Sunday, April 19, 2015

SEEING THE SOUND OF MUSIC AFTER FIFTY YEARS

This week, Sunday, April 19, 2015, through Fathom Events, Turner Classic Movies has hosted the showing of THE SOUND OF MUSIC in theaters across the USA.

At this point in time, there are many who have seen this film yearly on their televisions screens. If you have not seen THE SOUND OF MUSIC on the big screen, then you really have not seen it. It is magnificent, a fact that hit me once again today. The makers of the Sound of Music were truly  inspired men (and women if such is the case). Each scene is a brilliant work of art. Salzburg is really another character in the film.

In a day and age where we look for bigger highs, more shock, more violence, pain and outrage to shake us up, The Sound of Music shocks us because of how different it is from all that. The film harkens back to a day when excellence and inspiration were the true goals of the top filmmakers.

The Sound of Music qualifies as a great film because we have many of the opposing qualities we find in reality.. We have gorgeous scenery and a troubled girl, great music and unhappy children getting happy, love against a backdrop of evil as the Nazis move in. We know that the face of the world is about to change forever, even as love triumphs for this couple and this family.

That the music of the film, written by the brilliant Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein II makes the film goes without saying. It was great on Broadway, but again, the way the filmmakers have meshed the music with the actors and the landscape of Salzburg brings out it's true grandeur. And again, they could not have chosen a more perfect Maria than Julie Andrews.

In 1965, Julie Andrews was a fresh-faced young woman with an amazing voice. Although she was fairly well-known at that time, The Sound of Music would hurl her into the kind of fame where people can't get enough of you. Christopher Plummer, although handsome, seems rather churlish in a good portion of the film. It is Julie as Maria, who can't help being attracted to him and falling in love with him, that makes us believe he is a decent fellow. The children are brilliant as well. When one takes a simple song like Do-Re-Mi and sees how grand and wonderful it can be, it brightens your entire aspect on life!

I'm not saying I can write anything half decent on this film. It has been written and written about - both as great and as too sweet and silly, but maybe those watching it this week on the big screen, after all we have experienced in our world during the last 50 years, will see it with fresh eyes and find it is a necessary value in our world. We need this joy!

(c) Michelle Russell, 2015

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Meeting Julie Andrews Again and, Finally, Thank You!


Note:  Much of this story has been edited down... At some point, it will be included in another work.

In the years following my meeting with Julie Andrews, I went on with my life. Julie was living a new life herself, as a wife, mother and film star. And as far as I knew, she spent most of her time in Europe. My memories and mementos of The Julie Andrews Hour were packed away in a closet in my parents’ California home, where they remained for the next 30 years.

Whenever I saw a mention of Julie’s success, I felt happy for her. In the late 70s, when she toured the country, singing in concert, I traveled to Westchester, NY to see her onstage. I was thrilled by her ease and beauty before an audience, receiving the applause she so richly deserved. The nay-sayers of Hollywood had been left far behind...

***
Singing at "The Bushes"
Park Royal Hotel around 1977
Although, I auditioned a lot, I never “made it big,” as they say. In time, I found it more to my liking to create shows and sing on a more intimate level in clubs.

After moving to Washington, D.C., I lost my voice -- a combination of  misuse and emotional trauma. Thank heaven for my coming into contact with an amazing teacher,  Don Zuckerman. Don taught singing using the Alexander Technique, as a basis, along with breathing techniques taught by an Olympic atheletic coach and a certain amount of pyschology. 

 Using these techniques Don taught helped me change habits and thoughts that were holding me back. I learned to laugh at myself and not to be afraid of any unpleasant sounds I made in the process of retraining my voice. I also learned to become aware of when my vocal production felt right, rather trying to listen to myself and create a sound I thought was good. None of us hear ourselves as we sound to others.

Humbled by the fact that I could not sing at all if I didn’t listen, I followed Don Zuckerman’s instructions to the letter. Like a baby learning to walk. I learned how to breathe and how to make sounds all over again Over the next three years, I began to be able to sing again. For the first time in my life, I knew this was my true voice.


