Julie Andrews started singing at a very young age. So young in fact, that at age 13, she became the youngest performer ever to give a Royal Command Performance for then British monarch King George VI. After many appearances on the British stage, Andrews made her Broadway debut at age 19 in the musical “The Boy Friend.” That performance led to her being cast as the lead in one of the biggest hits and most acclaimed productions in Broadway history, “My Fair Lady.”
Her great success in “My Fair Lady” would later become one of her greatest disappointments when she was deemed too unfamiliar to film audiences to recreate her role on film (though her Broadway co-stars Rex Harrison and Stanley Holloway were both hired). In her place the studio hired Audrey Hepburn who gave a good performance but had to have her singing dubbed by another performer. Some studios felt Andrews had appeal on film though and hired her for two films also released in 1964 aside “My Fair Lady.” One of those was “Mary Poppins” which garnered Andrews the 1964 Oscar for Best Actress. The ironic thing was that most of the other major awards that year went to “My Fair Lady,” so Andrews was reunited with her “My Fair Lady” family backstage at the Oscars while her replacement was not even nominated.
In 1969 Andrews married writer-director Blake Edwards known for such film classics as “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and “The Pink Panther.” The pair would go on to make a number of films together including “Victor/Victoria,” which would earn both of them Oscar nominations. They would also later turn “Victor/Victoria” into a Broadway musical, bringing Andrews back to the stage thirty years after she had first triumphed there.
As the dame celebrates her 83rd birthday on October 1, Gold Derby offers you a photo gallery above with her 15 greatest movie performances, ranked from worst to best.
15. THE TAMARIND SEED (1974)
Andrew’s husband adapted the novel and directed Andrews (as he would do for many of her films) in this love story set against the backdrop of Cold War politics. Andrews plays a British government worker who meets a Soviet military officer played by Omar Sharif. The character is confused about whether the relationship is real or if she is being recruited by the Russians.
14. DARLING LILI (1970)
Edwards also wrote and directed this film tailored to Andrews’ strengths as a performer. She plays a WWI era British Music Hall performer who is actually a German spy. Loosely based on the story of Mata Hari, the film depicts Andrews trying to seduce an American military officer to try and gain information from him. She ends up falling in love with him though.
13. HAWAII (1966)
Set in the early 1800s this epic film depicts the story of missionaries trying to bring Christianity to the Hawaii natives. The missionaries face more resistance then they anticipated and their mission is met with some tragic results. The film received mixed reviews overall but it was highly praised for its technical aspects earning seven Oscar nominations.
12. THE PRINCESS DIARIES (2001)
Andrews brought all her poise and natural grace to the role of Queen Clarisse Renaldi a leader of a fictional country called Genovia. The Queen visits her granddaughter in San Francisco and reveals to the gawky unpopular teenager (a young Anne Hathaway) that she is actually an heir to a European throne.
11. THAT’S LIFE (1986)
Edwards used his own money to finance this film about a 60-year-old architect (Jack Lemmon) who is facing depression and dissatisfaction with his life as he turns 60. Andrews plays his patient wife who is facing her own challenge as she waits for the results of a biopsy which will determine if she has cancer.She is especially effective in this film in a scene towards the end where she lectures her self-pitying husband for not appreciating all the good things they have in their life.
10. THE AMERICANIZATION OF EMILY (1964)
This film is often forgotten but is one in which she gave an acclaimed dramatic performance written by the legendary Paddy Chayefsky. Set during WWII, Andrews plays a woman who has lost her father, brother, and husband in the war. She ultimately finds love and a second chance at life with an American military officer.
9. STAR! (1968)
Although this film received seven Oscar nominations and Andrews received a Golden Globe nomination, it was a bit of a disappointment at the box office and the first time Andrews starring in a musical didn’t ignite excitement with audiences. The film is a biopic of Broadway and London stage star Gertrude Lawrence who had great success appearing beside her friend Noel Coward in a number of his plays. The musical features a long elaborate song called “The Saga of Jenny” which Andrews delivers dynamically.
