Take a look at the incredible story of this Oscar-winner.
Relationship with Grandparents
Andrews’s grandfather on her mothers was known as “The Pitman’s Poet”, he used to write poetry in the coal mine where he worked, but he became infamous for a completely different reason.
He gradually lost his sanity, apparently, he had several bad habits, and he did not live a healthy lifestyle. He passed away at 43 years old.
Andrews's grandmother's died two years later.
Barbara (Andrews's mother) and her sister became lonely orphans — an experience that made a great impact on them and the way they raised their children.
Barbara, Andrews's mother, loved music and had dreams of becoming a classical pianist. However, losing her parents at 18 years old changed her plans. She couldn't keep pursuing music as she became the primary caretaker of her sister, who was 13 at the time.
Barbara rarely spoke of her family and that unfortunate episode of her life, but that doesn't mean she didn't grieve. She ended up naming her daughter Julie, after her beloved mother, Julia.
A Canary Enthusiast
Andrews's childhood did have some positive experiences, thankfully. She may never have met her grandparents, but she did meet her great-grandmother Emily. When that happened, Emily was a widow and well into her 80s, but still kind, smiley, and soft-spoken.
Great-grandma Emily loved birds and even kept an aviary! Little Julie grew to love birds as well and was especially taken by canaries.
When Barbara met Ted Well, her life changed for the better. Young Wells fell deeply in love with her and even helped her take care of her sister.
The two love birds soon made it official, got married, and had a couple of children: Julie and John.
Babara Decided to Split
Looking at Andrews you could never guess how eventful and irregular her childhood was. Barbara, who loved playing the piano, got a job doing just that for singer Ted Andrews not long after marrying Wells.
She went on tours with him, fell in love, and ended up moving to London with him, leaving Wells behind.
A Drastic Life Change
After her parents split up, Andrews stayed with her father in Surrey for a while, but it wasn't long until she moved to London too, to live with her mother and stepfather. After growing up in Surrey, London felt incredibly gray and noisy to Julie.
The apartment she lived in was located in a basement with small windows through which she could see the rat-ridden street. But inside the apartment wasn't much better as Barbara and Ted had some personal troubles to handle.
Julie's stepfather seemed to have taken a page out of her grandfather's book. He wouldn't let go of the bottle and was often abusive. Sadly, his drinking habits hooked barbara in as well.
Julie loved her mother dearly, but Barbara's relationship with alcohol made it hard for Julie to trust her.
Under Lock and Key
When he was sober, Julie's stepfather was a brilliant singer. However, his behavior was unforgivable.
As a young child, Julie locked her room to make sure he stays away.
Singing for Distraction
WWII is when Julie's talent was first discovered. She was only eight years old at the time, but her voice couldn't be ignored.
When the air raids began and people gathered in community shelters, Ted, Julie's stepfather, used to sing with the community to help get their minds off what was happening outside. Julie sang along and Barbara soon noticed how good her daughter's singing sounded.
The war made Julie quit school, and her stepfather soon started giving her singing lessons. He may have offered to give her those lessons because she kept asking, or as a genuine attempt to have a better relationship with her.
He was blown away by her range of four octaves, and quickly realized he had to send her to a professional teacher.
Ted sent Julie to the same instructor he went to — Lilian Stiles-Allen, the famous British soprano, or simply 'Madame', as her voice students called her. The musical education Julie got from her included classical pieces that helped her work on diction and vocal placement.
Stiles hoped that Julie would become an opera singer. While that never really happened, the two did become very close and Stiles was very maternal towards her.
Supporting Her Family
At nine years old, Andrews and her parents started an on-stage vaudeville act. She was so young and so little she could hardly reach the mic and had to sing on top of an upside-down beer crate.
Over time, Julie's part in the act became more substantial, and her talent became the family's main source of income. By 15 years old, Julie's earnings went straight to her family's mortgage payments.
Joining her parents' act was nice, but Julie's talent was ready for bigger projects. She was introduced to TV director Val Parnell by her stepfather when she was 12 years old.
Parnell saw Julie's talent and decided to cast her in the West End production of "Starlight Roof" right away. This was a great springboard for her career, and it didn't take more than a year until she performed for royals.
