Julia Elizabeth Wells was born in Walton-on-Thames, England, on October 1, 1935 to Ted and Barbara Wells, a schoolteacher and his piano instructor wife. At age three, Julia was taking ballet lessons. But at age four, her parents abruptly divorced when her mother teamed up with Ted Andrews, a tenor she'd met, who she promptly married. Ted, recognizing Julia's incredible four-octave voice with perfect pitch, immediately began giving her singing lessons and soon changed her name to Julie Andrews to make it easier to bill their family vaudeville act.
Julie became the youngest solo performer ever to appear in a Royal Command Performance at age 13. She performed in music halls throughout England until just before her 19th birthday in 1954 when she was cast on Broadway in The Boyfriend. An instant star after her role in Cinderella at The London Palladium at age 20, she was cast as Eliza Doolittle on Broadway in the Lerner and Loewe classic My Fair Lady in 1956. Disappointed she was denied the screen role of Eliza, which went to the non-singing Audrey Hepburn, she accepted the role as Disney's Mary Poppins in 1964, and earned an Oscar for Best Actress.
Andrews veered off a bit with dramatic roles in The Americanization of Emily also in 1964. Mixed reviews didn't slow her down and her third film, as Maria Von Trapp in the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical biopic The Sound of Music in 1965 would send her career soaring. The now famous story of the Von Trapp Family Singers who escaped from Austria in the early days of the Nazi takeover was set to music and although Andrews was nominated for Best Actress, this time she came away empty. Subsequent '60s roles included Alfred Hitchcock's thriller Torn Curtain (1966), Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967), Star! (1967) and Darling Lili (1968).
The 1970s yielded little work in film but Julie appeared on countless TV shows and in 1979, she returned to the silver screen with a bang in the film 10 with Dudley Moore, followed by Little Miss Marker (1980), S.O.B. (1981) with William Holden and Victor Victoria (1982) with James Garner, garnering a third Oscar nod for Best Actress. The next two decades continued with a number of made-for-TV films including a reuniting with James Garner in One Special Night (1999) and with Christopher Plummer in On Golden Pond (2001).
Julie Andrews hit a life-changing plateau in 1999 after a failed surgery to remove vocal nodules nearly took her lovely voice forever. Since that ugly media circus, the accomplished actress has stayed busy directing and making TV appearances and even providing the voice for the Queen in the popular animated films Shrek 2 and Shrek 3. Clearly blessed with the sound of music, Julie Andrews has persevered and this beloved icon does indeed sing once more!