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Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Disney’s Biggest Female Movie Star? Julie Andrews

by Chris Lucas
Guest Column
August 26, 2020

(Editor’s Note: Julie Andrews made her theatrical debut in Mary Poppins, which premiered on August 27, 1964.)

Dame Julie Andrews is, arguably, the biggest female movie star who ever worked for Disney.

In 1956, Andrews starred as Eliza Doolittle in the Broadway show My Fair Lady for two years and never missed a performance. During that time, she also starred as Cinderella in a TV musical that was watched by over 100 million Americans.

She was cast as Queen Guinevere in Camelot on Broadway in 1960, opposite Richard Burton. Walt and Lillian Disney attended a performance and Walt knew immediately that he’d found his Mary Poppins.

Walt offered Andrews the role, but she declined because she was pregnant. He said, “I’ll wait,” and he did. 

In 1963, she began playing Mary, her film debut. Andrews won the Oscar for the role, one of the few people in history to win an Academy Award for acting their first time out.

Mary Poppins was one of the biggest box office hits of all-time, but Andrews topped it a year later as Maria in The Sound of Music for FOX. It remains the third highest grossing movie in American history, adjusted for inflation.

After that, Dame Julie declined a string of similar musical roles, like a reprise of the Queen in the film version of Camelot, Nancy in Oliver!, Truly in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Dolly in Hello Dolly and Elegantine in Bedknobs & Broomsticks

In 1997, after appearing in the Broadway version of her hit film Victor/Victoria, Andrews had throat surgery which went wrong, permanently damaging her natural five octave coloratura soprano voice. She was told she would never sing again, but in 2004 she performed the song “Crowning Glory” in a reprise of her role as Queen Clarissa in Disney’s Princess Diaries 2

The 84-year-old actress is still quite busy. 

In the last two decades, Julie Andrews has played a different type of Nanny in Disney’s live action adaptations of the Eloise at the Plaza stories; she was the narrator of Disney’s Enchanted; and voiced roles in the ShrekDespicable Me and DC superheroes franchises for other studios.

The author of over 25 books and a lifetime achievement Grammy Award winner, Julie Andrews was named a Disney Legend in 1991, and was named a Dame by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, on New Year’s Eve, 1999.


On the PRESS CLUB C Podcast, enjoy Ray’s recent discussion with Chris Lucas about his career as an actor, author and Disney expert. Tune in right here!

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