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BOOK REVIEWS: Super-trouper Julie is forever the British icon; Julie Andrews: An Intimate Biography, by Richard Stirling, Portrait, pounds 17.99.

Byline: Reviewed by Anthony Looch

Writing a frank, unauthorised biography of an iconic singer and actress such as Dame Julie Andrews could not have been easy for a self-confessed fan such as Richard Stirling, but he has done a good job.

His book contains some surprising revelations about the girl who was born in Waltonon-Thames in 1935.

In some ways she really is like the bright and bossy nannies she played in the hit films Mary Poppins (1964) and The Sound Of Music a year later. In others, she most certainly is not.

It comes as a jolt to learn she is prone to remarkably strong language at times, and is not averse to telling smutty jokes, although people who have criticised her image for being too wholesome will probably be relieved to get this news.

Blessed with a powerful and golden singing voice, her first big success was on stage, in the musical The Boyfriend in 1954.

A few years later she was triumphant as Eliza Dolittle in the legendary stage musical Mr Fair Lady, opposite Rex Harrison.

There was an international uproar when Jack Warner, head of Warner Brothers, refused to sign her up for the film role.

Instead, he chose Audrey Hepburn who, unlike Andrews at that time, was a leading film star. Hepburn's singing voice was not up to requirements and had to be dubbed.

At about this time, Andrews scored her first film hit as the nanny in Walt Disney's Mary Poppins, for which she got an Oscar.

She reached her apogee with her role as Maria in The Sound Of Music, one of the most successful films of all time.

It was a spectacular example of mass audience appeal sweeping aside the critics, who had dismissed it scathingly for its sugary sentimentality.

In later decades, Andrews' career took a downturn as she tried to broaden her acting range but she soldiered on and since the early 1990s has enjoyed a remarkable renaissance.

For many years she and her husband, the director Blake Edwards, have divided their time between this country and America, but to her huge following she will always be a British super-star.


Julie Andrews as Mary Poppins
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Apr 14, 2007
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