THE ENTERTAINMENT CRITIC BOOK REVIEW, BY JAMES MYERS
HOME: A MEMOIR OF MY EARLY YEARS
By Julie Andrews
Published by: Hyperion
Publication Date: April 1, 2008
Four Star Rating ****
JULIE ELIZABETH ANDREWS, DBE (BORN JULIA ELIZABETH WELLS ON OCTOBER 1, 1935 IS AN AWARD-WINNING ENGLISH ACTRESS, SINGER, AUTHOR AND ICON. SHE IS THE RECIPIENT OF GOLDEN GLOBE, EMMY, GRAMMY, BAFTA, PEOPLE'S CHOICE AWARD, THEATRE WORLD AWARD, SCREEN ACTORS GUILD AND ACADEMY AWARD HONOURS. ANDREWS ROSE TO PROMINENCE AFTER STARRING IN BROADWAY MUSICALS SUCH AS MY FAIR LADY AND CAMELOT, AS WELL AS MUSICAL FILMS LIKE MARY POPPINS (1964) AND THE SOUND OF MUSIC (1965).
ANDREWS HAD A MAJOR REVIVAL OF HER FILM CAREER IN THE 2000S, IN CHILDREN'S FILMS SUCH AS THE PRINCESS DIARIES (2001), ITS SEQUEL THE PRINCESS DIARIES 2: ROYAL ENGAGEMENT (2004), AND THE SHREK ANIMATED FILMS (2004-2007). IN 2005, ANDREWS MADE HER DEBUT AS A STAGE DIRECTOR WITH A REVIVAL OF THE BOY FRIEND, IN WHICH SHE ALSO MADE HER BROADWAY ACTING DEBUT IN 1954.
ANDREWS IS ALSO AN ACCOMPLISHED WRITER OF CHILDREN'S BOOKS, AND IN 2008 SHE PUBLISHED AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY, HOME: A MEMOIR OF MY EARLY YEARS.
“I am told that the first comprehensible word that I uttered as a child was ‘home.’
My father was driving his secondhand Austin 7; my mother was in the passenger seat beside him holding me on her lap. As we approached our modest house, Dad backed the car to turn onto the pocket-handkerchief square of concrete by the gate and apparently I quietly, tentatively, said the word.
My mother told me there was a slight upward inflection to my voice, and not a question so much as a trying of the word on the tongue, with perhaps the delicious discovery of connection…the word to the place. My parents wanted to be sure they heard me correctly, so Dad drove around the lanes once again, and as we returned, it seems I repeated the word.
My mother must have said it more than once upon our arrival at our house-perhaps with satisfaction? Or relief? Or maybe to instill in her young daughter a sense of comfort and safety. The word has carried enormous resonance for me ever sense.
The voice, once lost, that brought us some of the landmark musicals of the 20th Century, The Sound of Music, Camelot, My Fair Lady, and Mary Poppins, has returned in this wonderful memoir. Julie Andrews’s new book, Home: A Memoir of My Early Years, is a richly detailed, wonderful book that takes us inside all of the ins and outs of her early life, both personal and professional. Born into a marriage of two horribly mismatched parents, her father the teacher, her mother a performer, the mother eventually left the father to marry a successful vaudeville singer, and Julie went with her mother. Julie gives us a vivid description of the war years in England, in a household full of strife and full of music.
Julie’s professional life began when she was only 12. The family became dependent on her income for their survival. In 1948 she became the youngest solo performer to ever participate in a Royal Command Performance before the Queen. Julie sang all over the country, and she performed weekly on the BBC, living in rented rooms with older female chaperones, and an abiding longing for family and home. At on the age of 18, she left the UK for the USA to make her Broadway debut in the musical The Boy Friend. This was the beginning of her meteoric rise to Hollywood and Broadway stardom.
Home is filled with stories and anecdotes about working on some of the biggest musicals in history like, My Fair Lady with Rex Harrison, in Camelot with Richard Burton, and Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins. It cover a career that soared over seven decades including The Sound of Music, Mary Poppins, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Hawaii, 10, and The Princess Diaries. This book also features over 50 personal photos, many of which have never been seen before. She includes long, detailed discussions about her award winning television appearances, multiple album releases, concert tours, her international humanitarian work, best-selling children’s books and her work to improve literacy.
As we all know, towards the end of the Broadway run of Victor/Victoria, she lost her singing voice, and despite operations, she never recovered it. She has undergone a revival of sorts recently in the 2000’s with The Princess Diaries I and II, a made-for-television movies based on the Eloise books, a series of children's books by Kay Thompson about a child who lives in the Plaza Hotel in New York City. The same year, Andrews made her debut as a theatre director, directing a revival of The Boyfriend, the musical in which she made her Broadway debut, at the Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor, New York. Her production, which featured costume and scenic design by her former husband Tony Walton, was remounted at the Goodspeed Opera House in 2005 and went on a national tour in 2006. From 2005 to 2006, Andrews served as the Official Ambassador for Disneyland's 18 month-long, 50th anniversary celebration, the "Happiest Homecoming on Earth", travelling to promote the celebration and recording narration or appearing at several events at the park.
In 2004, Andrews performed the voice of Queen Lillian in the animated blockbuster Shrek 2 (2004), reprising the role for its sequel, Shrek the Third (2007). Later in 2007, she narrated Enchanted, a live-action Disney musical comedy that paid homage to classic Disney films such as Mary Poppins.
In January 2007, she was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Screen Actors Guild's awards, and stated that her goals including continuing to direct for the stage, and possibly to produce her own Broadway musical.
Home, has been published as part one of the memoirs/celebration of her life. Well written and detailed with glaring honesty, I cannot wait to read part two. This is a great book about a remarkable life, whose influence has spanned many generations. The voice of a great performer is back. One you should not miss this summer.