An MGM Rejection
In 1947, at 12 years old, MGM studios opened a branch in London and invited Julie to do a screen test. Surprisingly, her impressive vocal cords weren't enough for her to get cast.
MGM couldn't recognize her talent, and sent Andrews home, calling her "unfilmable."
In 1948, at 13 years old, Andrews made history. She performed for King George VI and Queen Elizabeth at the Royal Variety Command Performance and became the youngest solo artist to do so.
Julie remembers being very excited by the whole performance. She had no idea she was about to become a legend.
WWII and her family's finance drove Julie out of school at a young age, but she made sure to do whatever she could to get educated. Commuting from one show to another, she was often seen holding a book.
Most kids aren't fans of their schools, to say the least. But even though she was "educated by life", as her mother called it, she still regrets not graduating or going to college.
Moving to America
When Andrews was 18, the director of the London play "The Boyfriend" saw her perform. He wanted to produce an American version of the play and immediately cast her as the lead in it.
Julie had to move to America and leave her family behind. It was hard, but it was ultimately the right thing to do. After this role, she was casted as Eliza Doolittle in "My Fair Lady", making history again as the youngest actress to do that.
Overcoming Critical Costars
Julie's co-stare in My Fair Lady was Rex Harrison, who was unimpressed by her. In fact, he was so displeased with her being cast on the show he tried to push for her replacement.
But Harrison's campaign failed and director Moss Hart helped Andrews by training her himself. After Moss pointed out that her British strength will carry her through the production and past Harrison's remarks.
Discovering Her Roots
In 1949, Julie's mother went to a party and had Julie drive her back home at the end of the night. While still under the influence of the few drinks she'd had at the event, Barbara revealed to Julie that Ted Wells wasn't her real father, but the man who's house she'd just left.
The news came as a shock to Julie. While she had no interest in reconnecting with that man, they did end up meeting again.
An Uninvited Guest
After turning down her birthfather's efforts to reconnect, Julie didn't think she would be seeing or hearing anything from him again.
She was unpleasantly surprised to see him turning up at a "My Fair Lady" after-party. He tried to Andrews felt unimpressed by his absentminded attitude and his unwelcome appearance. Apart from occasional cards at Christmas, she never saw him again.
Julie Andrews met Tony Walton when she was 12 years old, not knowing the part he will play in her future. At the time, she was involved in a Humpty Dumpty Christmas pantomime, playing the role of an egg. Among her front-row viewers was Walton, who couldn't take his eyes off her.
They met again on the train on their way back home and became friends. Two days later, Walton showed up at her door and the two never left each other's side. They tied the knot in 1959.
Julie and Tony were very much in love. They even had wedding rings that were specially made to match a brooch Tony gave her! In 1962, the two had their first daughter, Emma.
In 1964, they worked together on the set of "Mary Poppins" — Tony as a set designer and Julie as the titular character, obviously. Things couldn't be better for the couple, but then Hollywood got in the way.
Not Eliza Forever
Playing Eliza Doolittle on stage should have turned Andrews into the number one candidate to play her on the big screen. But it didn't.
When "My Fair Lady" was adapted into a film, Jack Warner, the studio manager, pushed Andrews aside to cast Audrey Hepburn.
When Walt Disney first saw Andrews on stage, he knew he had to work with her. This encounter happened when Andrews played Queen Guinevere on a Broadway show and Disney ran to offer her the part of Mary Poppins the moment the show was over.
When talking to Walt, Julie was four months pregnant with her daughter so she initially had to refuse. But Walt was determined and offered to delay the production in order to include her.
"Mary Poppins" and "My Fair Lady" were released the same year, and the only opinion that mattered was the viewers'.
Julie's film ended up crushing Hepburn's at the box office and even won her a Golden Globe and an Oscar! This could have easily led to a trashy Hollywood catfight, but the two actresses remained friendly.
A First Kiss
One of Andrews's less-iconic films is "The Americanization of Emily". The film was released between "Mary Poppins" and "The Sound of Music".
It was the first time she had an on-screen love scene and was incredibly nervous to kiss her co-star James Garner.
Maybe a Little Too Sweet
In 1962, Andrews and Carol Burnett performed in a parody that made fun out of "The Sound of Music." The parody was called "The Pratt Family Singers" and it leaned heavily on how sickly sweet Andrews found Maria to be.
