Dimension: 197 x 130 x 26. Weight in Grams: 320. . . . . . Books ship from the US and Ireland. Codice libro della libreria V9780749951627

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