The fascinating life of Julie Andrews

Julie Andrews originated some of the most memorable film characters of our childhoods, and she has continued to evolve over the years, remaining just as relevant and cherished as when she first graced the silver screen. 

With her eloquent voice, she makes it feel like she's talking to every audience member individually through her work. Not to mention, there are likely many of us out there who count her as an honorary grandmother of ours. Maybe even a nanny. The woman even "travels with her own teakettle," which seems so unequivocally her. Ever beloved and talented, Andrews has lived a rich life, much of which is just being revealed in recent years. But don't let her sunny spirit and bright, bubbly vernacular fool you. She's had her fair share of struggles, and has lived to tell the tale. 

Let's take a closer look at the incredible Andrews and her fascinating untold life. 

She survived an abusive childhood

Seeing interviews with Andrews throughout the years, she appears put-together and happy. With an attitude like that, it may come as a surprise to hear that her childhood wasn't a happy one.

While Andrews has only fond memories of her father, Ted Wells, she experienced difficult times with her mother, Barbara Morris, and stepfather, Ted Andrews. As she shared in her memoir, Home (via The New York Times), "My mother was terribly important to me, and I know how much I yearned for her in my youth...but I don't think I truly trusted her."

Morris drank a lot, taking a cue from her second husband, Ted Andrews. Step-father Andrews, on two drunken occasions, attempted to get into bed with Andrews, who then put a lock on her door to ensure it couldn't happen again.

As a child, she supported her family

From a young age, Andrews had a heavy weight on her shoulders. According to Vanity Fair, after her mother left her father, Wells, for vaudeville performer Ted Andrews, young Andrews had to perform on the road with her mother and new stepfather. 

With a four-octave vocal range, Andrews and her talent were unstoppable. But with the problems at home, the young star had to grow up very fast in order to help the family make money through her performing. As Vanity Fair reported, she performed often. Beyond that, she even helped raise her younger siblings. These first years of her life, Andrews lived a life full of responsibility, with a lack of childhood.

Her real father was not the man she knew

Andrews' father, Wells, was a very important person in her life. She remembered in her 2009 memoir, Home (via the LA Times), "He treated me and my siblings as his beloved companions, never dismissing or talking down to us."

But at the young age of 14, Andrews learned shocking news that her father wasn't the man she called her dad. In the same memoir, Home (via Daily Mail), Andrews recalls an evening in 1949 when she was performing at the house of a family friend. She described, "After I had sung, the owner of the house approached me...That evening the man came and sat on the couch next to me. I remember feeling an electricity between us that I couldn't explain." Later that evening, her mother asked her about the man and then proceeded to share, "That man is your father."

The shock set in for Andrews, but one thing was still for certain: Wells would always be her father. She continued, "It did not alter the fact that the man who had raised me was the man I loved...I would always consider him my father. I loved him with all my being."

She originated Eliza Doolittle

After her less-than-perfect upbringing, Andrews was able to make it for herself by joining a British company, who produced the musical The Boy Friend on Broadway, just before her 19th birthday.

She then landed the role of Eliza Doolittle in the musical My Fair Lady. "I did all of my learning on My Fair Lady," she shared with The Hollywood Reporter, calling it an "endurance test," and "three-and-a-half years of just shattering your vocal chords together." Andrews took on the challenge and excelled. The show was a hit.

The shocker came when the film adaptation was announced, with show rights owner Jack Warner casting Audrey Hepburn as Eliza — not Andrews. She later learned it was because the movie studio wanted a name actress. Andrews opened up about this with THR, saying, "I would love to have put something from My Fair Lady down definitively...In those days they didn't archive things...I completely understood it [choosing Hepburn]. I really didn't expect it. Like so many Broadway productions in those days, they used somebody else to do the movie."

There was one person who didn't understand that decision. Ironically, it was Hepburn herself. Andrews recalled a conversation she later had with Hepburn. "[Audrey] said to me, 'You should have done My Fair Lady, Julie — but I didn't have the guts to turn it down.' Which was very sweet. Classy dame." Hepburn had help from "ghost singer" Marni Nixon, who covered the singing for Hepburn in the film.

