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"I hope you will be very happy. Take care of yourself and remember the love and affection of all of us goes with you into the future."


Woman's Own
Sept 1967

The Julie Andrews Only I Know by Her Father, Ted Wells

The truth about Julie's private Life

'It's inevitable that someone like Julie should have her private life dissected. But many of the things written about her are wrong, and now I'd like to put them right'

There are certain matters in Julie's life-her separation from her husband Tony Walton; the private diary she kept when she was on location making Hawaii; the doubts and worries that had slowly built up over her formative years-which are obviously personal.

It would not be right for me to say very much about them. At the same time, I'd like to say something if only in the interests of truth. A lot of things written about her private life have caused Julie much concern, particularly where her marriage is involved.

She told me at Easter: "Tony and his family were always very dear to me and we should be left to handle this in our own way."

I 'should, however, like to put a few errors right and might well start by saying that I was very happy on Julie's wedding day. I always looked on Tony as a splendid young man and still do.

Julie had just left the London cast of My Fair Lady. A couple of days before the wedding, she and my other daughter, Celia, who was one of the bridesmaids, went up to Mayfair to have their hair done. Goodness knows what it cost them.

My haircut cost me 1s. I went down to the village and had a light trim sitting in Jock Rose's wheel-barrow. Ockley, where I live, isn't big enough to support a full-time barber so Jock, who is actually a gardener, used at that time to cut my hair. I didn't see any point in changing my routine just because I was about to give away the star of My Fair Lady.

Julie and I would have liked a quiet wedding, an intimate family occasion. That wasn't possible, of course. To Julie's vast amusement her brother John contributed a homely touch to the proceedings by arriving in his first car, a black pre-war Baby Austin on which he had painted pink footprints running over the roof from the back bumper to the front. But otherwise it was very much a public occasion.

The mile-and-a-half route from The Old Meuse, the Andrews' home at Walton-on-Thames, to St. Mary's Church, Oatlands Park, was lined with cheering and waving fans. I wore a topper and tails, hired in the usual tradition from Moos Bros. of Covent Garden.

I held Julie's hand all the way to the church. We didn't talk much: it wasn't necessary. I just said to her: "I hope you will be very happy. Take care of yourself and remember the love and affection of all of us goes with you into the future."

The reception afterwards was at the Mitre, the 300-year-old Thames-side inn where we used to tie up our skiff when we went out for an evening row. Then it was lemonade and crisps for Julie.
Now it was champagne and caviar... speeches and toasts...marquees with fountains on the lawn and 500 guests dancing.

Julie and Tony flew to Los Angeles that night. We tied a tin-can to the Rolls Royce that took them to London Airport. I am sorry it didn't bring them more luck. I am often asked what went wrong. I can only say this: the demands of their respective careers have been very heavy and have kept them apart a great deal... and that, I believe, explains an awful lot.

People often sneer about show business marriages and, I suppose, those sneers are sometimes justified. It should not be thought, however, that Julie's marital difficulties have come about without a great deal of pain and regret all round.

It was this pain and regret... plus stirrings of unhappiness in her childhood when her mother and I parted, and the strain of having to make so many decisions about her life and career entirely on her own... that made her decide while she was making Hawaii that she needed the advice of a psychoanalyst.

Before seeing him, she set down her thoughts in the form of a diary she kept in a lamp book. It contained reflections about her girlhood and had clearly been written by someone suddenly stricken with doubts and fears about the present and the future.

It is only when one reads something of this kind that one comes to know how deeply a child feels about these things and how strongly they can come to the surface even after they appear to have been overcome.

As a young girl she had bottled up her feelings and got on with the business of living. But the separation of her mother and me caused her great grief and now nearly a quarter of a century later, all the pent-up unhappiness of that period had suddenly caught up with her.

It was also clear that neither I nor her step-father, Ted Andrews, had been able to do properly the job that a father has to do...that because one success came to her after another, Julie had never really had time to stop and take a hard look at herself... that she suddenly needed reassurance that the things she believed in were really valid.

Now she simply felt the need, as any sensitive person might, to take stock of herself. She has all too seldom in her life had anybody really close to her to talk to. So she went to a psychoanalyst, who has been a great help.

Her fears for Emma

Her doubts and fears were not in any way abnormal. We all know what it is like to start a new job and wonder: "How is it going to work out?

Will I be good enough?" Hawaii itself was one of Julie's worries. It was her first big non-musical role.

She was also concerned, as any young mother in her situation might be, about how she would face up to the task of bringing up Emma.

I tried to reassure Julie about Emma. I told her: "Of course you can be a good mother Julie. You realize you have a sensitive young life to help along and it is your job to turn it into the nicest thing it can be. I know you will succeed. Take heart from the fact that your mother and I faced a similar problem over you and John. The products being what they are, I don't think you need feel pessimistic."