8. 10 (1979)
“10” is best remembered for introducing the world to the great beauty Bo Derek and her unique corn rowed hairstyle. The film is actually much more than that and features some fine comic work from Andrews and Dudley Moore. Andrews was once again working with her husband, playing the actress girlfriend of a man experiencing a mid-life crisis which plays out as an obsession with the character played by Derek whom he sees running on the beach.
7. TORN CURTAIN (1966)
While not rated as one of Alfred Hitchcock’s best films, “Torn Curtain” is still an interesting production and the pairing of Andrews and Paul Newman in their prime is great to watch. Newman plays an astrophysicist and rocket scientist who pretends to defect to East Germany along with his fiancée (Andrews) in order to gain secrets to bring back to the west. The film features a highly suspenseful Hitchcockian moment based simply on a scene where Newman and Andrews are trying to exit a crowded theater.
6. S.O.B. (1981)
“S.O.B.” caused a bit of a scandal in 1981 since it featured the beloved and proper Julie Andrews doing a topless scene. The nudity is actually part of a film within a film where Andrews plays an actress stuck with a goody two shoes image and typecast in children’s films who decides to do a nude scene to change her image much like Andrews herself was doing. The film is a very cynical take on Hollywood filmmaking, and Andrew’s husband seems to be getting out a lot of his frustrations and dissatisfaction with the film industry in the somewhat bitter comedy the film displays.
5. DUET FOR ONE (1986)
This hit play on the London stage seemed destined for success on Broadway when Anne Bancroft and Max von Sydow were signed to star and be directed by “The Exorcist” director William Friedkin. The play flopped though and only ran two weeks in New York. Von Sydow reprised his role five years later in a film version opposite Andrews (after Faye Dunaway dropped out at the last minute.) Andrews plays a famous violin player who is slowly losing her ability to play due to multiple sclerosis.
4. VICTOR/VICTORIA (1982)
Edwards and Andrews tried hard to change her film image with “S.O.B.” to less than perfect results. They were able to accomplish the image change a year later in this highly successful comedic farce in which Andrews plays a desperately poor Parisian woman who gets roped into playing a female impersonator. So, she is actually a woman pretending to be a man pretending to be a woman. The film offered Andrews, Robert Preston and Lesley Ann Warren all highly comedic roles and all three were rewarded with Oscar nominations for their performances.
3. THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE (1967)
Andrews had one of her best roles as a husband hunting flapper in the roaring twenties who helps stop a white slavery ring from selling young women into servitude. (And yes, it is a comedy and a musical!) The film received seven Oscar nominations and won a Golden Globe for Carol Channing as Best Supporting Actress and a nomination for Andrews as its lead actress.
2. MARY POPPINS (1964)
Andrews became one of the rare performers to win an Oscar for their first film when she won the Best Actress award as the “practically perfect” nanny who brings order and magic to a family’s household. The story behind Andrew’s Oscar is probably one of the most dramatic and unique in Oscar history. The big film that year was “My Fair Lady” which won eight Oscars including Best Picture, Director, and Actor (for Rex Harrison). Andrews had created the female lead of “My Fair Lady” on Broadway but was denied the role in the film version.
1. THE SOUND OF MUSIC (1965)
A year after her film debut, Andrews scored again in what has become her most beloved role and one of the most adored movie musicals of all time. It earned 10 Oscar nominations and won five including one for Best Picture. Based on the true story of The von Trapp Family Singers, Andrews plays a young aspiring nun assigned to take care of a brood of children who then falls in love with their widowed father creating a crisis of faith for her. Andrews is simply incandescent in the film. She is at times dramatically troubled and then at other moments genuinely funny. She also of course is at the top of her game vocally and delivers the musical numbers flawlessly. Couple all that with the gorgeous Austrian scenery and you have movie magic that still holds up today.