The Kennedy Center

Julie Andrews


Since her iconic debut in films nearly 40years ago, Julie Andrews has been one of the most beloved and honored actresses in American movies. Our country's love affair with this extraordinary actress and singer began even earlier, when she arrived on the New York stage, nearly a half-century ago, to launch what has become a truly legendary career in the American musical theater. She is a beacon of happiness and light to generations of filmgoers as a result of her career-making performances in two of the best-loved film musicals of all time. She immortalized the music and lyrics of the great Lerner and Loewe in a pair of now-classic musicals from Broadway's golden age. She brought her unique blend of elegant wit and intelligence to television when she starred in some of the best-regarded musical specials the medium has ever produced.

She has won countless awards, including an Academy Award, four Golden Globe Awards, eight Emmy Awards, and a "Lifetime Tribute Award" from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts.

Julie Andrews was destined to become entertainment royalty from a very early age. On December 5, 1946, at the Stage Door Canteen in London, Julie's first solo performance was attended by Queen Mother Elizabeth and Princess Margaret. The young star was eleven years old and already a veteran. By then she had developed a four-octave voice and was a well-known performer in the air-raid shelters of the capital as well as in the provincial English music halls, where she toured with her performing parents. "I had this freakish voice," recalls Andrews. "I was sort of a child prodigy who could belt out any aria you handed me." Immediately after the war, she began singing on the BBC with her father, and by the age of 14 she was performing at the London Hippodrome.

Before she was 20, she had crossed the Atlantic and was on her way to Broadway. Her first musical was The Boy Friend and it made her a star. The second was My Fair Lady and it made her a legend. Opposite Rex Harrison in New York and later in London she gave one of those miraculous performances that seem made in heaven. She was honored with the New York Drama Critics Award and the show became the longest-running musical of the era.

Lerner and Loewe wouldn't let her go and they wrote Camelot for her, in which she starred as Guinevere opposite Richard Burton's King Arthur. Although not as big a hit as Lady, it guaranteed Andrews' place in the Broadway pantheon of musical theater stars and gave her the opportunity to introduce to the world one of the loveliest scores ever written for the stage. Camelot also brought her to the attention of Walt Disney, who flew her to Hollywood and cast her as everyone's favorite English governess Mary Poppins.

With the release of that original film musical in 1964, the movies got a new leading lady and the new star got an Academy Award. The following year saw the release of The Sound of Music, the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical about everybody's favorite Austrian governess. The movie and Andrews' career went through the roof. She was nominated for a second Academy Award the year after winning her first. The movie too was honored with many awards including the Oscar for best film. It played in theaters all over the world for more than a year and sometimes longer, becoming the highest-grossing motion picture of all time.

Andrews' other films from the 1960s include dramas and musicals: The Americanization of Emily, Hawaii, Torn Curtain, Star!, and Thoroughly Modern Millie. In 1969 she starred in Darling Lili, directed by Blake Edwards. They were married shortly thereafter and together, for the next 20 years, they made a string of movies that include The Tamarind Seed, 10, S.O.B., That's Life, and Victor/Victoria.

In 1993, Andrews returned to the stage for the first time in 30 years in the off-Broadway production of Stephen Sondheim's Putting It Together, but it was two years later that Julie Andrews made dreams come for the millions of people who adore the American musical theater: she made a triumphant return to Broadway--40 years after her debut--with the stage adaptation of Victor/Victoria.

Because of her extraordinary success in theater and films, it is often forgotten that television played a major role in making Andrews one of the best-loved performers in show business. In 1957, Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote the musical Cinderella for her and during the Broadway run of Camelot, Andrews was introduced to Carol Burnett. They became good friends and starred in a series of highly praised, audience-grabbing musical and comedy specials, including "Julie and Carol at Carnegie Hall." Most recently, she starred in a live broadcast of On Golden Pond, opposite her Sound of Music leading man, Christopher Plummer.

Andrews in also a tireless worker on behalf of numerous charities, including Save the Children and UNICEF. In 1992 she served as Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM).

And on the eve of our new century, in tribute to an extraordinary career in the performing arts, Julie Andrews was made a Dame of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth.

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