At this year’s Academy Awards on Feb. 22, after a brilliant tribute by Lady Gaga to “The Sound of Music,” Dame Julie Andrews made a surprising appearance, blessing our screens with her regal presence. Shocked by her presence at the ceremony, the entire crowd of movie stars there, including Meryl Streep, were starstruck. And for good reason: Julie Andrews is one of the biggest stars in Hollywood history, with one of the most amazing voices on top of that. She starred in two of the most popular films of all time, “Mary Poppins” and “The Sound of Music,” in back-to-back years. Those two films may be the highlights of Andrews’ career, but she certainly has been in innumerable classics.
Dame Julie made her big splash in the United States in 1954 with her role as Eliza in the Broadway production of “My Fair Lady.” Although she earned rave reviews and a Tony nomination for her performance, she was later passed on for the role in the feature film. Three years later, she starred in a television special of “Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella,” which had a global audience of 100 million.
Andrews’ film career began in 1964 with the release of “Mary Poppins,” a role that she only received because the producers of the film of “My Fair Lady” passed her over in favor of Audrey Hepburn. Now, try to imagine “Mary Poppins” with any other actress. You cannot. Julie Andrews made that film what it is, and no other actress could have done it. Ultimately, it was Andrews that carried the film to its immense success. It sold over 78 million tickets at North American box offices. That’s about 2 million tickets more than this century’s most popular film, “The Avengers,” to give a comparison of “Mary Poppins’” success. The film also rightly gave Andrews immense critical praise for her performance. She received a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for her work as Mary Poppins. Not a bad start to a film career.
Andrews topped the success of “Mary Poppins” the following year with “The Sound of Music.” If you don’t enjoy this film or any of its songs, I pray for your lack of taste. Having sold over 142 million tickets domestically, “The Sound of Music” is the third most-popular film in American history, behind only “Gone with the Wind” and “Star Wars.” Triple the ticket sales of 2014’s most popular film, “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1,” and you’re still 20 million shy of hitting “The Sound of Music.” Without exaggeration, literally every scene in that film is iconic, from the prelude high in the Austrian Alps to the von Trapp family running around Salzburg, Austria singing “Do Re Mi.” And once again, Andrews carried the movie with arguably the strongest performance of her career. Sadly, she was robbed of a second consecutive Academy Award win.
The next year, she starred in not one, but two, blockbusters. The Alfred Hitchcock-directed “Torn Curtain” was a summer smash. Andrews co-starred in the film with true bae Paul Newman. Her second 1966 film, “Hawaii,” was the highest grossing film of the year. At this point, Andrews was truly an unstoppable box office force.
The Dame snagged yet another iconic role in the movie musical “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” which earned her another Golden Globe nomination. A success among critics and at the box office, it was the 10th most-popular film of 1967, which marked Andrews’ fourth consecutive year of starring in a year-end top-10 blockbuster.
That momentum slowed, however, with the two consecutive box office bombs in 1968 and 1970. While “Star!” saw her reunited with her “The Sound of Music” director and “Darling Lili” costar Rock Hudson, both films lost substantial amounts of money. Her performances shone through, however, as she earned Golden Globe nominations for both films.
Andrews wouldn’t see any major box office success for another nine years, until she starred in raunchy sex comedy “10,” one of the biggest films of 1979. The film earned Andrews her sixth Golden Globe nomination.
After a 17-year gap, Andrews earned her third Academy Award nomination for her starring role in the critically acclaimed movie musical “Victor/Victoria,” one of her most iconic film roles. She starred in the Broadway production of the musical in 1995, making her first appearance on Broadway in 35 years. After “Victor/Victoria,” she experienced a lull in her career, mainly starring in television specials and variety shows.
Her career came to a screeching halt in 1997 when a doctor effectively destroyed her singing voice in a botched throat operation. Sadly, her other-worldly singing voice has never come back.
Despite the loss of her singing voice, Andrews revived her film career in 2001 when she starred as the Queen of Genovia in “The Princess Diaries,” as well as its sequel in 2004. Playing a queen was the perfect role for the Dame in her later career, and it opened her up to a whole new generation of Americans.
Julie Andrews is truly a timeless star, beloved and admired by generations of people who have watched her escape Nazis, fly through the sky with an umbrella and rule a fictional European kingdom.