Currently, she is the Official Ambassador of the Happiest Homecoming on Earth for Disneyland's 50th Anniversary Celebration.
Andrews was born Julia Elizabeth Wells in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, England, the daughter of Edward Wells, an actor, and Barbara Ward, a pianist. She had a rare, five-octave coloratura soprano talent (ranging from C3 to E7), and her parents enrolled her in voice lessons to develop her abilities. Her earliest public performances were during World War II, entertaining troops throughout the United Kingdom with fellow child star Petula Clark. Andrews made her stage debut at an early age, appearing in London's West End in 1947. She graduated through radio (on the show Educating Archie), appeared in the London West End (Cinderella), and made her American debut starring in the Broadway production of The Boy Friend in 1954. (Late in her career, she returned to The Boy Friend, directing productions at the Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor, New York, in 2003, and at Goodspeed Opera House in Connecticut in 2005.)
In 1956, composers Frederick Loewe and Alan Jay Lerner cast Andrews as Eliza Doolittle opposite Rex Harrison's Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady (a musical adaptation of George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion). The show became the smash hit of the year, and Andrews became an overnight sensation. During her run in Lady, she also starred in two television musicals: High Tor with Bing Crosby and Rogers and Hammerstein's Cinderella.
In 1961, Lerner & Loewe again cast her in a period musical, as Guenevere in Camelot, opposite Richard Burton and newcomer Robert Goulet. After a slow start, cast appearances on Ed Sullivan's television show ensured that the show would ultimately become a hit.
When she lost the starring role in the film of My Fair Lady to Audrey Hepburn, she received the "consolation" of starring in Walt Disney's Mary Poppins, winning the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress as a result. (Rave Broadway reviews aside, Jack Warner declined to hire Andrews for My Fair Lady because "Audrey Hepburn had never made a financial flop.") After beating Hepburn for the Golden Globe, Andrews got a measure of (as Poppins songwriter Richard M. Sherman put it) "sweet revenge": In closing her acceptance speech, Andrews—nervous and hoping the joke would play well—smiled and said, "and, finally, my thanks to a man who made a wonderful movie, and who made all this possible in the first place, Mr. Jack Warner." Her performance also won Andrews the Academy Award for Best Actress for 1965. At the Grammy Awards, she and her co-stars won the Grammy Award for Best Album for Children for Mary Poppins. She was nominated for an Academy Award again, the following year, for her role as Maria von Trapp in The Sound of Music, briefly becoming one of the most sought-after stars in Hollywood. As a result, she appeared in the three-hour epic Hawaii, co-starring with Max von Sydow, and Alfred Hitchcock's Torn Curtain with Paul Newman (both in 1966), and Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967), with Mary Tyler Moore and Carol Channing.
Star!, a 1968 biography of Gertrude Lawrence, and Darling Lili, with Rock Hudson (1970), are often cited by critics as major contributors to the decline of the movie musical. Both were damaging to Andrews' subsequent career and, despite several starring roles in musical and non-musical films—including some directed by her second husband, Blake Edwards, such as The Tamarind Seed, 10, Victor/Victoria, and S.O.B., in which she appeared topless—she was seen very rarely on screen during the 1980s and 1990s.
She starred in her own variety series (for one season, on the ABC network in 1972 - 1973, winning 7 Emmy Awards), but the greatest critical acclaim accorded her TV work was for her variety show specials with her close friend, Carol Burnett.
In 1983, she was chosen as the Hasty Pudding Woman of the Year by the Harvard University theatrical society.
Director Garry Marshall cast her in The Princess Diaries, opposite Anne Hathaway, and its sequel; playing the role of the Queen of an imaginary country, both of which proved to be major box office hits. She has also starred in two made-for-television movies based on the character of Eloise (playing her Nanny), the child who lives at the Plaza Hotel in New York City. In 2004, she lent her voice in the role as Queen Lillian to the highly successful animated hit Shrek 2, the sequel to the 2001 smash.
