"Endurance is absent among many performers today, I think it's an attribute we should all strive to attain"
Sir Lew Grade fell in love with Julie Andrews 30 years ago. He was then an agent in London’s Shaftesbury Avenue; she was just six years old and was brought along to him as a potential child star.
“We went to a studio and I heard this fantastic soprano voice,” said Sir Lew. “I can’t remember who brought her to me, or what she sang; it was a beautiful singing voice."
“I wanted to sign her there and then, but in those days the law would not permit little girls of her age to work in studios. I know I had to wait until she was 14 before I could sign her - and in that time somebody else stepped in.
“But I have never forgotten. I have always wanted to be in a series with her, because I felt I let a great star slip away.”
Now Sir Lew Grade, chief executive of Associated Television, has achieved that ambition. The Julie Andrews hour, which he masterminded in January, starts on British television this week. A total of 24 shows are planned, involving guest start like Cass Elliott, Tony Curtis, Steve Lawrence, Phyllis Diller and Tony Randall.
This week, thanks to special effects, her guest star is... herself, as two of her most famous characters - Eliza Doolittle, from the Broadway production of My Fair Lady, and as the unforgettable Mary Poppins.
These spectaculars are expected to earn Julie two million dollars, quite a step forward for a little girl who climbed the stairs in Shaftesbury Avenue in search of an agent.
Indeed, what a difference 30 years makes.
Julie, born in Walton-on-Thames, Surry, made her first solo appearance, aged 12, at the London Palladium in Starlight Roof; was invited to appear in the Royal Variety show a year later; won the Donaldson Theatre Award in 1954 for her leading role in The Boy Friend in New Your; and starred as Eliza Doolittle in the Broadway production of My Fair Lady in 1956.
In 1963, she was the winner of the Academy Award for best Actress for her Performance in Mary Poppins, and starred in The Sound of Music, one of the most successful films ever.
She has married twice, first to Tony Walton in 1959 (dissolved in 1968), and then to film director Blake Edwards in 1969, She has one child, emma Kate, born 1962, and two stepchildren.
Julie, the girl who sang in air-raid shelters during the war, has been called everything from The Public’s Daily Dose of Sugar to The Iron Butterfly, and it took Sir Lew Grade three years to persuade her to do this series.