Julie Andrews was “practically perfect in every way” as Mary Poppins. In her feature film debut, she bowled audiences over with her charm and sense of fun and, as a result, won an Oscar® for Best Actress of 1964.
As film critic Leonard Maltin wrote in his book The Disney Films, Julie captured “every nuance” of author P.L. Travers’s iconic character. Judith Crist, of the New York Herald Tribune, blurred the distinction between character and actress, writing, “Although she [Mary] pokes her pretty fingers into a world of sticky sweetness, she almost invariably pulls out a plum. All speeches and cream, with a voice like polished crystal, she seems the very image of a prim young governess who might spend her free Tuesdays skittering off to Oz.” Indeed, Julie was the very image of Mary Poppins and, to many Disney fans, she remains the magical nanny of their dreams.
Julie was born on October 1, 1935, in Walton-on-Thames, England.
During World War II, when schools were forced to close, she took singing lessons to keep busy and her unusual five-octave vocal range was discovered.
By age 12, Julie astounded an audience at the London Hippodrome when she performed a difficult operatic aria as part of the “Starlight Roof” revue. She went on to appear in a variety of shows including Cinderella at the London Palladium and The Boy Friend on Broadway, which led to her triumphant stage role as Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady.
Walt Disney first spotted Julie in the early 1960s when she was starring as Queen Guinevere in Camelot on Broadway. After seeing Julie perform, Walt made a beeline backstage to offer her the title role in his upcoming musical fantasy. Mary Poppins went on to garner 13 Academy Award® nominations and win five, including Best Original Score, Best Original Song, Best Film Editing, and Best Visual Effects. Julie’s award for Best Actress in a Leading Role was the first competitive Oscar® ever won by an actor in a Disney film.
As one of Julie’s most enthusiastic supporters, Walt allowed rival producer Martin Ransohoff to view her rushes for Mary Poppins; this lead to her next film role in The Americanization of Emily.” She then appeared in one of Hollywood’s top-grossing films of all time, The Sound of Music. Directed by Robert Wise, the now-classic musical brought Julie another Oscar nomination. Among her other screen credits are Hawaii, Thoroughly Modern Millie, and Victor/Victoria, for which she won yet another Oscar nomination in 1982. She reprised the famous role on Broadway in the mid-1990s.
With the new millennium, Julie renewed her relationship with Disney by starring in a pair of hit family films, 2001’s The Princess Diaries and 2004’s The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement. She even portrayed another literary nanny, appearing in two Disney telefilms based on author Kay Thompson’s “Eloise” books. Eloise at the Plaza and Eloise at Christmastime both premiered in 2003—and brought Julie an Emmy nomination.
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Disneyland, Julie served as the Official Ambassador of the park’s 18-month “Happiest Homecoming on Earth” festivities from 2005 until 2006. The next year, she provided narration for the Disney live-action fantasy Enchanted.