"All you can do is your best."
She's the most talented person in the world today." "She has no temperament." "She's an angel." She's so kind, so sensitive, so unwilling to see anyone embarrassed." Nobody who works with Julie Andrews has had a bad word to say about her.
A world star, caught in the razzmatazz of show business, rich, successful, but - for many years overworked, Julie has always preserved an elegant dignity and calm. Her porcelain-smooth image speaks of tea cups on the terrace and cucumber sandwiches on a May day in England.
In all her 10 years in Hollywood, with one broken marriage behind her and all the desperately hard work of musicals, TV series and personal appearances, you'd think she'd blow her top on set occasionally or break down.
Meeting her, talking to her, the reason why she doesn't seems to be her inherent good manners. Yet total goodness can bore and infuriate ordinary mortals and on the first TV show made in the US for Lew Grade's ATV, Alice Ghostley, comedienne on the show, gazed after Julie, then turned to the audience and asked: "Isn't she perfect? Don't you hate her?" She got a communal guffaw. Still, there were more watchers who loved Julie than hated her.
"She's so virginal she makes Doris Day look like a tart," said an American columnist. It wasn't derision; it was adoration.
On location in London to film The Tamarind Seed with Omar Sharif, Julie sat in a tiny, cramped dressing room in a basement of a house in Eaton Place, Belgravia. She looked every inch her image, completely at home, unruffled, cool but friendly, elegant but casual, very British-polite.
Asked if she ever wanted to rage and scream she smiled and looked away for a moment. "I suppose I have my moments. I don't want to knock my `sweet' image. Why should I? It has been very good for me. I love my work and to bring my personal problems on set would be stupid, to say the least." She is every inch a professional, something she says she learnt in childhood.
During the five years she was in Hollywood up until 1969, she made eight films. While it took Gone With The Wind 27 years to make 41 million dollars, The Sound of Music did it in two. Before that Mary Poppins grossed almost as much and brought Julie an Oscar. Between Poppins and Music, The Americanization Of Emily proved she could act, and this was the film that she, personally enjoyed making very much.
But her last two films didn't work. The film Star was a 12 million dollar flop. Darling Lili, made with director Blake Edwards before she married him, was a 17 million dollar flop.
Nothing between 1969 and 1972 seemed to go right for her. Personally she was battered. Professionally she was abandoned.
"Blake Edwards and Julie Andrews are reportedly being paid 1 million dollars settlement by MGM not to shoot their previously committed film, She Loves Me," ran an item in Time Magazine in 1970.
"You will find that you survive humiliation," wrote T. S. Eliot. "And that's an experience of incalculable value." Besides, a million dollars buys a good deal of heart's ease.
But Julie had been bred to fight from the time her mother broke her into the family act, "to toughen her up, otherwise at 18 she'd have been just another soprano.
Everyone seems to be on the make
Julie, the little girl from Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, became a world star. But you can't be a star privately, just for the warmth of it. Stardom has to be practiced publicly, noisily, in a cosmos of people, by Press agents, lawyers, tax men, in a world where marriages appear to be expendable and everyone seems on the make. And since he came into Julie's life, Blake Edwards has taken a lot of raps-"What happened to her movies? Her husband happened to her movies," one Hollywood wise guy said--often for things he had nothing to do with.
He was recently criticized in an American magazine for his bad direction of Star, the life story of Gertrude Lawrence, actually directed by Robert Wise. And one of Hollywood's more vicious columnists has run so many items suggesting dark secrets in the Edwards' life that they've become immune to her poison.
Edwards is a director whose pictures have run a gamut from Days Of Wine And Roses to The Pink Panther. He craves work and the inaction of the months before he wrote and started to direct The Tamarind Seed were an ordeal for him.
For Julie the years out of the limelight were admittedly not so terrible. "I loved not working. It surprised me, because I've worked all my life."
And after all the exhilaration of winning, mustn't there be a certain relief when you lose the crown Isn't it nice not to have to run so hard just to stay in the same place.
In the years since Julie's been out of the race, in the words of Eliza Doolittle, her brilliant stage role in My Fair Lady, "without her twirling it, the earth still spins."
Has the realization of this changed her? Is she different from what she was, or what people thought she was?
"When your career is in a decline, as mine was," she said candidly, "you aren't offered so many things. And I was newly married, with a husband in whom I was very interested. I wouldn't take another Hawaii-for that film I had to be away for six months on location.
While she was not filming Julie took to writing. She wrote, in longhand, a children's book called Mandy which sold very well. Her second literary effort, The Last Of The Really Great Whangdoodles, its at the publisher's. When she agreed to Lew Grade's den" TV series made in America with ABC, with two films a year for as long as the TV series lasted--she did so with her eyes open. Movies may over-expose you but there isn't an adequate description for how used up you can get on television. "And after they've seen everything you can do," she said, "they're just as likely to ask: `Why doesn't she stick to singing?' "
She works with a 'terrible strength'
Knowing this, and that the TV show had to produce in one week "what would take three months on film", acutely aware that "compromises madden me" and television is ail compromises, she none the less pitted herself and her gifts each successive show with what Moss Hart, who guided her through My Fair Lady, called "that terrible English strength that makes you wonder why they lost India."