She would never have guessed that she would be playing that same character two years later.
Christopher Plummer is only one of the many actor friends Andrews has made throughout her career, but when they first met, he wasn't a fan, to say the least.
When they worked on "The Sound of Music", he thought she was annoying, and even called her "Ms. Disney" as an act of disrespect. He later expressed regret over those words, claiming he was being immature.
The Orange Hair
Andrews didn't always wear her hair short, let alone short and orange.
When filming "Mary Poppins", Julie wore wigs and cut her own hair short so it could fit better under them. She later decided to keep the haircut. As for the color, Julie's dark hair needed to appear lighter on camera so she had it colored. No one imagined this would be the end result, but she pulled it off nicely and they decided to keep it.
Trouble in Paradise
With the rise of Julie's career, came the downfall of her marriage. Her job often sent her to different filming locations, which meant the couple spent a long time apart.
After trying to save their marriage for a while, the two decided to divorce in 1967. There were no hard feelings and the two thankfully remained friends. Plus, Julie wasn't one to stay single for long.
A New Love
Julie's first meeting with her second husband, Blake Edwards, was in 1959. She was just arriving at her therapist's clinic when he was leaving the place.
According to him, it took him a few more times of that happening before he said anything. Eventually, he opened his car window and asked if she was going to the same place he just left. How cute is that?
A New Flame
Julie was often cast as the designated sweetheart, but her real personality was a little rougher than that. Actually, if you asked her, she would describe her meeting with Edwards as corny. Blake, on the other hand, would describe it as "wonderfully Hollywood."
The two had a 13-year age gap, but that didn't stop them from dating and falling in love. He popped the question after only one year of dating but Julie needed a little more time to say yes.
Saying I Do
The proposal took Andrews by total surprise. She needed time to think about her answer for a couple of reasons: Blake's tempestuous temper and the fact that they were both technically still married to other people.
Blake's proposal came so soon that neither of them had a chance to finalize their divorce yet! Andrews decided to politely decline and the two gave it a little while longer. They finally put a ring on it in 1969.
Julie and Blake tried to conceive unsuccessfully for a few years. They ended up adopting two baby girls from a Vietnamese orphanage.
First, they took in Amy Leigh, who was two months old at the time, and when Saigon fell, they welcomed her 5-month-old sister, Joanna Lynne. The fate of those girls changed forever as they came to America from war-stricken Vietnam. They were cared for with all the love the couple could possibly offer.
Taking a Break
Prioritizing her children above anything else in her life, Julie decided to set her career aside for a while so she could dedicate herself to motherhood.
She has always been extremely appreciative of mothers who could do it all. Still, she found the balance to be next to impossible for her personally. Unfortunately, when she was ready to go back to work again she had to care for one more person.
Julie and Blake had a loving relationship but it wasn't all flowers and unicorns. As funny and charismatic as Blake was, he was no superman. He suffered from recurring depression, which made life challenging for the couple and their family.
Still, love carried them through it all, and when things got rough they focused on making it through one day at a time.
A Rose by Any Other Name
As you know, Eliza Doolittle was a florist in "My Fair Lady". It wasn't long before somebody saw Andrews playing her and named a rose after her.
It happened at the Chelsea Flower Show in 1992 with a beautiful peach-colored rose that couldn't be a more perfect fit.
Revealing Some News
1981 was the year when Blake's film, "S.O.B.", was released. He was the director and writer, and she played the character of an Oscar-winning actress, which was right up her alley.
It doesn't really sound outrageous, but when you learn that she had to show her breasts on camera for the film, you can imagine the fuss. Considering how nervous she was to kiss a co-star as a younger actress, it's very surprising. But according to her, it took ten years for the movie to be released so she had a lot of time to get used to the idea.
Saying No to a Tony
In 1996, Julie played the role of Victoria Grant in the play "Victor/Victoria". It was her first time back on stage after a 35-year-long break and she was highly praised for it.
Her fantastic performance granted her a Tony nomination, and she probably would have won. But the second she realized that no one else in the production was nominated, she withdrew her name from the list in the name of solidarity.