"HOME"

My old friend Alice gave me a copy of Julie's wonderful book "Home."  Finally after finishing the writing of a two volume work of my own, I was able to sit down and enjoy it. 

When I picked up Home and began to read. I recognized the voice in the book. It was Julie. While some may have been surprised by the stories in Home, for me, it was a revelation and explanation of the woman I’d already spent so much time with. I felt as if Julie had taken me by the hand, and led me on a journey into her life; I felt I understood her better. And I felt grateful.

Reading Julie's book made me remember my old diaries on The Julie Andrews Hour. Where were they? What did they say? Was there a story there? When I finally took them out, I knew there was a story, and an exciting one.
Julie rehearsing for a number on The Julie Andrews Hour

One thing that surprised me the most in my research on The Julie Andrews Hour was that nothing had been done with the show. Many television shows had come out on DVD, but not Julie’s. In the long run I learned that it is not owned by ABC or anyone in the United States. It is owned by a television company in Great Britain. 

After reading my old diaries again and interviewing people who had worked on the show I was eagar to see Julie again. Maybe now that I'd grown up and lived a little I would be able to talk to Julie.

That opportunity came soon enough at an event where Julie and Emma Walton Hamilton were signing one of their new "Very Fairy Princes" books. Although things didn't go quite as planned - mainly because I was on a strong medication for my allergies, I am happy I saw her again and will treasure that last squeeze she gave my hand as we said goodbye.









     Here, I would like to say something I never really said. Julie, for all the beauty and inspiration you've given us these many years I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

                                                                     Sincerely,

                                                                     Michelle Russell
 


***




Monday, March 30, 2015

Meeting Julie Andrew - April 1975

Note: This detail in my story is only possible due to the fact that I kept a very detailed diary at the time!

This sequence is only including snippets as I work toward a book.



It was March 26, 1975, and I’d just returned from acting class. The bell in my little 7’ x 10’ room buzzed, signaling that there was a call down the hall for me. I went out the door and walked to the closet telephone booth. I’d been living in New York City for a little over a year, working as a waitress during the weekdays and studying acting and voice at HB Studio on the weekends.

I picked up the phone. It was my friend, Michael Bruck. Michael was the brother of my Julie Andrews pen
Sir Lew presenting Julie Andrews with her Emmy for
The Julie Andrews Hour. Blake Edwards on the right.
pal, Dennis, and my first New York friend. He’d helped me find a place to stay the day I got off the plane. Michael had some surprising news—Julie Andrews was coming to town. She was going to be one of the stars appearing in the Sir Lew Grade Tribute which would be filmed and televised later. Of course, Sir Lew Grade had been the producer of The Julie Andrews Hour.

Hanging up the phone, I hurried back to my room. As soon as the door was closed the door, I began jumping up and down, “Julie’s coming! Julie’s coming,” I exclaimed like a child who has just heard Santa will soon arrive.  That night, in my diary, I wrote, “Julie’s coming. Oh joy!”

***

... Then, finally, I heard that lovely, very familiar English voice. She was with a man and wearing dark glasses and probably would have escaped my notice if it were not for that voice. I rose quickly out of my seat and walked across the floor.

“Julie,” I called.

“Yes?”

If only I could describe what those few seconds meant to me. How many times had I listened as director Bill Davis and others called Julie and she answered them, but now I was the one calling and she was answering ME! Then, without thinking I said,

...The next night I returned to the Hilton, where one of the musicians had offered to get me in to hear Julie sing. In the midst of the show, he arranged for someone to come out and get me. It was thrilling to see her on the large stage, singing so beautifully for a huge audience, though my friends who had paid big bucks to get in were not too pleased with me.

So that was my big adventure. Although in the following years I would see Julie quite a few times on stage, it would be more than thirty years before I spoke to her again.

