Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Julie Andrews

The first great, unrequited love of my life involved a nun, specifically Julie Andrews as Sister Maria in The Sound of Music. I was nine years old, and the only nuns I had encountered up to that point all taught at my elementary school and wore black and white robes and strange, towering headdresses that gave them a shape that somewhat resembled a hulking linebacker. So Julie Andrews on the big movie screen at the new Northland Mall was quite a revelation.

But there was Julie, all sweetness and goodness and something achingly indefinable that already made my nine-year-old body tingle, throwing her arms wide and belting out “I go to the hills when my heart is lonely,” and I was quite prepared to succor her in her loneliness, plead my case as a worthy suitor, and help her make the big break from the convent.

She could play the guitar and sing, too, which made her all the more attractive. A couple years before The Sound of Music a cultural phenomenon known as The Singing Nun had invaded America in general and Catholic America specifically. The Singing Nun’s big hit, called “Dominique,” was de rigueur listening in every Catholic home, including mine. And so I spent night after night of my early childhood listening to a nun in full linebacker regalia sing in French and strum her acoustic guitar. It was nice, but Julie opened up a whole new world.

Julie, in fact, could sing the most mind-numbing drivel and melt the hearts of little children. “Doe, a deer, a female deer,” she sang, “Ray, a drop of golden sun,” and little Franz and Rolfe gawked like they were sitting at the feet of Jesus, listening to the master drop pearls of eternal wisdom. Far be it from me to complain. Never had the C major scale sounded so daringly playful and provocative. Julie had the entire wholesome Catholic package. She was sweet, she was lovely, she wore a modified veil that made her look demure but which didn’t obscure that cute little English bob haircut, and she was just rebellious enough to tweak the Mother Superior and make every Catholic boy think unholy thoughts.

So sixteen years went by and I married a woman who looked like Julie Andrews. Sort of. Okay, Kate is taller. And she had dark brown hair instead of light brown hair. And she couldn’t fake an English accent worth a damn, even though I coached her and encouraged to her say words like "Edelweiss" in that charming Julie Andrews way. But she had the Julie bob when I met her, and that wholesome, apple-cheeked Julie goodness about her, and she was so darn cute that I could hardly stand it, and was ready to break out into a duet with her at a moment's notice.

“Would you like to sing “The Lonely Goatherd?” I asked her early in our dating relationship. “Maybe yodel for a bit?”

She thought I was kidding. But I would have done it, and it would have been a gloriously transcendent moment.

Julie turned seventy a few months back. She’s mostly out of the entertainment industry now, preferring to spend her time writing children’s books and working for a variety of charitable causes. But she continues to cast her magic spell. Joshua Neds-Fox recounts the tale of how his two-year-old son is now enamored with The Sound of Music. Watch out, kid. It’s insidious. And delightful. And good. Who knows what might come of this?

9 comments:

thatpatti said...

my mother-in-law and i forced scott to watch the sound of music a few years ago when we were out visiting in arizona. i was so incensed that he didn't LOVE it!

but i guess it just doesn't have the same effect when you're introduced to it in your late 20's. he sure missed out.

and kate sure *is* adorable.

This Girl said...

I love Julie Andrews. My husband laughs at me because I have to watch the sound of music every year and he's balking at getting me the special edition DVD because of my infatuation. I wasn't in love with Julie in that respect, but I wanted to be like her and win the admiration of my own Captain (I did, but he wouldn't like the reference). My husband says I even have my own looking into the clouds moment when something is fantastic, a look he calls my "The hills are alive" look, the look I have when I start singing the song. I own two vinyl records of the movie songs. I want my children to watch it and love it (I dont' have any children). I've always wanted someone to sing "Something Good" with. I absolutely adore this movie and I'm so glad you wrote something about it.

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Cameron Lawrence said...

I can easily see why you'd like Julie Andrews so much. I mean, how could you resist her when she's practically perfect in every way? A spoonful of sugar indeed.

Fred Kohn said...

It wasn't until my freshman year at college that I learned that solfege singing (do-re-mi) was a serious and powerful tool for learning music. And much harder than it looks on The Sound of Music! More than a few of us were distressed by images of tiny kids learning in half a minute what took us half a quarter to learn.

After intense therapy even I, insecure musician that I am, can now watch The Sound of Music without feeling anxious or depressed.

Julie was/is really something. Andy, you were quite the precocious young man! I never set my sights higher than Marcia Brady.

Mark K said...

I think I had a Julie Andrews crush after Mary Poppins. I believe it was 1970.

Andy Whitman said...

Mark, I'm pretty sure "Mary Poppins" was earlier than "The Sound of Music." I saw it when it came out -- 1963 or 1964, maybe.

For some reason Julie didn't really impress me in "Mary Poppins." I liked the movie, but I fell in love with Julie in "The Sound of Music."

On a side note, if any of you feel the way I do about Julie, do not, under any circumstances, watch a Blake Edwards (Julie's husband) movie called "S.O.B." You will be disillusioned forever. I'm still recovering twenty-five years later. Topless Mary Poppins. The horror. The horror.

Fred Kohn said...

I am in awe of your memory, Andy. According to julieandrews.tv, Mary Poppins was 1964, Sound of Music 1965. I remember vividly my mother complaining about the Mary Poppins movie- saying that the Mary Poppins character of the movie was a pale comparison to the book.

While I was on the julie andrews site I noticed the movie "The Americanization of Emily." This was a movie that I have wanted to see because one slow night at the restaurant I found the song "Emily" by Johnny Mercer in my fake book, which made a pretty darn good cocktail piano tune. I wanted to put it in context, and found from the footnotes to the song that it was from an old Julie Andrews movie. Unfortunately it wasn't on DVD but I got the VHS tape with the intent to watch it at my parent's house. I never made it over, but my parents watched it and told me that it really wasn't very good. Maybe that's why it never made it to DVD.

Still, I'd like to see it sometime if for no other reason to see how the song works in the movie.

Bethany said...

I pretty much wanted to be Julie Andrews for the majority of my childhood after discovering the wonder that is "The Sound of Music."