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If you like Julie Andrews's story, you might also like:
Olivia de Havilland,
Sally Field,
Ron Howard,
Jeremy Irons,
Johnny Mathis,
Audra McDonald,
Jessye Norman,
Trevor Nunn,
Sidney Poitier,
Harold Prince,
Stephen Sondheim,
Hilary Swank,
Julie Taymor and
Kiri Te Kanawa

Julie Andrews can also be seen and heard in our Podcast Center

Julie Andrews's recommended reading: The Little Grey Men

Related Links:
Julie Andrews Music on Jango
Reel Classics
The Julie Andrews Collection

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Julie Andrews
 
Julie Andrews
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  Julie Andrews

Did you ever miss having a normal education and a normal childhood?

Julie Andrews: Yes, I did. I was too foolish in my teens and too busy to fight for it. My mother said, "I think we'll probably quit school, you're going to get a much bigger education out there," and indeed I did, of a sort, but especially as I got older, I really regretted not having a college education. I would have loved that.

There's also the socialization value of being with other kids.

Julie Andrews: Yes. I'm not complaining about it.


I have retained some very close friends from my home village, but actually I didn't have many peers, not young friends in those days. It was all mostly adults because of the touring, because of the vaudeville. But, the kind of education I was getting was that strange one of standing in the wings and watching phenomenal performers performing every week, every night, watching everything from comedians, to jugglers, to animal acts and different kinds of comedians and dancers, and it was extraordinary. I didn't think I was getting an education at the time. It's only in retrospect that I realize that that stood me in very good stead in my later years.

[ Key to Success ] Preparation


You also made a television debut in your teens too, didn't you? Wasn't there a show with Stanley Holloway in 1949?

Julie Andrews Interview Photo
Julie Andrews: On TV or radio? That's a very good question. The Stanley Holloway one I don't remember, not until My Fair Lady, when we worked together on Broadway. But I did quite a lot of radio shows, and I did do some very early TV shows but I can't actually remember specifically what they were.

It was very early for the history of television as well.

Julie Andrews: It was.

Is it true that you supported your parents financially for a while after they retired?

Julie Andrews: Yes, I did. We all came from such humble beginnings. It's amazing. It has always staggered me. I wish I could write about it one day. I'd like to try.


My mother made such a quantum leap from her extremely humble beginnings to being considered -- certainly in our local village -- fairly big-time for being on radio and touring as she did, and playing the piano so beautifully. And then the next leap that I made, and in like three generations. It's hard to imagine that it's possible, but it was because my mother really came from -- her mother was just a "below-stairs" maid at the local big mansion, and I don't think in her lifetime saw any wealth of any kind, and worked continuously and hard. Her father was a manager of one of the coal mines up in the north of England and he was a pit manager, albeit a talented man, somewhat of a poet and a musician. He played the piano very well also and taught my mother to play in the early years.


Were there any singers?

Julie Andrews: No, that's the extraordinary thing. I do not know where that came from, but I'm very glad it did.

We all are.

Julie Andrews: Yes, thank you.

Could you tell us about how you came to be cast in The Boy Friend and the impact that had on your career? You were performing in the pantomime Cinderella, weren't you?

Julie Andrews Interview Photo
Julie Andrews: Yes. By now I had toured England, endlessly, and I had done a lot of Christmas shows, which in England are called pantomimes. I'm not sure how many Americans are aware of English pantomime. It's a rip-roaring Christmas festival, usually based on one of the great fairy stories, like Cinderella, Jack in the Beanstalk, Red Riding Hood, all the great fairy stories. They throw in music and slapstick and every year they are reworked and revamped to accommodate whatever talent is brought into that particular show.

I had sort of gone as far as I could go and was playing in a very beautiful production of Cinderella at the London Palladium. That was it in those days. That was about as far as one could go, because although Noel Coward and Gertrude Lawrence, and people like that had gone on to write and to perform in many things, other than another man called Ivor Novello, there wasn't a lot going on in England in my teens. And suddenly...


I was recommended by a very kind woman called Hattie Jakes, who appeared in one of my radio series -- recommended that the director of The Boy Friend come and see me in Cinderella. The Boy Friend was a hugely popular English show that had been running in London for about a year. It was sort of a little, light, frothy musical, a sort of pastiche of the 1920s. And they were going to take it to Broadway with a brand new company. They weren't going to touch the original English company because they were doing too well and still selling to packed houses. So, the director of the English Boy Friend came to see me and subsequently brought the American producer, and I was asked if I would like to come to Broadway to be in The Boy Friend.


This was Cy Feuer?

Julie Andrews: Cy Feuer, yes. And Ernie Martin was his partner.

Did they already have big names on the stage?

Julie Andrews: Oh yes, they did. They had done Guys and Dolls. They did Can-Can and Silk Stockings.

So this was a huge break for you?

Julie Andrews: It was a huge break. I didn't truly recognize how big it was. I was more terrified at leaving my family. I had an awful separation anxiety about leaving home, because I always was leaving home and rushing back -- if I could -- weekends. And they were offering me a two-year contract at an incredibly small salary. There were a great many other English performers going as well, because other than one or two Americans it was an English company. All the company should have had English accents, and so it was necessary that they be English.

How old were you?


Julie Andrews: I was 18. I was 19 the day after we opened on Broadway. And, it's the first time I had ever really been away from my family for that potential length of time, and suddenly I got so panicked about it, and I called my dad, my real dad. And, I said, "Oh god, daddy, they're asking me to go for two years. What should I do? I don't think I can be away from the family for that long." And he said, "Well chick, it could run two weeks or two months. It might not be two years, and it would open up your head to such an extent, I think you should do it." I asked him later in life whether that was a hard thing to do and he said it was one of the hardest things, to say, "Go," to just throw me into the bigger pond, so to speak, and hope that I would swim. And of course, because dad said it, oh, he said a wonderful thing. When I said, "But how will I know what to do?" he said, "Your own good brain will tell you what to do when the time comes," which was hugely flattering and kind of implied that he thought I could cope. So, I took my courage in both hands and said, "I would like to accept this contract but I will not go for longer than one year." And lo and behold, Messrs, Feuer and Martin said, "Fine." And, I was the only one of the company that had a one-year contract, so off I went to Broadway for a year of incredible learning and education.

[ Key to Success ] Courage


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This page last revised on Mar 31, 2008 14:50 EDT
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