Thursday, October 1, 2009

Happy birthday Julie Andrews

Dame Julie Andrews, that is. She is an icon. She is a talent. She is a fucking treasure. A friend once remarked about seeing Michael Jordan play, during his second come back, about having the awareness that Jordan's was a remarkable talent that needed to be appreciated. It's easy to forget that, sometimes, with these talents. Andrews has been there since, what, 50 years ago? She's on a par with Frank Sinatra, but do you give her credit for it? Today you will.

I'll start with a role that was a great collaboration with husband Blake Edwards, the remake of Victor/Victoria. Playing a woman, pretending to be a man performing as a woman, she gets to sing and act and just show her talent. The movie earned 7 Oscar nominations, including a nod for her as Best Actress--it won one for adapted score or song score for Henry Mancini.

They took Victor/Victoria to Broadway in 1995, and Andrews originated the role there. The show opened to mixed reviews and received a single Tony nomination for Andrews. She refused the nomination on principle (the Tony is the only show business award she lacks, by the way, so this objection probably will keep her from the Grand Slam of awards). She started to experience problems with her throat during the production, but this clip is from before the problems.

But let's go way back, to 1961, for a listen to her singing the role of Guinevere in Camelot.

Or even to 1956, when she originated the role of Eliza Doolite in My Fair Lady.

Studio executives passed on Andrews for the film version, but she managed to best Audrey Hepburn for the Best Actress Oscar that year, for her work in Mary Poppins.

And surely you know The Sound of Music. "My Favorite Things" is one of my favorite songs from musical theater... and I don't really know why.

She's received Emmys for her television specials. She's received a Grammy award. She's written books for children. She's a freaking Dame. She showed her breasts in husband Blake Edwards's S.O.B. playing a sainted actress who agrees to bare her breasts in one of her husband's comedies. This is a woman who has a lot of stories to tell.

She lost her vocal range after some surgery to remove throat nodules, but continues to act. I haven't seen the Princess Diaries movies and I forget who she is in the Shrek movies. She's started to sing again, although apparently very gradually.

This is disjointed, I know. But hopefully you'll take a step back and realize what a talent she is. Don't take her for granted. I mean, don't stalk her or anything, but, yeah, um, not sure what the call to action is.

My last clip is from one of my favorite underrated movies of the late 80s: That's Life. Directed by Blake Edwards, it stars Jack Lemmon as a man going through a mid-life crisis in a comedic and chaotic way, while his wife (Andrews) is quietly suffering while awaiting results of a biopsy and planning Lemmon's big birthday party. Lemmon's son and Andrews's daughter play their children on-screen, Sally Kellerman is hysterical as their free-spirited neighbor, and Andrews gets to sing the Oscar-nominated song "Life in a Looking Glass" (one of Mancini's least important compositions).

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