Tuesday, March 27, 2012


When I was growing up, one of my favorite movies was Mary Poppins. I loved Julie Andrews’ portrayal of the nanny with the umbrella and carpet bag who held a tea party on the ceiling, jumped in and out of a picture with her charges, and never gave them castor oil or gruel. I almost wished my parents would hire me a nanny.

My mother said she first took me to see the movie when I was four. I don’t remember this, but I do recall seeing it in a theater later when I was older, and I saw it on television a few times. We had a sound track of the movie which I played often. I even had a Mary Poppins umbrella.

I also liked The Sound of Music, but I never saw the movie until I was an adult so it didn’t make as much of an impression. A friend from school had the sound track, and we listened to it often when I went to herhouse. At the Arizona State School for the Deaf and Blind in Tucson, our choir sang “Climb Every Mountain” for graduation one year.

I just finished reading Home: A Memoir of My Younger Years by Julie Andrews. This book portrays her life from birth until 1963 when she went to Hollywood to start filming Mary Poppins. She was born Julia Elizabeth Wells on October 1st, 1935 in Walton-on-Thames, Surrie, England. During her childhood and early adulthood years, she performed in a variety of theatrical productions in England. Her first Broadway performance was in the 1954 production of The Boy Friend. She also starred in My Fair Lady and Camelot and won Tony awards for these performances. In 1957, she first appeared on television in Cinderella. She made many other television appearances with such stars as Bing Crosby and Carol Burnett.

Mary Poppins was her first film in 1964, and she won an Academy Award for best actress. She was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance in The Sound of Music in 1965. From 1964 to 1967, she appeared in The Americanization of Emily, Hawaii, Torn Curtain, and Thoroughly Modern Millie. In the 1970’s, her film career slowed down when her performances in Star!, Darling Lili, and The Tamarind Seed weren’t as successful. Her popularity rose with her performances in 10 in 1979 and Victor Victoria in 1982. She received a third Academy award nomination for Victor Victoria. During the rest of the 1980’s, she starred in other unsuccessful films including That’s Life and Duet for One. Her voice was damaged by a throat operation in 1997.

She returned to fame in this century with her performances in The Princess Diaries in 2001 and it sequel, The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement, in 2004. She directed a production of The Boy Friend at the Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor, New York, in 2003 and at the Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam, Connecticut in 2005. She also appeared in the Shrek animated films and Despicable Me from 2004 to 2010. She wrote children’s books.

In Home: A Memoir of My Younger Years, Julie Andrews talks about her life growing up in England before, during, and after World War II and her career as a singer and actress in England and the U.S. Hermother played the piano, and her father was a teacher. She learned later that she was conceived by her mother and a family friend.

When World War II broke out, her parents separated and eventually divorced. Her mother moved to London and married singer Ted Andrews and they developed their own act. Julie continued to live in Walton-on-Thames with her father and brother but eventually went to live with hermother and stepfather in London. Her mother changed her name from Julia Wells to Julie Andrews and insisted she call her stepfather Pop. Julie still maintained a wonderful relationship with Ted Wells, the man she thought was her father, even after discovering he wasn’t.

Her stepfather tried giving her voice lessons but decided she should study with a professional. She performed often with her mother and stepfather before branching out on her own. In the late 1950’s, she married Tony Walton who approached her years earlier after one of her performances and became a good friend. In the 1960’s, she divorced him and married Blake Edwards, and she mentions this briefly in her book.

Home: A Memoir of My Early Years left me wanting to know more about Julie Andrews. I found some information on Wikipedia but not what I wanted to know. At the end of the book, she and Tony seem to be getting along pretty well so I wonder why they split up and why she married her second husband and stayed with him until his death in 2010. I’m also interested in her experience with her throat surgery and what it was like to discover that her voice was damaged as a result of it. According to Wikipedia, this is the first of a two-part memoir series so I guess I’ll have to wait for the second part.

Did you have any favorite movies or stars when you were growing up? Did you hang posters or other memorabilia in your room or gawk at pictures in magazines? Did you play those movie sound tracks over and over until the records wore out? Did you ever want to be in pictures? Please feel free to share your memories below.

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome and How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver


  1. Hi Abbie,
    Great book review, although personally I don't understand the fascination with the real person behind the portrayal. I've always felt the movie or book was just right, and felt kind of deflated reading about the actor or author. Just my opinion, Chris

  2. Hi Chris, I'm glad you enjoyed the review. Some people aren't fascinated by celebrities' lives. I don't know why I am. I guess I'm like a lot of people. When I was growing up, I wanted to be a singer, actress, anyone famous. I'm glad my mother talked me out of it when I was older. Thanks for posting.

  3. I liked the film, Mary Poppins, at the time but the music teacher at Jericho Hill School for the Deaf and Blind made us sing those show tunes over and over until I was sick of them. Adults often kill the enjoyment of films, plays, books, and other forms of entertainment by forcing them on kids. I grew to love rock music and I dispised all that stuff we were forced to sing.

    1. Hi Bruce, we also sang show tunes at the Arizona School for the Deaf & Blind in Tucson, but I guess we didn't sing them often enough for me to get sick of them. One year, we sang selections from The Music Man and another year, we sang "Climb Every Mountain" for graduation. Thanks for posting.