I am glad to say that when we visited Julie last summer and again this Easter I felt I detected a new strength and maturity in her.

We usually go out to California once a year. Julie sponsors our trips, of course: we couldn't afford to go otherwise on a schoolmaster's salary. She would like us to visit her more frequently in future. She wrote in one of her recent letters: "Now that Emma is growing up, I want her to know you and have a sense of family."

I can never, of course, see too much of Julie. At the same time, I do have two other children... John, who is a pilot in the RAF and Celia, who is married to John Mackey, a radar technician on the Fylingdaies early-warning system in Yorkshire... and they have similar claims to Julie's on my time and affection.

Julie's - home in California is not what you would call lavish by Hollywood standards. It is a Spanish-style house, built on the side of one of the hills, which give Beverly Hills its name. It has eight rooms, low gables, wrought-iron balconies, a big open staircase and a patio where we dine under the stars on warm nights.

A little higher up the hill is the swimming pool, fringed by orange and lemon trees. Along one side is a two-roomed bungalow, called The Pool House, where Win and I sleep. Being country folk we are usually up and about around six in the morning and, tucked away on our own like that, we can potter about without disturbing the rest of the household.

Above the bungalow, level with its roof, is the garden and lawn where, to the mystification of any Americans who come upon me, I like to spend half-an-hour each day practicing my leg breaks with the cricket ball I always take along in my suitcase.

When she is filming, I usually wake Julie about 6.30 a.m. with a tray of tea and her favorite chocolate digestive biscuits (we always take a few packets out to her because she can't buy the brand she likes in California).

Julie's bedroom, which occupies most of the top floor of the main house, is equipped with hi-fl stereo. Often she'll say while she's sipping her tea: "Let's have a bit of music, Dad." I slip on one of the records she likes... and her taste is wide, ranging from the great classical composers-Brahms. Prokofiev, Ravel, Chopin-to the Beatles. And, while the music plays softly, we chat about how her current film is going, how her native countryside is looking, her plans for Emma, how my village cricket team is doing, all sorts of things.

Then, when she has finished her tea, we often read poetry to each other, even at seven o'clock in the morning. Sometimes she'll say: "Dad, doesn't this remind you of when I was a little girl and you used to read to me."

One of her favorite poets is the American, Robert Frost. One morning last summer, she picked up a volume of his work from her bedside table and said: "Dad there's a poem in here called The Road Not Taken. I wonder what you think of it." I read it. It really made my spine tingle. It seemed to me to summarize so much that Julie and I feel about life.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh. I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence;
Two roads diverged in a wood, and
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

The poem seemed to me to crystallize a quality which Julie and I share.

Given a choice, we are both impelled by something inside us to take the more difficult road, the road "less traveled by." hoping the reward at the end of it will prove it to have been the right choice.

Julie chose the hard road when she was 19 and was offered her first chance on Broadway in The Boy Friend. She had doubts about taking it, as I've told you, because it meant leaving the family she loved.

There was no imperative need to go. There seemed to be enough work for her at home and her future as a singer looked very bright. But the challenge was there... and the challenge had to be met.

'Rock of Gibraltar'

So she went to New York and it proved to be the decision which opened the door to stardom for her.

I, too, chose the hard road-for both of us-when Julie was a child and I took the decision that, in the long run, it would be best if I returned her to the care of her mother. I know separation from me and her brother John, caused her a lot of suffering.

Yet, to look on the bright side, I like to think that that suffering has helped to forge the wonderfully strong character that Julie is today.

Nothing gets her down. Bob Wise, who produced The Sound of Music and is now directing Julie in her latest film, Star!, the story of Gertrude Lawrence, once described her to me as "the Rock of Gibraltar".

He should know. The whole company of The Sound of Music, including all the children, were stuck up in the mountains above Salzburg for weeks in what was supposed to be the Austrian spring. "Spring?" Julie wrote to me at the time. "It's absolutely…"
It rained day after day. When they could film, there was so much mud that even the jeeps carrying the cameras couldn't get up the mountainside. In despair, they sent for an ox-cart which Julie thought marvelous. She said: "I'll ride on that as well." The oxen slithered and sloshed their way up to the set with Julie riding behind, wearing a mink coat and holding a raised umbrella . . . over the precious camera and not over herself.

But most days filming was impossible. The morale of the company sank lower and lower and1 according to Bob Wise, would probably have disappeared altogether but for Julie.

She organized party games for the children and read to them and told them stories to help cheer up the beleaguered company, she formed a singing trio, which she named the Vocal-zones after a well-known American cough remedy. As Julie put it: "We provided some excruciating sounds but a lot of fun."

She provided buses (with refreshments) and tickets so that the whole company could go to the State Opera House at Munich, 60 miles away, to see her friend Svetlana Beriosova and the Royal Ballet Company dance.

Bob told me afterwards: "Julie was really great. She kept all our spirits up. I don't know how we would have managed without her."

