"I don’t think you should be ungrateful for an image that’s fairly pleasant. I don’t think I’m goody-goody underneath - at least I hope not. Of course, there are faults but I’d be a fool to let anyone know and I’m certainly not going to knock an image that has been good for me."
According to Hollywood - and a great many of her fans - Julie andrews is the typical butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-her-mouth English rose. Privately she admits: “I’m not such a goody-goody. all I’ve ever wanted is to be happily married and have lots of children.” This she has achieved... and she talks to Kenneth Passingham about her new image and her latest bundle of joy - a little Vietnamese orphan named Amy
Julie Andrews once said that she never got drunk because she was scared of revealing too much of herself to the outside world. and whatever she confides to her psychoanalyst no on will ever know. as she says: “I’m a very private person, but I don’t think I’m as boring as I’m sometimes made out to be.”
She refers, of course, to her “too-good-to-be-true” image mercilessly hammered by the critics, who have called her, among other thing, “ The public’s daily dose of sugar,” “The nun with the switchblade” and The iron butterfly - encased in a metal sheath of charm impossible for anyone to penetrate.”
But what appears to have escaped the character assassins is that everything about this fair lady, who will be 40 on October 1st and certainly doesn’t look it, suggests a bitter-sweet lament for a childhood that somehow eluded her.
She was six when her stepfather, Ted Andrews, discovered she had a singing voice and at 12 she was a solo act at the London Palladium.
It’s no coincidence that her two most successful films, Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music, were concerned with children, that the books she loves to write are for children, that her jealously-guarded private life centers around her children and that, in the absence of a child by her second husband, american film director Blake Edwards, she should have chosen to adopt an orphan - a victim of the Vietnamese war. A wide eyed little girl she calls Amy Leigh and whose birthday she had decided will be St. Valentine’s Day.
If all that should sound a bit like Enid Blyton in Disneyland - too bad. The cynics underestimate the extraordinary inner strength of Julie Andrews who can make the stuff of dreams a living reality. As Moss Hart, who directed her in My Fair Lady on Broadway, said: “She has that English strength that makes you wonder why they managed to lose India.”
The children are Emma Kate, the 12-year-old daughter of her first marriage to Tony Walton, and Blake Edwards’ son and daughter by a previous marriage: Geoffrey, 16 and Jennifer, 18.
“It’s a strange feeling being a mother again,” she adds. “I’d somehow forgotten all about nappies and bottles and feeding although, of course, there is a nanny to take care of details.”
“But what pleases me is the way Emma fuses over Amy. she has become a little mother to her and loves to feed her. Just to watch her is a sheet delight. Even Geoff gives Amy a bottle now and then.”
Ask her why she chose a Vietnamese orphan and she says: “It goes back some years to the time when Blake and I were members of the Committee of Responsibility which was organized to take back the American Vietnamese children in need of medical care and attention. Hundreds of youngsters were treated and then set back to Vietnam.
“We were able to see some of them. the Vietnamese are a beautiful, delicate people and children - well, children are children no matter what their background or nationality.” Julie and her husband were sent a photograph of Amy when she was only a few weeks old. They filled in the necessary documents and awaited word from saigon.
“We were in London, in August last year, when the telegram arrived telling us Amy was on her way. We drove out to Heathrow Airport and watched the plane land.
“That night, at home, when Blake and I were finally aware that we had another little life asleep in the other room, we both got a bit dewy-eyed. It was a gloriously happy moment.”
Blake Edward says of his wife, whom he married in 1969: “To the outside world Julie maintains a classic British reserve. She’s incapable of paying false compliments or inviting to parties people she isn’t interested in. To that extent she does demand privacy and she’s not easy to get to know.”
Her wish for privacy extended even to their marriage ceremony which was held in the garden of her Spanish-style home in Beverly Hills, Hollywood. Not even her manager, her agent, or her secretary we aware of the wedding until after the event.
Julie’s mother, Barbara Andrews, said that she was not disappointed at missing the ceremony. “I’m just so glad they are married because they sound just like a couple of kids. He is charming, quite a bit older and I feel he will take good care of her. I have every confidence it will be a happy marriage.”
Her confidence would appear to be thoroughly justified because her daughter says now: “I’m not the center of attention in the family. the children are the center, and Blake and I are there just so that they can have a good life. He is a very good man, very straight with me and I love him for what he is. I also find he turns me on which is important.
“There was a time, you see, when I had a great need for approval. For most of my life I didn’t feel good enough. I felt that there was something lacking in me and if you are an insecure person you do tend to build defenses around yourself.
“You are vulnerable without that armour and there are times when you have to be rather ruthless if you’re to survive.
“I found I had the strength to be that, but I’m not a bulldozer by nature - at least, I wasn’t then, and I had to make a conscious effort to draw on strength. I find I like myself better now, but it’s mainly due, I think, to Blake and psychoanalysis.”
Despite her years in America and her marriage to an American, Julie Andrews still remains very English. It’s a familiar enough image, the one which appears to infuriate her detractors, but she says: “I don’t think you should be ungrateful for an image that’s fairly pleasant. I don’t think I’m goody-goody underneath - at least I hope not. Of course, there are faults but I’d be a fool to let anyone know and I’m certainly not going to knock an image that has been good for me.
“There was a time, you know, when some Americans in the film industry thought they could turn me into another Shirley Temple. I had this freak voice but, unfortunately for them, I wasn’t a curly-haired pretty girl. I was buck-toothed, bandy and boss-eyed. that’s true. and no one talked about my image then the way they do now.”
When I first met Julie before her marriage to Tony Walton, the question everyone in show business was asking was: has success spoiled her?
“I suppose it’s awfully boring,” she said then, “but like any other girl I just want to be happily married and have lots of children.”