Saturday, December 15, 2012

December 15th - Part 2 A Song and A Dance


Late Afternoon
When Julie walked on stage in the gown she was going to wear for her solo, “Elizabeth,” the English actress, who was sitting in the same row as me, said “Oh, she’s wearing a dress that looks just like one Judy Garland wore on her television series.” Elizabeth told me that she had attended many tapings for Judy Garland’s show back in the 1960s.

Julie was wearing a long beaded gown, patterned with many bright colors – black, red, green and gold. The sleeves were long and wide at the ends. It was really a beautiful gown and it sparkled in the lights. This was her  costume for “On A Clear Day.”

It appeared that Julie had pre-recorded the song earlier in the week, but for some reason, she was going record it again in the studio, or at least part of it, The staging was such that at the beginning of the song, she stood in the dark toward the back of the set. Then, while she was singing, she moved forward, to the front of the stage. For the grand finale of the song, she went all the way up the scale.

They taped the song once but Julie wasn’t satisfied.
“That was terrible,” she said after singing the scale. “My voice cracked and I was out of key at the end. Just awful.”
“That was fine, Jools,” said the director.
“No, Bill, I want to do it again.”
“Jools” is the nickname people have for Julie. (Although it is spelled as I have it here, in my mind I always thought they were calling her “Jewels” because she is such a jewel.)

Meanwhile, during one of the rehearsal breaks, for some unknown reason, all the girls (fans) had moved across the aisle to talk on the side. Even Vivian went over to talk to the other girls; they were all gathered together, whispering about something or other.

That was how I gained a special moment, just for myself. I was sitting there thinking that while Julie enjoys her leisure, working at the studio she needs the rapport of the audience. The crew observes and sometimes even applauds, but at this point, I was the only person sitting front center in the audience. I had moved over to my favorite spot, the fourth row, just against the stage apron, not far from the camera. It seemed rather amazing to me that no one else was paying attention, but I was concentrating on what Julie was doing, and on being her audience.

So, Julie did another take. This time it seemed as if she sang more beautifully than before.

“On a clear day,
  Rise and look around you
  And you’ll see who you are.

  On a clear day,
  How it will astound you,
  That the glow of your being
  Outshines every star…”
 Music by Burton Lane; Lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner © 1965

For those few moments, it felt as if she were singing just to me, and through the lyrics, she was telling me what I needed to hear. I felt the music and her emotions about it and was thrilling. In that moment, I felt so blessed.

After she finished taping the song, she went back to her chair to watch the results on the TV monitor. I liked watching her reaction, though I felt a bit funny because this was private; it was her time to decide what she thought of her work, but like any actor, what she thinks is on her face.

At first, she had a look of hardness, criticism and almost disgust as she watched herself. Then, she frowned. A short while later, she left to change her costume.

                                         ***

The Fans
By December 15th, my fifth closed set taping, I was beginning to feel very much at home at the studio. I guess we all were. It seemed natural to be there. I also felt a little less shy and began to speak to the other girls who came to the tapings. There were really not many of us. There was Vivian, Patty and Kelly. I never spoke to Katrina, who worked for Joan. There was also “Elizabeth,” the English actress who was friends with someone working on the show. From time to time, other visitors came and went, but we really didn’t pay attention to them.

That morning, “Patty” arrived shortly after I did. I soon learned that she and Kelly had also had been at the studio the previous day. In fact, Patty said, Kelly had followed Julie home that night. When Kelly came in, the two girls put their heads together and started gossiping about something. I chose to ignore them.

On this day, with so many long breaks while they put up new sets, I learned more about “Elizabeth.” She is thirty years-old and used to work on “Dark Shadows.” She has three daughters at home in England. They are 14, 10 and 8. The oldest is named Julie Elizabeth. Elizabeth went into labor with her while she was attending one of Julie’s performances in “My Fair Lady.”   She barely had time to get to the hospital before the baby was born on October 1st. When we told Elizabeth that October 1st is also Julie’s birthday, she acted shocked and said she didn’t know that. (I find that hard to believe.) She also told us that her daughter refers to Julie as “Aunt Julie.” Elizabeth informed us that she had dropped off a huge Christmas package at the stage door for Julie that morning -- a pink afghan which she knitted herself.

