Thursday, September 13, 2012

Premiere of The Julie Andrews Hour

Here I am rushing off to an event in Indiana, but I could not miss remembering the premiere of this great show which meant so much to me. Next week, I promise, much more!

Forty years ago this week, television audiences across the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom were looking forward to a new television series, starring one of the most wonderful film and stage stars  – Julie Andrews. Audiences no doubt hoped for a show that had class, beauty, inspiration, as well as some fun. They were not disappointed.

On September 13th, ABC aired the first episode of The Julie Andrews Hour. Julie was in fine form. She performed songs from both the stage shows she had starred in -- The Boy Friend, My Fair Lady and Camelot, as well as songs from her most famous films, Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music.

From the author's 1972 scrapbook

Early in the show, audiences got a surprise--not one Julie Andrews but three! There was Eliza Doolittle whom Julie had charmed theater audiences with, both in the U.S. and England, the very proper Mary Poppins, whom Julie had won an Oscar portraying. And then there was the real Julie, charming, elegant, and beautiful, a real person with a lovely English voice. Audiences of 1972 may have enjoyed the entertainment of this scene, the three ladies with their different personalities, battling it out. Watching the scene today reveals how very clever the creators of the show were, and what a truly great actress Julie Andrews was and is.

At one point, the creators of the episode bring Julie out of the make-believe world and into the real world by inserting comments from people on the street and having her respond to them. They also took Julie and a group of people (actors and dancers dressed like ordinary people) out through the loading dock of the sound stage and onto the streets of Los Angeles where Julie and an odd assortment of characters dance on the sidewalk, in a rather rundown shopping mall and in a park.

Julie Andrews’s permanent guests, Rich Little and Alice Ghostly made quick appearances in this show. Rich helped Julie in the Camelot section by portraying Robert Goulet and Richard Burton. Alice appeared in a segment called “Roommates,” which portrayed the two women as roommates (made up, of course) during their early theater days. Alice plays the down and out roommate with no dates and no phone calls, while Julie plays the “practically perfect” roommate who gets a starring role, and memorizes it in a snap. She also gets loads of calls from men wanting to take her out on a date.

This is not the gown
from the premiere,
but designer Bear often
dressed her elegantly in white.

Later, someone I met commented to me about Julie, saying, “You know that roommate section when Julie learned a script in a snap?  That’s Julie… almost.”

Perhaps the most dazzling moment of the show is when Julie twirls in her gorgeous white gown (by Jack Bear) and sings “I Could Have Danced All Night.” At one point the camera shows her in a kaleidoscope effect, creating five or six Julies, like a gorgeous frescoed ceiling. Truly gorgeous!

All in all, the show was everything any fan or admirer of Miss Andrews, theater and good music could hope for. It was fun, elegant, and enchanting.

So, the new television series was off and running and the network, crew, and Julie herself were looking forward to a great run on television. The only problem was that show was set for ten pm, on a weeknight. As producer Nick Vanoff would later say, at that time a good portion of Julie’s fans were already in bed.


Several months after the premiere of the show was taped, I made friends with a young girl named Vivian. Vivian had been present for the sections they taped that first night. (An audience was only present for certain portions of the show). She told me the following story:

After Julie finished shooting the final segment and the show was over, she went to the side of the stage where her chair was and where the producer and others working on the show usually met or conversed. Almost immediately, all the young kids (mostly teenagers), who were in the audience came running and just poured onto the stage and surrounded her. Vivian was standing right next to Julie, and Julie turned around, looked at her and said,
“What can I do for you?”
“How can I come to all the shows?” asked Vivian.
That night Vivian met two other teenage girls who also had the same idea. 
The intersection of their lives would affect what happened to all of us.

No comments:

Post a Comment