The stage musical Camelot was another of Julie's shows which ran into a lot of trouble.

But I was proud-and I know she was too-of the foreword Alan Jay Lerner wrote to the book and lyrics of Camelot. Julie sent me a copy signed by herself, Richard Burton, Roddy McDowall and Robert Goulet.

Mr. Lerner outlines the recurrent problems the show faced... illnesses, one of which put Mr. Lerner himself in hospital for two weeks... death... drastic re-writing... the director felled by a heart attack. . .the composer, Frederick Loewe, "continually battling against a draining exhaustion" as a result of a heart attack two years earlier.

Mr. Lerner concludes: "that Camelot stayed together in one piece and did not disintegrate like a decayed tooth was nothing short of miraculous.

"One of the chief reasons was it's stars. Time after time in those seemingly endless weeks before New York I used to imagine the condition the play would be in if certain other stars of whom I had intimate knowledge had been playing the leads rather than Julie Andrews and Richard Burton.

"I could imagine the reaction of a few of our darling ladies of the theatre had they been given a new song two nights before the opening as was Julie Andrews.

"A cold wind hit the spine when I thought of some well-known actors who occupy a similar stellar position being given a new second act two weeks before New York as was Richard Burton. Agents and lawyers would have descended on me next day like the hordes of Genghis Khan.... "… I find I cannot write my last words to Camelot without first mentioning Miss Andrews, Mr. Burton and the majority of the cast who were, thank heaven, professionals."

Richard Burton expressed his appreciation of Julie's professionalism in a rather less formal way when Win and I flew out to see the show on Broadway. He wrote in my program: "Ted. Cor! Thanks a lot for that girl Julie . .."

No airs and graces

Julie's willingness to muck in and take the rough with the smooth stems from one simple fact. She feels very strongly that any film or play or musical is a team job.

Hers may be the name which is up in lights outside. She doesn't think, however, that that entitles her to put on any airs and graces.

To Julie it simply means that she has a greater responsibility than any one else for ensuring that the finished product is a success and worthily reflects the hard work that everyone has put into it.

Because she feels team spirit is so important, she always makes a point of getting to know the names of all her co-workers in a theatre or on a film set. Her encyclopedia memory is a great help in that, of course.

Julie is also really interested in all their jobs... how the cameras work how the sound effects men make rain and thunder and Lightning. . what the electricians are up to with their lights. I have a practical nature myself so I suppose Julie inherited much of her interest in the whys and wherefores of things from me. I remember when I first saw My Fare Lady in New York, I was fascinated by the mammoth revolving stage. I wondered how it was powered. Julie was able to tell me: "It's run by a 4 h.p. motor."

She really has no star complex at all. I know that while on location for Hawaii she had a house on Waikiki Beach overlooking a coral-rimmed lagoon. She was driving to work one morning with the car radio tuned to a music programme. Suddenly the announcer interrupted with a tidal wave warning. All the inhabitants of the island were ordered into the hills. Julie's first thought was of Emma and her nurse in the house by the beach. Should she go back or drive on to the set and phone from there?

She calculated she was more than half way so it was best to keep going.

When she phoned from the set, there was no reply. She therefore assumed that Emma's nurse, who usually had the radio on in the mornings, had heard the warning and made for high country.

Very real danger

But, having established that, it didn't occur to Julie to head for safety herself. Instead, she stayed on the beach and helped the crew in the evacuation of cameras, electrical gear and all the other equipment which had been set up for the day's work.

Filming can, of course, often be quite dangerous. In Hawaii, there is a scene where the mission house is set alight by invading whaler crews and the natives and missionaries try to put out the flames. "The house was made of straw with a roof of palm leaves," Julie told me.

"The heat was terrific and the danger very real. Although they had pumps and extinguishers always ready, several of the cast's costumes, including my own, were actually scorched by the fire. I was really very frightened."

But the only time her reputation for unflappability has suffered a dent was during the shooting of the trick scene in Mary Poppins, her Oscar-winning film, in which she floats, umbrella open, over the rooftops of London. It was known to be dangerous and had been kept to the last so that, if anything went wrong, the rest of the picture wouldn't be prejudiced.

The scene was shot on a huge sound stage with a high descending wire. It had become slack and, when Julie put her weight on it, it jerked. Julie said to one of the assistants: "Easy today, John." The word was passed to all the operators except the most vital of all the winchman.

Julie, in her harness, floated down over the rooftops. The check weights should have pulled her up a foot from the floor, but, because he hadn't been warned, the winchman did not allow for the slack in the wire. Julie dropped like a stone.

The crew gasped. There was a moment of deathly silence as Julie climbed slowly to her feet and fought to get her breath back. Then from somewhere on high came the winchman's voice inquiring matter-of-factly: "Is she down yet?"

"Down?" shrieked Julie. "I'm bloody nearly through…

 


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