An Emotional Farewell
The night when "Victor/Victoria" had its final show, the cast had a special surprise for Julie. They came on stage at the curtain call, and together with Christopher Plummer, they performed her favorite song from "The Sound of Music" — "Edelweiss".
She was moved to tears and said she would love to work with them all again in the future. Unfortunately, she never had the chance to do that...
Surgery or No Surgery?
Performing in "Victor/Victoria" on a daily basis was putting a strain on Julie's vocal cords. She saw a doctor after the production ended and learned that she had a non-cancerous growth that was causing some trouble.
She had two options — give her voice some rest and not perform for a while, or have surgery and go on tour with the play right away. Blake pushed for the second option and she agreed to go through the procedure.
An Unfortunate Decision
The surgery she had to go through was supposed to be a simple one which wouldn't require much except for a few weeks to recover. She went in there hoping to sing again not long after. But unfortunately, the procedure ended up scarring her vocal cords.
Just like the little mermaid, Andrews was denied of her voice, but this was no fairytale, and she ended up losing her main source of income along with her identity as a singer.
Fighting for Her Voice
Julie was refusing to come to terms with her diagnosis. Hoping to get her voice back, she saw multiple doctors and went through further surgeries to remove the scar tissue on her vocal cords.
She also practiced vocal exercises to help her recovery, but things weren't going back to normal. She was, however, able to restore the better part of her speaking voice.
Two years after the surgery, after trying everything in her power to get her voice back, Julie filed a malpractice suit against those involved in the surgery that started it all. She said that she wasn't informed of the potential risks the procedure may pose and that it resulted in her losing her ability to practice her profession.
It is rumored that the suit was settled for $30 million, but being the lady she is, she never spoke of any official numbers. It wasn't a voice, but it was definitely something.
A New Journey
Julie grieved her voice terribly. She went through a rough period which included denial and depression but managed to emerge from it.
She learned to embrace other parts of her identity and turned to writing. With several published children's books already, she teamed up with her daughter and released several more.
Partnering With Emma
Julie was inspired to write for toddlers after realizing there weren't enough books of that kind. She started by teaming up with her daughter, Emma, who had a toddler of her own. They were joined by Tony Walton, Emma's father, and Julie's ex-husband and started working on a series of books.
The three turned out to be a great team and have since released dozens of books. As Emma puts it, it was as if Andrews found a new voice.
Moving People to Tears
After her surgery, Julie knew she will never regain her full range of four octaves. Years later, however, she learned how to utilize the voice she was left with and "speak-sing" songs that were simple enough.
This ability was first displayed in 2004, in "The Princess Diaries 2" when she sang a duet called "Your Crowning Glory" with Raven-Symoné. Gary Marshall, the director, said even the toughest guys on set cried when they heard her sing after so long. We may have also shed a tear or two.
Nothing came between Julie and Blake in their 40 years together, but they had to say their final goodbyes in 2010 after Blake came down with aggressive pneumonia that cost him his life.
Though she's had years to overcome his loss, she still misses him terribly. In a 2015 interview, she said that she is sometimes reminded of him in random moments and wishes he was there. Sound like true love to us.
Saying No Thanks
In 2018, a "Mary Poppins" sequel was released, but Andrews didn't take part in it.
She was offered an appearance but denied it, and for the most gracious reason you can possibly think of — she didn't want to upstage Emily Blunt, who starred in the film as the new Poppins. Now we love her even more!
Starting a Podcast
As it turns out, Julie is also quite the educator. Concerned about the impact of difficult world events on children, She launched a podcast with Emma in May 2020. Titled "Julie’s Library", the podcast features the two women reading children’s books.
The podcast is meant to encourage kids to read and bring families together. It is also a way for people to fulfill their lifelong dream of having a bedtime story read to them by Andrews herself.
Any Future Projects?
We would love to see Julie perform on stage once again. And while she hasn't retired, at 84, some conditions need to be met in order for her to agree to a production. The run of the play has to be limited, and the schedule must allow a stand-in to fill in for her at least once a week.
She has yet to express her interest in a specific role, but once she does, we are sure the tickets will sell out in no time.
We would all like the world to remember us fondly and have a legacy we're proud of.
Andrews has a very clear idea of what she wants her legacy to be: joyful music and that her work "gives joy and makes people curious". Let's just say that she has nothing to worry about on that front.