The premiere of The Julie Andrews Hour was covered by all the papers and given great reviews. In the long run, the show would win director Bill Davis an Emmy Award.
Recently, Bill Davis, who was born in
and has since retired there, agreed to answer some questions about his career as a director and his work on The Julie Andrews Hour. Our "conversations" have taken place via e-mail. Canada
was living in Davis , directing CBS television series, The Wacky World of Jonathan Winters. Writers Frank Peppiat and John Aylesworth, also from Los Angeles , were the producers of the show. Canada
Vanoff chose a good portion of the talent for Julie’s show from the list of people he knew and had already worked with. Frank Peppiat and John Aylesworth had a long list of writing credits. Not only that, like many others who came to work on the Julie Andrews’ show, the men had worked as a team on The Judy Garland Show seven years earlier in1965.
Bill Davis describes the work on the premiere show in this way:
“The first show was a very ambitious script calling for 3 Julies on camera simultaneously: Julie as herself, Eliza Doolittle and Mary Poppins. That required many setups and chromo-key, which in those years was a technically difficult thing to handle. So, we developed a shooting technique which was almost like a film shoot.”
“Put up a set, light it, rehearse it, dress everyone and shoot it. Then take a break, during which time Julie would wash her hair and do another complete makeup and prep for the next segment. This took many hours over a 2 day period…”
Despite the rave reviews of the first show, during the next few weeks,
could see the long hours of shooting were taking a lot of time and “costing a fortune.” He began to worry about the situation. “After a few weeks I could see the handwriting on the wall: LETS FIRE THE DIRECTOR AND GET SOMEONE IN HERE WHO CAN SPEED UP THE PROCESS.” Davis
In the interest of keeping his job, Bill had a meeting with Nick Vanoff and discussed the possibility of shooting the show as a live performance. Nick agreed. They would try it.
The next few shows (possibly episodes 5, 6, and 7) were shot in this manner, but Julie, a perfectionist, was not comfortable with the “quick changes” required. Eventually, they went back to the old schedule, taking their time and, as Bill put it, allowing Julie “the perfection that she needed to satisfy her.”
Audiences were brought in for portions of the later shows, but even then, the shooting involved many takes. As I would later witness, audiences were excited to see Julie and her guests working in person, but after an hour or two, many grew tired of the work and did not stay. As Bill Davis points out, they often used audiences “for the comedy,” which added to the feeling of a live show, gave them live laughter, rather than canned, and helped the performers, though the crew did a fairly good job of laughing and responding to the numbers.
Tomorrow I will write about the second show. It was one that concentrated a great deal on comedy. Julie’s co-stars were Carl Reiner and Mama Cass Elliot.