By Stephanie Sheridan, Intern, Catalog of American Portraits, National Portrait Gallery
“Oh it’s a jolly holiday with Mary / Mary makes your heart so light / When the day is gray and ordinary / Mary makes the sun shine bright. . . It’s a jolly holiday with Mary / No wonder that it’s Mary that we love!”
Fifty years ago, Julie Andrews made her film debut as the magical nanny Mary Poppins. The film was immensely successful, earning $44 million worldwide in 1964 alone. It was nominated for thirteen Academy Awards and won five, including Best Actress for Andrews. The success of Mary Poppins catapulted Andrews into the film industry; she went on to star in a variety of films, such as The Sound of Music, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Victor/Victoria, and The Princess Diaries.
Apart from her role as the iconic magical nanny, Andrews is also best known for her pitch-perfect, four- octave soprano. Andrews started performing around age ten in vaudeville, and by age twelve she was performing solos at the London Hippodrome. She made her Broadway debut in 1954, starring in The Boy Friend, My Fair Lady, and Camelot.
During her run in Camelot, Walt Disney approached Andrews to play the role of Mary Poppins: a few months pregnant at the time, Andrews tried to turn Disney down, but he insisted. After a visit to the Disney Studios in Burbank, California, Andrews remembers that “it was very easy to gasp a grateful thank-you to Walt and to accept his invitation to be in the film.”
Andrews graced the cover of Time magazine’s December 23, 1966, issue, in a painting created by artist John Koch. The original artwork, which Time donated to the National Portrait Gallery, is a part of the “Time Covers the 1960s” exhibition, opening on September 26, 2014.
Julie Andrews, born 1 Oct 1935 / John Koch, 1909 – 1978 / Oil on canvas, 1966 / National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Time magazine
Julie Andrews, Home: A Memoir of My Early Years (New York: Hyperion, 2008).
Dick Van Dyke and Julie Andrews, “Jolly Holiday,” Mary Poppins Original Soundtrack by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman, 1964.