She put Mary Poppins' production on hold

Andrews didn't have to wait long for good news. Around the same time, while Andrews was performing the musical, Camelot, Walt Disney showed up to speak with her. Andrews shared this story with The Hollywood Reporter, saying, "He told me about [Mary] Poppins and then and there asked if I would like to come out to Hollywood to see the drawings that he'd storyboarded and to hear the songs that had been written for the movie." Andrews wanted to, but confided with Disney that she was three months pregnant. His response? "That's OK, we'll wait!" 

Six months later, after Andrews gave birth to her daughter, Emma, she received a call from P.L. Travers, the author of Mary Poppins. Andrews shared, "She said, 'You're much too pretty [for the part], of course, but you've got the nose for it!'...The first time my nose came through for me!"

Andrews went on to win the Golden Globe (in the same Best Actress category as Hepburn for My Fair Lady), and the Oscar for her role in Mary Poppins.

She had to audition for the role of Maria

Even though Andrews was an Academy Award winner and professional singer, the role of Maria in The Sound of Music wasn't just handed to her. She had to work for the role, and was up against "bankable moviestars," like Doris Day and Grace Kelly, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Andrews said of Day, "Well, she was the great star of the day who sang. How lucky can I get?" These days, audiences could barely picture the film without Andrews in that leading role.

Picking favorites in The Sound of Music

With such a famous film like The Sound of Music, what scenes would Andrews love to film again if she could? She has two answers to that question. Speaking with the Los Angeles Times, Andrews named the "Austrian folk dance between Maria and Captain Von Trapp" and when "Captain Von Trapp asks [Maria] to stay with the family." Of the latter scene, Andrews said, "I love that moment."

Filming The Sound of Music wasn't always easy

Watching The Sound of Music now, it feels as picture-perfect as ever. However, as Andrews shared with the Hollywood Reporter, shooting the famous film was not as glamorous as it seemed. And it all starts with that very famous, opening scene atop the mountains.

The hills were indeed alive, but more so with mud, than the music. As Andrews shared, "You've got these huge speakers out in the pines somewhere out on a mountain, and there's a helicopter coming at you from the other end of the field, through the trees, and walk, walk, walk, walk, walk, turn around, cut...They did many takes, and every time the helicopter went around me — it was a jet-engine helicopter — it just leveled me into the ground! So I got angrier and angrier. I kept thinking, 'Doesn't [the pilot] see what he's doing to me? I'm spitting mud and grass and hay!'"

She almost lost her singing voice

In 1997, according to The Telegraph, Andrews had gone in for surgery on her vocal cords, but the procedure went wrong and she lost her four-octave singing voice. She later went to a rehab clinic and filed a lawsuit against the surgeons who performed her surgery.

This situation took a toll on the actress not just physically, but emotionally as well. According to E! News, Andrews "checked into a clinic for grief counseling earlier in 1999." As someone who has made a name for herself with her voice, this was a very upsetting moment for Andrews.

However, Andrews didn't let a devastating situation stand in her way and she learned a new style of singing. She described this in the interview with The Telegraph, saying, "I have about five good bass notes and I can work my way around them pretty well...I also employ that Rex Harrison sing-speak kind of voice. I narrate a lot, I tell tales."

Her secret to her happy marriage

Andrews second marriage was to Blake Edwards in 1969. The couple were happily married until Edwards' passing in 2010. Andrews opened up to Good Morning Britain (via ET Online) about their marriage and what made it successful. She said, "I'm still dealing with [his death]...There are days when it's perfectly wonderful and I am myself and then...suddenly [it'll] sock you in the middle of your gut and you think, 'Ah God, I wish he were here.' But he is in a way. I think one carries that love always." 

She shared during the interview that their secret for their loving marriage was "patience and perseverance." She continued on to say, "We were married 41 years and it was a love story, it was...Success in our marriage was to take it one day at a time and so, lo and behold, 41 years later there we still were."

She takes none of her success for granted

Reaching the level of success Andrews has, over the years, one might expect it all to go to her head. But that has never been the case. As she shared with The Telegraph in 2010, "When careers last as long as mine — and it's been a lot of years now — I'm very fortunate that I'm still around...All careers go up and down like friendships, like marriages, like anything else, and you can't bat a thousand all the time. So I think I've been very, very lucky."