(C) Michelle Russell 2015



Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Julie Andrews, Lady Gaga and The Sound of Music - A Glorious Celebration

Salzburg, Austria
This month, The Sound of Music celebrates the 50th anniversary of the film's release and Julie Andrews is top news. The big stories began with Lady Gaga’s grand appearance on the 2015 Academy Awards. For months, she had rehearsed songs from the much loved film. That night, dressed in a dazzling white ball gown, Lady Gaga stunned and then thrilled the audience with her superb, heartfelt tribute to Julie Andrews and The Sound of Music. As the audience responded with a standing ovation, nothing could have topped that moment except the presence of the original star, Julie – which is exactly what happened. Ms. Andrews appeared on stage and embraced Lady Gaga. Thrills and tears.



This week, fans waited impatiently for Diane Sawyers’ ABC special, “The Untold Story of ‘The Sound of Music.’ In the special, Diane visits Salzburg, Austria where she meets Julie Andrews, and together the pair travel to many of the film's sites, where Julie recalls events that took place during filming. Christopher Plummer is also interviewed and many, many rare pictures and film clips are shown. There is also a visit to the real von Trapp home, not used in the film.

Watching Julie Andrews and listening to her behind the scenes stories is sure to bring back fond memories of our own. Each person who has seen the film has their own very personal memories of where they were in their life when they first saw the film. Those of us who love it remember as well how it inspired us and affected our lives. Without a doubt, it is one of the most loved films ever, and a large part of this is due to the greatness of Julie Andrews’ performance. She brought passion, insecurity, humor and love to her portrayal of Maria, as well as that glorious voice, which touched us all.

I have my own memories of seeing the film for the first time. My grandmother and Great Aunt Dora took me to see "The Sound of Music" shortly after it opened. I was eleven years old at the time, and Aunt Dora, who had seen the Broadway production, thought I should see it. Of course, like most kids, I longed to be one of the children in the film, but being from a theatrical family, I also dreamed, not just of living the story, but of working with a group of children like those in the film and a singer like Julie. But who is like Julie? No, of course, I dreamed of working with Julie herself, humbly. And for the first time in my life, I thought about singing, not just as a child or a popular singer, but as a singer who could do something much finer, like Julie Andrews.

Only seven years after the release of “The Sound of Music,” I had the opportunity to watch Julie Andrews at work in-person, and I took advantage of it that opportunity as my blog tells. Now, seeing the clips of the film and Julie at that time makes my memories real. Indeed, it is time to tell the rest of my story, and in the next few weeks, I will.

To learn more about ABC’s Special, visit:

http://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/journey-meadow-filmed-opening-scene-sound-music/story?id=29698288

(c) 2015 Michelle Russell

All photos and links here for entertainment purposes only.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

A Crazy Trip to Beverly Hills

Note Much of this content has been removed...

                       
                                                                       ***
      By September 1973, we knew that Julie Andrews had finished filming "The Tamarind Seed" with Omar Sharriff and settled back in England. In addition, she had scheduled a grand concert at the Albert Hall in London and all the fans I knew were very excited about it. Many of them were planning to travel to London to attend the event.

Meanwhile, my young friend Vivian missed Julie a lot. Determined not to be left behind, that September
Vivian called me to let me know that she was going to fly to London. She'd done a lot of babysitting and had the money. Before she left Vivian wanted to take one last trip to see Julie's Beverly Hills home. She also had a story regarding that home to tell me.

Julie Andrews and Blake Edward's home at the time of
The Julie Andrews Hour - approximately 1972-73
It seems that some time  before I met Vivian at the studio, (she was about 15 at the time) she'd had her 18 year-old brother drive her to Julie's house so she could see it. The pair had parked the car down the block from the cul-de-sac street and walked down to look at it. On returning to the car, they realized that they'd locked themselves out. Meanwhile, Julie had come out of the house, gotten into her car and was driving away. Blake was also in the front, just getting into his car as they arrived back in front of the house. Vivian's brother approached Blake and told him that they were locked out and asked if he had a wire hanger they could use to open the car door with.

Blake said he was leaving, but suggested they go through the garage to the back of the house. They could knock on the door and tell the butler to give them a hanger. When they got to the back of the house, Vivian told me, they saw the garden and, as Vivian described it, there were so many beautiful flowers back there, it looked like there was going to be a wedding. Vivian told me she just had to see that garden again!

