Review

Home: A Memoir of My Early Years

by Julie Andrews

Julie Andrews was born in 1935 to vaudeville pianist Barbara
Morris and teacher Edward Charles “Ted” Wells. The
marriage was brief because Barbara left Julie’s father for
her vaudeville partner, Canadian tenor Ted Andrews. Julie was
raised in a rather haphazard fashion, bounced around to various
relatives and friends when Barbara and Ted were on the road
performing before she joined them. The Second World War was
ravaging London. Rationing, shortages, nightly blackouts, anxiety
and fear became a way of life for young Julie, who had vivid
memories of the war years.

Ted quickly realized that Julie possessed a strong, clear, lovely
soprano voice --- something quite unusual in such a young child ---
and he insisted she take singing lessons. Julie also studied dance,
which Barbara’s sister taught. By age 9 she was on the road,
regularly touring with her mother and stepfather --- hardly a
normal life for a child. At age 12 she made her professional solo
debut in “Starlight Roof” at the London Hippodrome.
That performance set her on the road to stardom.

Julie’s childhood was anything but secure and serene. Barbara
and Ted’s messy and protracted divorce caused much stress,
and they were hardly model parents. Alcohol played a large part in
their lives, and family finances were often shaky. Julie spent some
time with her father whenever she could, but show business was the
one constant in her life. Offstage the talented child star was
awkward, shy and uncertain. She realized at an early age that the
income derived from her talents was necessary to help keep the
family afloat.

In 1954, at age 18, Julie left her native England to star on
Broadway in a new show titled “The Boyfriend.” It was
an instant success. Due to her reluctance to leave her family and
friends in London for such a long period of time, Julie refused to
sign the standard two-year contract and instead agreed to only one
year. As it turned out, her decision was certainly a good one
because when she was offered the role of Eliza Doolittle in
“My Fair Lady” (which she played on Broadway for two
years and then in London for 16 months), she was free to take
advantage of this opportunity.

In 1957 Julie starred in the television musical
“Cinderella.” Next came her leading role as Queen
Guenevere opposite Richard Burton’s King Arthur in
“Camelot.” During one of her performances, Walt Disney,
who was in the audience, was so impressed with Julie’s talent
that he met her backstage and offered her a real plum --- the
starring role of the delightful nanny in the film Mary
Poppins
.

In 1959 Julie married her childhood friend and longtime sweetheart,
Tony Walton, a very talented set and costume designer.

As the book closes in 1963, Julie, Tony and their infant daughter
Emma move to Hollywood as Julie begins to prepare for her Mary
Poppins role.

Julie describes in detail what it was like to work with such show
business luminaries as Richard Burton, Moss Hart, Walt Disney,
Robert Goulet, Roddy McDowell, Carol Burnett and many others. She
explains how demanding rehearsals were and how she continually
worked to perfect her craft, to tweak this or that, to try each day
to make her performance better than the previous one.

Those fans who have seen Julie Andrews’s movies, television
shows and live stage performances, and have heard her lovely voice,
recognize how truly gifted she is. Reading HOME makes one realize
how hard she worked to make her considerable talent seem
effortless.

Reviewed by Carole Turner on January 22, 2011

Home: A Memoir of My Early Years
by Julie Andrews

  • Publication Date: April 1, 2008
  • Genres: Memoir, Nonfiction
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Hyperion
  • ISBN-10: 0786865652
  • ISBN-13: 9780786865659