Julia Elizabeth Wells was born on the 1st October 1935 in Surrey England, on the out-skirts of London. Although Julia’s mother Barbara was married to Ted Wells at the time of her birth, Ted was not her father, but was the result of an extra-marital affair her mother had with a family friend.
Needless to say the marriage broke up and both parties went their separate ways and eventually remarried. Her mother to another Ted, Andrews this time and her father to a former hairstylist. Julia was born into a poor working class family and endured considerable hardship whilst growing up.
Her mother Barbara and her new husband were both entertainers and was employed to entertain the troops during World War II. Her step-father was an alcoholic and on two occasions as Julia recalls in her biography, he entered her bedroom whilst drunk and tried to get into her bed. To remedy the situation she placed a lock on her bedroom door to prevent any further incidence.
As a very young girl Julia showed great potential and promise as an entertainer, prompting her step-father to sponsor lessons. The first school she attended was Cone-Ripman school where she met the voice coach Lillian Stiles-Allen, later describing her as her third mother and whom she sites as having the greatest influence on her life.
As her performing abilities grew her parents brought her into their stage act, sometimes singing solo, sometimes as a duet with Ted, whilst her mother accompanied them on the piano.
In 1947 Julia was introduced to Val Parnell, a prominent London impresario at the time, who immediately recognised her talent. Later that years, on the 22nd of October, she made her solo debut at the London Hippodrome as part of a musical revue, which she did continuously for one year, honing her skills and gaining in confidence.
On the 1st November 1948 she became the youngest solo performer to appear on the Royal Command Performance. On that same bill were world famous artists such as Danny Kaye, and the highly popular American dancing duo the Nicholas Brothers.
Her career steadily climbed thereafter and she was engaged to star in numerous West End musicals. Soon after, Broadway beckoned when in 1954 on the eve of her 19th birthday she debuted as Polly Brown in the Boyfriend which had enjoyed huge success in the London West End. Two years later in 1950 she appeared as Eliza Doolittle with Rex Harrison in ‘My Fair Lady’. She was seen by Rodgers of the Rodgers and Hammerstein collaboration who was so impressed with her performance and stage presence that she was cast in the television musical ‘Cinderella’ to run concurrent with he stage appearances in ‘My Fair Lady’. When it aired on the 31st March 1977 it drew a television audience of over 107 million viewers.
Julia married Tony Walton a set designer in 1959 with whom she had a daughter Emma Katharine. Whilst pregnant she was offered the role of ‘Mary Poppins’ which she declined due to her pregnancy. However, Warner Brothers thought that she was so perfect for the part that they were prepared to wait. After she gave birth the family returned to the US in September 1962 to begin filming.
Julia and Tony’s marriage eventually failed and they divorced in 1967. Two years later she married Edward Blake, a union that is still on-going.
The role of ‘Mary Poppins’, can without doubt be regarded as her career peak. The role won her international recognition, the academy award for best actress and the Golden globe award for best motion picture that year.
Between 1968 1995 Julia appeared in numerous stage musicals, film productions, television shows and also recorded two albums. After 35 years she returned to the stage in Victor/Victoria which opened on the 25th October 1995 and later went on a successful world tour. She was nominated for a Tony Award but refused to accept it because she felt that the whole cast deserved to be honoured.
It was whilst on tour that she developed throat nodules, which was operated on at the Mount Sinai hospital in New York. Before agreeing to the operation she was reassured that she should regain he singing voice within 6 weeks. Two years later her voice failed to return. She brought a malpractice suit against the hospital and the case was eventually settled in September 2000.
Julia Andrews has an impressive body of work and in 2000 she was made a Dame of the British Empire (DBE) in recognition for her services to the performing arts. At 75 years old, she remains healthy and continues to be high profile and active in the artistic arena.