So, it was agreed that autumn that we'd go to Beverly Hills. I often when there on the weekends when I didn't go back to West Covina. I liked to walk around the lovely neighborhoods; it rather reminded me of Pasadena where I grew up.

In short, Vivian got to see that garden again, I did not.  This is a story that may one day be told...


Julie signing autographs in London
around 1973

                                                                 ****
Vivian went to England in the next month and attended Julie Andrew's grand concert at the Albert Hall. It was months before I heard from her. She was thrilled and told me she had also spoken to Jenny Edwards while she was there.

Because of some other fans' behavior, I felt sorry for Julie and truly glad that I was thousands of miles away where I would not seen as part of that. 

From now on, I would concentrate on my career. My goal - New York.

(c) Michelle Russell



Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Julie Andrews, Malibu and Me - 1973


During the time The Julie Andrews Hour was being taped, everyone knew that Julie and
One of my favorite photos of Julie
Andrews, taken in Malibu the summer
or fall of 1972.
her family were spending their weekends at the beach in Malibu. This was mentioned in Blake Edward’s documentary, Julie, and in every magazine interview. But Malibu is a big place. It includes the “Movie Colony,” a gated community where stars have spent time since the 1930s. So, no one really knew where the Edwards’ home was. Yet despite the fact that two of the fans I knew, Patty and Kelly, had followed Julie to the Movie Colony one weekend, I was pretty sure that was not where her home was.

Even before I was born, my maternal grandmother owned land in Malibu. As a teenager, my mother spent her summer weekends at the family’s small cottage on a large plot of land, where, in the mid-1950s, my grandmother built a lovely home on the hill over-looking the ocean. Much of my early childhood was spent there and movie actors were no strangers to me. In fact, one of my childhood pals was Allen Jenkins, a character actor who had worked in numerous films with Humphrey Bogart and Edward G. Robinson. Will Rogers Jr and his family were our neighbors.

... In this blog, the author discovers that, indeed, Julie Andrews and her family had been closer to her grandmother's home than she ever know.

This blog has been abbreviated toward re-writing this subject for a new book.


(c) Michelle Russell


Coming Next:   Beverly Hills Adventure

To find a listing of all The Julie Andrews Hour Blogs – with links back to this site, please visit http://www.julieandrewshour1972.com

To request that The Julie Andrews Hour be released on DVD, please contact:  dan.gopal@itv.com    at ITV and let your voices heard!

Be sure to ask for the release of the music on CD as well!
All photos here for entertainment purposes only.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Julie Andrews Hour Magazine Covers 1972-1973


In 1972, Julie Andrews was one of Hollywood’s greatest female stars, rivaled only perhaps by Barbra Streisand. Although, years later, critics made much of the fact that Ms. Andrews’ films after The Sound of the Music did not do that well at the box office, I can tell you --as person who lived through that period-- the average person was not judging Ms. Andrews based on the box office. She was a great star and everyone knew it.

During late 1972 and the first half of 1973, because Ms. Andrews was a great star, there was a great deal of attention as to what took place in Studio C at ABC where The Julie Andrews Hour was being taped. Many a weekday afternoon, after leaving class at Los Angeles City College, I would head over to Thrifty Drug Store on Vermont, where they sold big ice cream cones for five cents. On those afternoons, while I indulged in my ice cream, I’d take a peek at the latest movie magazines, in hopes of finding some photos of Julie on the set. I remember reading stories of Julie screaming with frustration in the halls of the studio. I laughed at those stories, figuring they were just for publicity. I simply could not imagine the cool, calm and collected Julie, who was always pleasant and, frequently, full of fun, screaming. Looking back, I can’t imagine she would strain her voice in this way either.

During this period, quite a few mainstream magazines chose to put Julie Andrews on their cover and these were beautiful covers. Here is a little bit about the cover stories that I still possess.

