Home Work: A Memoir of My Hollywood Years follows on from where Julie Andrews’ first memoir, Home left off. The first focuses on the actress’s formative years, growing up just outside London and singing on stage as a child with her parents. We learn of the family’s financial struggles, surviving World War II and the privations of post-war Britain. Julie Andrews returns to her early years in Home Work, offering new readers a brief introduction and those who read Home a handy recap. She talks candidly of her real parentage and of her stepfather’s struggles with alcoholism. After that, though, we quickly move on to the heady Hollywood years.
Chapters include Andrews recounting details of her time on the set of The Sound of Music or her initial meeting with Walt Disney and the lengthy creation of Mary Poppins. The book is filled with incredible characters, with the names of Hollywood greats such as Bette Davis, Audrey Hepburn (a firm friend) and Gene Kelly liberally sprinkled throughout the memoir. We also learn Andrews is also interested in the technical aspects of filmmaking and she writes of her own steep learning curve as she moves from the stage to the film set. She is even schooled in the best camera lenses by an exceptional teacher – Alfred Hitchcock – and there are anecdotes from her time on set with the director and Paul Newman when making Torn Curtain.
Whenever she talks of anything remotely sad or tragic, such as the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the death of Cole Porter or fellow cast members, Andrews mentions her deep sadness. However, each death is dealt with in a neat sentence and then she moves on. There is little time in this autobiography for dwelling on sadness and one feels that this is probably how Andrews deals with such subjects in life. And let’s face it: if you are a reader looking for Hollywood dirt or self-pitying recollections, you’re hardly going to pick up a book by Julie Andrews.
More time – and a lot more insight – is given to the breakdown of her marriage to Tony Walton, her childhood sweetheart who followed her from Walton-on-Thames to Hollywood as a set and costume designer on Mary Poppins. Andrews is frank about her time in psychoanalysis and the stress of trying to keep her marriage intact while juggling a burgeoning career and keeping an eye on her dysfunctional parents back in Britain.
Needless to say, Andrews has managed to maintain a good relationship with her ex and her love for and respect of him both personally and professionally is clear. And of course, we are treated to the star’s famous meeting with Blake Edwards and their eventual marriage and own professional partnership. She is also extremely upfront about her brother’s struggles with drug addiction and Edwards’ ex-wife’s depression. Andrews is at once both self-deprecating in that particularly British way as well as acknowledging her immense luck at being gifted with such an extraordinary voice. And talking of that voice, this memoir is available as an audiobook read by the author herself. If you want a full immersion into the incredible life and work of this true Hollywood legend, what better way to dive in than by having that familiar voice wash all over you.
- INTERVIEW | Julie Andrews: «Practically perfect? I can’t cook and I swear»