Soon, it was evening, and Jenny Edwards arrived. When she came down into the audience, she stopped by to talk to some of the girls. She almost seemed a bit snobbish to me, but at the same time I was surprised at how young and small she seemed. I was also surprised that she has a very fine English voice. The girls asked her how she likes making movies.

Later, when Elizabeth was talking to her, she talked so long that Jenny sat down on the floor next to our seats. “Jenny has a bad habit,” Elizabeth said later. “She says, ‘I’ll see talk to you later,’ and never returns.”

After Jenny left, the girls talked about how Julie had cried all night when she couldn’t go to the premiere of “Star!” because she was working on “Darling Lili.” They also said that a few months ago, Julie had gone over to Geoffrey Edward’s school to join the PTA, but they wouldn’t let her. The women in charge told her they didn’t want publicity seekers and sent her away. She came home crying, so Blake had to go to the school and settle things.

After the last show of the season in March, the girls informed me, Julie will be going to the East Indies to make a spy movie with Omar Shariff.

While we were talking, Blake arrived with his parents. The whole family was there and went to sit in the seats way at the back of the theatre, behind the entrance aisle.

Night and and Heaven
The crew erected a gorgeous new set with shiny black flooring, stairs, blue skies and stars. There were also blue chiffon drapes handing from the ceiling. The floor was like glass, so you could see the dancers reflected in it as they danced. As crew finished up, we heard the pre-recorded music with Julie and Keith singing “Dancing in the Dark.”

While all this was going on, choreographer, Tony Charmoli, and his assistant, Dick Beard, practiced the dance for about half-an-hour. It looked odd to see the two men waltzing, but it was also amazing as they literally flew over the floor. Now, the lighting men tested their lights, flooding the stage and then, fading the stage to darkness with twinkling stars.

Keith Michell came out wearing black tails. We were all betting on what Julie would wear. Finally, she arrived in a gorgeous beige chiffon gown, with gold sequins on the bodice. It looked rather white on the screen.

This scene –mistakes and all—was like heaven! The lighting of the sky, stars and curtains, the singing, the floating dancers—I felt I had died and gone to heaven. Later, I realized it was as if time had gone back and I was in the studio with Ginger and Fred in the 1930s. I’m not missing it, I thought—it’s now! The glamour was true.

I wondered how Blake’s parents felt about their daughter-in-law, watching her up there on stage, recreating this period. Blake and Jenny were dancing together in the back of the theatre. 

While Keith and Julie ran through the dance, Tony Charmoli gave them instructions: “Now, you’re leaving her. Now you rush back, yearning.”

The dance began in a backbend and ended with a turn. Julie was supposed to go from that turn to a spiral and end up in a backbend on the floor--I mean, literally, all the way down to the floor. They did it over and over. The scene took four hours to film and it would not be five minutes long on the television. As I watched it, I wished it was going to be shown on the big screen. Its haunting impact will be lost on the television.

Earlier, someone was counting something – maybe the number of takes- and they said, “Seventy-two.”
“Seventy-two,” said Julie. “That’s how old I feel.”
I wondered how she felt after finishing the dance. She did look tired.

As the crew watched the monitors, Julie looked over to see if we were staring at her. I looked up at the monitor so as not to embarrass her. We all play a funny game with Julie. We look at her and then look away when she looks at us. And she looks away as we look at her. It is a constant, silent watch. My one wish is that somehow we could break this barrier. It seems sometimes as if she tries to lightly, but won’t. Is she shy? Does she wonder about us; wonder why we are here?

Oh, the musings of an eighteen year old girl, who knew so little. But that’s how it seemed to me then….


To be continued….


If you would like to see The Julie Andrews Hour back on television and released on DVD, along with music releases of Julie and her guests, please e-mail a polite request: dan.gopal@itv.com
If you prefer, you may look up ITV in London or Los Angeles, and send a letter there. 



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