TV Guide – December 9, 1972
Julie posed for this lovely photo on the set of The Julie Andrews Hour. This article, for which the writer interviewed Blake Edwards, gives something of the history of Julie’s career and the creation of The Julie Andrews Hour. At this point, it was hoped that the television series would continue for at least two years. In the article, producer Lew Grade states that if the show remains on the air just two years, he will earn about $15 million.

The TV Guide article also reveals that the show opened with a Nielsen rating of 17.3 and then descended to a rating of 11.4 the second week.  Unfortunately, the show had been given a 10pm weeknight slot, which, as producer Nick Vanoff noted, was obviously too late for a good portion of Julie’s fans.

Toward the end of the article, an interview with Cass Elliott is quoted. Ms. Elliott speaks of working until 4am with Julie, noting how even at that hour, Julie was pulling out everything she had to make the show work. “I was embarrassed to complain. I dunno, but there is something very special there, which you grow to love…”

This McCalls cover was one of my favorite.
The blue of the "McCalls" and Julie's eyes
were perfectly matched!
             ***


Only a week after The Julie Andrews Hour won seven Emmys, the McCall’s May 1973 issue, with a beautiful photo of Julie on the cover, appeared on the newsstand. The article was titled “Julie Andrews Fights Back.”
Author Chris Chase interviewed Julie and wrote this article before anyone knew publicly whether the show would be renewed or cancelled. The article features photos of Julie getting out of her car in front of her Beverly Hills home, standing by her pool in Beverly Hills, in the recording studio and by the ocean at the family’s beach house in Malibu. 

In response to the question about how she would feel if the show was cancelled, Julie says, “Off course I’ll be hurt, everyone wants to be accepted and loved, but all you can do is your best… I’ll feel sorry for all the people who’ve worked so hard…” To close our her statement, Ms. Andrews concludes that she’ll be rather glad to be home again, hinting that her daughter Emma has had a rather bad time with her being away from home so much.

Perhaps, Mr. Chase writes, ‘what they (the producers and Julie) were trying to do couldn’t be done.’ The article also reveals that the show cost approximately $240,000 an episode ($.... with today’s values).
Julie was given many compliments in this article:

“She’s an angel,” said Nelson Riddle.
“She has no temperament,” added Ian Fraser.
From Alice Ghostley we learn, “She’s so kind, so sensitive, so unwilling to see anyone embarrassed.”
The article, which began with some sadness and difficulty, concludes with Julie’s dreams and the sheer happiness of her present life. 


Women’s Homelife – June 1973
Summer 1973


The photo shoot for this cover can be seen in Blake Edwards’ documentary film, “Julie.”  The editors chose the brightest photo of the shoot and called the article, “The Trials and Triumphs of a Working Wife.” Although the article did not come out until a year after the interview and photos were taken, it does reveal much about Julie’s life at the time the television series was being created. There is an interesting photo of Julie seated on a chair, with Blake, holding cup and saucer, looking at her. Behind them on the wall is grand painting, which looks to be of the Rembrandt period.

The article reveals that Blake was very protective of Julie, to the point that when, at an introductory dinner before shooting of the series began, an ABC representative asked to take Julie from table to table to “meet the press individually,”  Blake told him he thought that was a bit much to expect and said he would not allow it. Julie, however, thought she should go around, and after speaking quietly to her husband about it and having it arranged, went from table to table and greeted everyone.

Interestingly, according to the article Julie loved to be silly and rowdy, but had to save that aspect of her personality for the times when Blake wasn’t around. Still, the author concludes, Blake was good for her.

So, the series was concluded. There were specials yet to come, but those would be done in Europe. Now, Julie Andrews, who had been so visible in Hollywood for nearly twelve months, was not gone from the U.S. And for all we knew, she would never return.

 © Michelle Russell


Coming Next: Julie, Malibu and me


To request that The Julie Andrews Hour be released on DVD, please contact:  dan.gopal@itv.com    at ITV and let your voices heard!
Be sure to ask for the release of the music on CD as well!

Photos appearing here are for entertainment purposes only!