In the 2000 New Year's Honours, she was made a Dame Commander of the British Empire (DBE).
Andrews has been struggling to recover her five-octave singing voice following surgery to remove vocal fold nodules from her throat, but had a short tour of the USA at the end of 2002 with Christopher Plummer, Charlotte Church, Max Howard, and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. The year before her tour, she and Plummer reunited for the first time since The Sound of Music in a live television adaptation of On Golden Pond, which aired on CBS in the United States. In 2005 she agreed to direct a Toronto revival of The Boy Friend, the Broadway musical in which she made her debut in America.
Dame Julie's career is said to have suffered from typecasting, as her two most famous roles (in Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music) cemented her image as a "sugary sweet" personality best known for working with children. Her roles in Blake Edwards' films could be seen as an attempt to break away from this image: In 10, her character is a no-nonsense career woman; in Victor/Victoria, she plays a woman pretending to be a man (who is working as a female impersonator); and, perhaps most notoriously, in S.O.B., she plays a character very similar to herself, who agrees (with some pharmaceutical persuasion) to "show my boobies" in a scene in the film-within-a-film. For this last performance, late night television host Johnny Carson thanked Andrews for "showing us that the hills were still alive", alluding to her most famous line from the title song of The Sound of Music.
Andrews received Kennedy Center Honors in 2001. She also appears in the 2002 List of "100 Greatest Britons" sponsored by the BBC and chosen by the public. For her contribution to the motion picture industry, Julie Andrews has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6901 Hollywood Blvd.
In a recent (2006) interview, she said: "To be honest with you, I've never been busier in my life," Andrews said. "I'm not quite sure what I was supposed to learn from all of that. It did bother me. I can't say that I wasn't devastated. Singing, with an orchestra, being able to sing, was what I'd known my entire life. Whatever happened, I think I found so much to keep me feeling that I'm contributing still."
* Dame Julie repeatedly hit an F sharp above soprano high C during her earlier live stage appearances. She is noted for her extreme vocal agility, high range, perfected vocal technique and impeccable diction.
* Andrews lost her singing voice following routine surgery to remove a non-cancerous polyp from her vocal cords.
* Julie Andrews and Carol Burnett are close friends. They each have a child with the middle name Kate, and Carol Burnett is Emma's (Julie Andrews' biological daughter with Tony Walton) godmother.
* Andrews has written several children's books under the name Julie Andrews Edwards. Among the best known are Mandy and The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles . She also has collaborated with her daughter (Emma Walton, her only child from her 1959-1967 marriage to Tony Walton) on the Dumpy children series, illustrated by Walton.
* Andrews and Edwards have adopted two daughters from Vietnam, Amy Leigh and Joanna Lynne. Andrews has seven grandchildren.
* She was raised with virtually no religious affiliation.
* Andrews became a "zealous convert" to Freudian psychoanalysis as an adult. She spent many years in five-days-a-week psychoanalysis and, after initial secrecy about her participation, became a vocal proponent of the practice.
* She has 5 children. (Emma Kate, Jenny, Geoffrey, Joanna, and Amy.)
* She has had a rose named after her.
* In 1991, Andrews was named a Disney Legend.
* In the fall of 2005, The Boy Friend, directed by Andrews at The Goodspeed Opera House (in Connecticut) with sets and costumes designed by Tony Walton, became a touring production.
* Andrews also served in 2005 as the honorary ambassador for the 50th anniversary celebration of Disneyland. She hosted the ceremony in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle at the park on May 5, 2005 to kick off the celebration.
* Chicago Mayor Richard Daley proclaimed November 15, 2005, Julie Andrews Day in that city, calling her an entertainment legend.
* Her name is a slang term for how a beverage (usually tea or coffee) should be prepared i.e Milk and no sugar as in Milk and none. Pun on the fact that Julie Andrews played a nun in the film The Sound of Music. See also Whoopi Goldberg.
* She is one of the many famous women namedropped by Elton John in his 1980 Top 20 hit "Wrap Her Up" from his album "Ice On Fire."