Canadian Connection And Unhappy Upbringing
Born Julia Wells, Andrews took her stage name from her stepfather, a Canadian actor and singer named Ted Andrews. But her home life was anything but cheery – the Andrews family was very poor and the actress grew up in what she has called “a bad slum area of London.” Her stepfather was violent and both he and her mother were alcoholics.
Her mother and stepfather discovered young Julie had talent at age 8 during a sing-a-long in an air-raid shelter. Her stepfather nurtured her talent by finding a vocal coach in British soprano Lilian Stiles-Allen, who helped train her four-octave voice.
She Was Rejected For ‘My Fair Lady’
After originating the role of Eliza Dolittle in the Broadway production of My Fair Lady to great acclaim and cementing herself as a rising theatrical presence, Andrews was passed over for the film adaptation because producers wanted a more recognizable star, casting Audrey Hepburn instead. But don’t feel too badly for Andrews – she landed her debut role in “Mary Poppins” that same year and won the Oscar for Best Actress. She and Hepburn also remained good friends over the years.
Her ‘Sound Of Music’ Hair Was A Mistake
Andrews’ short-cropped orange ‘do in “The Sound Of Music’ is actually a mistake. The actress had cut her hair short to fit under “Mary Poppins”’ wigs and liked it so much she decided to keep the cropped look. Her naturally darker hair was supposed to be lightened up, but a colouring mistake left her with the now-iconic look in the film.
Vaudeville And Royalty
At 9-years-old, Andrews joined her mother and stepfather in their Vaudeville act. Dropping out of school, Andrews was earning enough money with her voice to support her family. She was cast in her first West End production at age 12 and at age 13 she made history as the youngest solo artist to perform at the 1948 Royal Variety Command Performance for King George VI and the future Queen Elizabeth II.
She Was Rejected By MGM
Despite proving herself as a massive vocal talent fit for royalty, MGM rejected her in 1947. Invited for a screen test at their new London studio, MGM called Andrews “unfilmable” and turned her down.
She Stopped Herself From Becoming An EGOT Winner
She has an Emmy, an Oscar and a Grammy, but Andrews stopped herself from adding a Tony to her collection. In 1996 she was nominated for her role in Victor/Victoria on Broadway, however she turned the nomination down because she felt her cast and crew didn’t get the recognition they deserved and she felt it was unfair to be singled out. Had she won, she would have joined the exclusive group of EGOT winners.
Marking the end of her stage career, Andrews gave her final bow on June 8, 1997 where Sound Of Music co-star Christopher Plummer surprised her on stage by serenading her with “Edelweiss” from the film.
A Botched Surgery Cost Andrew Her Singing Voice
Experiencing trouble with her vocal chords while appearing in Victor/Victoria on Broadway, Andrews was diagnosed with a non-cancerous tumour. Opting for surgery to remove the growth in 1997, after being assured there was no risk to her voice, the procedure created major scarring on her vocal cords and left her unable to sing. She had several more surgeries to remove scar tissue and improve her speaking voice, however, her voice was never the same. She launched a malpractice suit against the doctors and hospital in 1999, eventually settling for a rumoured $30 million in damages.
She Met Her Husband In Therapy
Andrews met her second husband, “Breakfast At Tiffany’s” director Blake Edwards at her therapist’s office. The actress was arriving at the office just as Edwards was leaving when he worked up the nerve to approach her. After declining his proposal several times, the pair eventually wed in 1969 and remained married for 41 years until his death in 2010.
She’s A Published Author
Along with her daughter Emma Walton Hamilton, Andrews has published more than 30 children’s books. The idea for the books came after the actress learned there weren’t enough of the type of books her toddler grandson would enjoy. Andrews has also published several books for older children. In May 2020, she launched a podcast called “Julie’s Library” with her daughter, which sees them read their favourite children’s books to encourage family time and increase literacy.
She Declined A Role In ‘Mary Poppins Returns’
The actress was approached for a cameo in “Mary Poppins Returns”, but declined. Director Rob Marshall told Entertainment Weekly she didn’t want to overshadow the film’s star Emily Blunt.
“Julie was incredibly gracious, and we talked about it in a very general way, but she made it clear right up front,” Marshall told the magazine. “She said, ‘This is Emily’s show, and I really want it to be Emily’s show. I don’t want it to be, ‘Oh, here comes that Mary Poppins.’ I don’t want that. I really want her to take this and run with it, because she will be brilliant.’”