JULIA ELIZABETH WELLS was born on October 1, 1935 in Walton-on-Thames, a suburb of London. Her father was a school teacher and her mother taught piano lessons. Julie also had an aunt who ran a small dancing school, and as a youngster she was already learning ballet and tap; not to mention the fact that by the age of three, Julie had been taught to read and write by her father.
In 1939, Julie’s mother got a job as an accompanist at a music hall in Bognor Regis where she joined up with a tenor named Ted Andrews and the two became a vaudeville team. During the war, Julie and her younger brother John were evacuated to a riding school in Kent and Barbara and Ted Andrews toured Britain together, entertaining the troops. When Julie was four, her mother divorced Ted Wells and married Andrews, who began giving singing lessons to Julie. Gradually Julie was incorporated into the couple’s music hall act, and eventually the family changed her last name to Andrews to make billing for the act easier.
At the age of seven, Julie was taken to audition for singing teacher Lillian Stiles-Allen, who though impressed with her talent, was reluctant to train Julie for fear of damaging her young vocal chords. Throat specialists finally determined that little Julie had a fully developed adult larynx, explaining her incredible four-octave range and removing any fear of possible damage.
As her vocal training continued, Julie became a popular British child performer and at the age of twelve was cast in her first West End revue, Starlight Roof. It was her performance with the Broadway company of The Boy Friend in 1954 that brought Julie her American stardom however, and many more New York successes were soon to follow. After a year with The Boy Friend, Julie auditioned for and won the role of Eliza Doolittle in Lerner and Loewe’s new musical version of Pygmalion, My Fair Lady. The show was a hit and Julie received her first Tony Award nomination for her performance, playing the role opposite Rex Harrison in New York for a total of two years, and then for another sixteen months in London (when she married her childhood sweetheart, Tony Walton).
Back in New York, Julie earned a second Tony nomination for her portrayal of Queen Guenevere in Lerner and Loewe’s Camelot, and she played this role for two years before leaving in 1962 to give birth to her daughter Emma. Julie’s Broadway career would then take a thirty year hiatus, as Walt Disney brought her to Hollywood to make her film debut in MARY POPPINS (1964) with Dick Van Dyke. Winning an Academy Award as Best Actress for her performance, Julie went on the following year to star as a nun-turned-governess in the movie musical smash of the century, THE SOUND OF MUSIC (1965), which even today remains one of the biggest blockbusters in cinema history.
Though many of her subsequent films (like THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE (1967) with Mary Tyler Moore and Darling Lili (1970) with Rock Hudson) were not commercially successful, Julie (having divorced Walton) married LILI’s director Blake Edwards who eventually directed her to another Academy Award-nominated performance in VICTOR/VICTORIA (1982) with Robert Preston, James Garner, and an Oscar-winning score by Henry Mancini. Recently Julie reprised this role on Broadway, though after much success (and another Tony nomination), at age 62 she finally gave her last performance, citing vocal trouble as her reason for passing the torch on to Raquel Welch. The show closed soon after.
Today Julie continues to live with Edwards and their two adopted children, and has even written a few successful children’s books under the name of Julie Edwards, including The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles and Mandy. In 2003, she appeared on the 75th Annual Academy Awards during a segment of the telecast honoring previous Oscar winners.