That "terrible English strength" has now won her an Emmy for the best TV variety series of 1972.
If Julie is to all appearances tough, cool and ladylike on the set, she is certainly more relaxed at home. In California the family rent a beach house an hour's drive from Beverly Hills.
It has rose gardens all around, a grove of orange trees and woods full of rabbits, and the house itself sits on a cliff high above the sea. You can see white boats anchored down by the jetty but all you can hear at the top of the cliff are bird cries. Since her marriage to Blake in 1969 they have lived in Beverly Hills. The house nestles in a cul-de-sac. On the terrace at the back on a sunny day you'd find the Edwards family in a confusion of happiness. The kids run in and out; Emma, Julie's daughter, discusses her packing for the beach; Blake's son Geoffrey teases his sister Jenny about her boy friend.
Julie said: "I sometimes envy the kids, their way of dressing, their social life, their education, the way they have fun." She sounds wistful.
It has been suggested that her parents, Ted and Barbara Andrews, her step-father and her mother, gave her no childhood. She disagrees. "No, I would not say that. I think they gave me an identity. After all, it was wonderful to be able to find a role in life so young.
Family life isn't all plain sailing "When your parents divorce, as mine did, you could find yourself in an emotional crisis, but I was never aware of anything disturbing in my childhood at the time. I loved what I was doing, singing."
She said one of the happiest aspects of her location work in London was being able to be near her family again. "Although, of course, with a family of one's own, Emma and Blake's two children, it's less distressing to be parted than it might have been."
Julie is totally wrapped up in the children. Not that it's all smooth sailing. She doesn't pretend that working out the family's relationships has been easy. Any woman has trouble with stepchildren. "Some days it's horrible. All screaming, crying ..."
But with goodwill and the help of an analyst "I'm lucky to have found a good man"-progress has come.
Does she ever get angry in private life?
Whom does she take it out on? "The analyst, Blake." She always smiles when she says her husband's name.
Why the analyst? What was the need that sent our cool, English rose running to the analyst?
"For 20 years I had worked hard in show business and I had little time to ask questions. I just worked and worked and tried to get ahead. Meanwhile the questions inside me kept piling up."
She admits to "insecurities that Blake teases me out of". Pressed about those insecurities she said they were personal but suddenly relented enough to confide: "I was lonely as a child, I think. Don't get me wrong and think that I'm sorry for myself. I've had everything, more than enough in many ways, and I'm grateful.
"But I suppose a child is mainly unaware of its condition and it was not until I looked back, not until I saw it in retrospect, that I recognized my loneliness. I was with grown-ups a lot."
Blake Edwards understands her completely. "We work our marriage out day by day," said Julie. "No long-term plans. No, I don't look back and regret anything. You learn from life and I learnt from my first marriage, for which I am grateful."
Blake said in California, while Julie was working at the TV studios for six months and he was home, he'd had enough of women's lib. "Old Dad was at home and Julie here would go off to work leaving me the dishes and the kids. I don't mind cooking when it's my idea, but. . ."
Julie confesses she loves her life in California. And the beach house had given her the privacy she needed away from the frenetic world she's now rejoining.
"When I first came to California, I felt I had to hate it because I was so lucky and other people were suffering. I no longer feel it's a crime to be happy, as long as you're not hurting anybody. We live well. We spend outrageous amounts of money. We're a two-pool, five dog, three-car family."
'All you can do is your best'
Ravishing as the beach place is, she says it can't compare with the chalet she and Blake own in Switzerland, in Gstaad. "In winter the hills are pink and the trees are navy-blue.-''
Is there anything she wants? Dumb question, not taking into account the various levels of man's desiring, but she didn't sneer.
"I want another baby. I want to speak French and play the piano. I want a marvelous art collection and a boat in the south of France. I want to be happy. Not necessarily in that order."
After three years in the shadows Julie Andrews is fighting back but if The Tamarind Seed doesn't make it to the top, what then?
"Of course I'll be hurt. Everybody wants to be accepted and loved, but all you can do is your best. I'll feel sorry for all the people who've worked so hard if we haven't pulled it off, but I'll be rather glad to be home again and a Mum to Emma. She'd like me to be able to say occasionally, "Yes, I'll be here at such and such a time. She's always had to be up against that huge figure on the screen."
If it was hard for Emma, it must have been hard for Julie, too, competing with her mythical self. When she missed out on her second Oscar (she was nominated for The Sound Of Music but didn't win) she wrote to a friend: "I feel no great loss. It's sort of nice to discover one's merely a human being after all," but the words didn't ring as true as they do today.
Success doesn't ride her so fiercely any more, nor do the whims of the public or the opinions of the Press. She was, willing to talk because she thought a story might do her show and the film some good, but she gave the impression she might never read it.
Whether she owes her present apparent "wholeness" to analysis or the maturity or to Blake, or to a combination of all three, well salted with natural intelligence, doesn't matter. She seems to have opened a different door, to have accepted the possibility of a world in which there were rewards for not being a smash hit.