Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Julie Andrews Hour - Beginnings

     Forty years ago this August, some of Hollywood’s most talented professionals were hard at work preparing for what was predicted to be a tremendous new television series. The show was to feature one of the world’s most popular musical stars – Julie Andrews.

 

     Lined up to create the show were Nick Vanoff as producer, Bill Davis as director and Tony Charmoli as choreographer. There were a host of writers, including John Aylesworth and Frank Peppiatt, Jay Burton, George Bloom, Bob Ellison, Hal Goodman, Larry Klein and Lila Garrett. For the music, famed band leader Nelson Riddle had been hired as musical director. Designer Jack Bear was to create the costumes, including a wardrobe of exquisite gowns for Miss Andrews. Comic actress, Alice Ghostly and the phenomenal impressionist Rich Little were brought into as regulars on the show. Only the best for Julie Andrew's show.

 

             The following year, The Julie Andrews Hour received seven Emmy awards, more than any other series on television. Yet despite this and the praise received, the show was canceled after one season.

 

            Forty years ago, this writer had just graduated from high school and was planning for a career in musical theater. That summer, as I sat on my grandmother’s hilltop property in Malibu, practicing my singing, I dreamed of the future. In a month, I would be leaving home for the first time. I was enrolled in the Theatre Arts program at Los Angeles City College and would soon be living at a residence on Sunset Boulevard known as International House. 

          During those summer days, as I spent long hours walking along the beautiful Pacific shore, I had no idea that Julie Andrews and her family were just down the beach from my family. Nor could I have imagined that soon I would be learning about musical theater and performing from Julie Andrews herself.

 

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     Hollywood, 1972 ---Since the 1920s, Hollywood had been that dream place in the sun where people came, sometimes to fulfill their dream to become a star, and sometimes simply to see where it all happens – where magic is made.  By 1972, the physical town Hollywood was on the edge of crumbling. The same buildings existed that had been there thirty or forty years earlier; they were just a bit more decrepit. The old Hollywood Canteen was there and the Hollywood Library and, of course, the Walk of Fame and Grauman’s Chinese theater with the hand and footprints of movie stars from the last fifty years. But inside and out, there was a sense that things were changing. When, in 1969, Midnight Cowboy won the Oscar for Best Picture, that feeling was confirmed.

 

     Visiting Hollywood in the late 1960s when my Grandpa and Nana decided to move back there, I saw the beginnings of change. Instead of the beautifully dressed ladies and nattily dressed young men, the flower children had arrived. Young men and girls alike walked with flowing hair and bare feet that were black on the bottom. Hollywood, the film capital of the world, followed these changes in the productions they made. In 1965, Julie Andrews had won the Oscar for Best Actress in the role of Mary Poppins. And in 1965, she thrilled young and old alike as Maria in The Sound of Music. She was a true talent and the clean and wholesome star that many sought in this time of change.

 

            In the Fall of 1972, despite changes in music, film and television, there was a great sense of excitement in the air about the new show. Julie Andrews, one of the greatest stars in Hollywood was going to have a weekly television show. What a treat! What a wonder! Everyone was looking forward to that.

  

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New clipping from the author's collection
around 1969-1970

      "I could be happy with you, if you could be happy with me…” So begins Blake Edward’s documentary, Julie. The opening scene shows Julie blow drying the sweat on her face, after a performance of “Won’t You Charleston with Me,” a number from her first Broadway show, The Boy Friend.  The lyrics of the song and the intimacy of the shot, almost seem to be a love letter from husband to wife. Blake and Julie had been married for three years, and clearly he was doing all he could to support her in this new venture. His documentary would serve as an advertisement for her coming television show.

 

       The existence of Edwards’ Julie is a treasure; it gives us a rare view into the creation of The Julie Andrews Hour, as well as Julie’s private life. There is the cat who can take only so much of her vocalizing, her young daughter Emma and step-children, Jenny and Geoffrey eating dinner and singing before a fire on the beach, and there is her thoughtful husband, Blake, who asks her the questions she needs to hear to decide whether she should do the show or not. In addition, we see just how hard Julie Andrews works.

 

       As a young girl entering the studio – although I had done numerous shows myself and had seen my mother hard at work as a dancer all my life – I never fully appreciated just how hard and just how backbreaking the work was for Julie. To me and some of the other young girls at the studio, I think Julie’s comments on how tired she was were taken as a joke. We thought that she would be perfect no matter what she did. She didn’t take that for granted; she really stretched herself to the limit.

 

      My realization of this came only last year when I had occasion to give Miss Andrews a copy of a photo someone who worked on the show had given me. While looking at it, she commented softly, in a voice that seemed tired just thinking about it, “We worked so hard…” I had been there; I had seen the work, but at that moment, it finally became real to me how she felt.


       As of this date, The Julie Andrews Hour has not been released on DVD, nor has anyone thought to create a CD with some of the great musical recordings from the show. Sadly, the only copies of the show which exist for public viewing are extremely rough copies, filmed off a television set in the 1970s.

 

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      This blog and the projected book are written with the intention of celebrating and honoring this wonderful show which Julie Andrews and the amazing array of talent involved helped to create. It is also the story of one eighteen year-old girl’s view of life on a soundstage at ABC Studios. 


      Although I would have liked this blog to be a bit more finished before I began, it is my goal to recall these stories and publish them as near to the dates on which they occurred forty years ago as possible. It may seem trite to say --- but it seems like only yesterday.


      Next week I will introduce you to some of the people who helped to create this show.

 


Note: To see a list of  blog subjects on The Julie Andrews Hour - with Links back to this site, please visit:


If you would like to see The Julie Andrews Hour out on DVD and/or CDs with music from the show, including a possible DUETS CD with Julie and her guests, please send a respectful e-mail to:  dan.gopal@itv.com expressing your interest. If there is enough interest, we can make it happen!!!

4 comments:

  1. Hopefully,the Julie Andrews Hour will one day be released on DVD. A pity that they have not for they showcase Julie Andrews at her vocal peak.

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    1. Since this blog was begun over four months ago, I have learned that some episodes of The Julie Andrews Hour are being shown in the U.K.! This is exciting. Perhaps, if there is enough interest, they will decide to do more with the show!

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  2. Hello,
    A quick introduction from my end-Iam Chinmaya from Bangalore,India. The reason for my mail is that I understand that the "sons of the desert" are having their next convention at Hollywood and would want to know if you are attending it. You may check this for more details- http://www.laurelandhardywood.com/ .
    Incase you or anyone whom you know are,please let me know as there are somethings that i want to discuss regarding the same.My id is-chimayaprakash@gmail.com Else,you may ignore this.

    Regards and best wishes,
    Chinmaya

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  3. Thanks for writing. I do not know what "sons of the desert" is and won't be there but good luck!

    ReplyDelete