“Sometimes, I’m so sweet even I can’t stand it.”
“I’ve done that.” —On being offered further roles as a nanny after The Sound of Music
Because if it’s not one, it’s the other, right? As it happens, my having the Disney Channel as a kid is the deciding factor, here, but I would say practically everyone first thinks of Dame Julie Andrews as a singing nanny before anything else. Indeed, she apparently took the role in Victor/Victoria (which I haven’t seen, because it starts with “V”) to move away from that sort of thing. And people still thought of it as Mary Poppins’ showing her breasts.
Which . . . that shouldn’t be what it takes to move away from that sort of thing. Her Princess Diaries costar Anne Hathaway showed hers in Brokeback Mountain. I really don’t feel like dragging through the lot of them, but the number of female stars who did nude scenes to “prove” maturity is large. And it doesn’t matter that, for example, Julie Andrews had already been in a Hitchcock movie, that several of the other movies she’d been in since her debut in Mary Poppins had been more adult fare. Somehow, the way to break free was showing her breasts.
Not that there’s anything wrong with nudity. I’m just saying that we don’t have to see Kurt Russell’s genitals to know that he’s outgrown movies like The Computer Who Wore Tennis Shoes. Andrews is a fine, accomplished actress who was gifted with a spectacular singing voice. It’s a little disappointing to think that, because she did two movies as a singing nanny, the only way to stop being a singing nanny is to make it very clear that she’s a sexual being.
Maybe things would have been different if she hadn’t been passed over for the film version of My Fair Lady, despite her Tony nomination for the role of Eliza on Broadway. Eliza has a calm confidence in her own sexuality even without nudity. While Andrews expresses hope that Mary and Bert ended up together after the events of Mary Poppins, there’s no textual support for it. And while Maria does marry midway through The Sound of Music, she doesn’t have anywhere near the sensuality of the Baroness. And for women in film, sexuality is adulthood.
Anyway, there’s a lot to celebrate in Julie Andrews. She lost most of her range through medical malpractice, which is bitter for all of us, but she’s still a fine actress. She isn’t acting much these days, which is why I’m writing this. She’s able to sing at least a little, but her range has gone from her previous coloratura to an alto, making it lower than mine. However, we still have the memories—and the recordings—and we still have her acting abilities.
From what I hear she’s even actually a nice person, which is good to know. Even Christopher Plummer, who had not-very-nice things to say about both her and the experience of making The Sound of Music, later came to be her friend. Even if she never makes another movie again, she has had a long, precious career. And the Sherman Brothers would have you know that they could have bragged in that famous photo of the three together—after all, they’d each won two Oscars that night, and she only won one!