Jan 30, 2007

The Hills Are Alive...With The Sound of A Lifetime Achievement Award

Singer, actress, and author Julie Andrews, 71, was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Screen Actors Guild of America this past weekend in Los Angeles. The honor commemorates Andrews' significant body of work, from her very first onscreen role in 1964's Mary Poppins (she won an Oscar) through to her more recent film credits, as she reprises her role in the hugely popular Shrek animated series with a third installment of the film due this summer.

In her more than forty years in Hollywood, Andrews - she will always be the impossibly pretty postulant Fraulein Maria to me - has starred in a number of successful musicals and even tried her hand at drama, starring in darker fare like 1970's Darling Lili opposite Rock Hudson, and 1974's The Tamarind Seed, both written and directed by her husband, Blake Edwards. Married since 1969, the two have proven a formidable collaborative duo, with the brilliant Edwards carefully crafting his films to showcase Andrews' beauty, innate acting abilities, and incredible vocal range; perhaps this is never more evidenced than in Victor/Victoria, the blockbuster 1982 farce that was successfully adapted to the Broadway stage in the early 1990's.

To celebrate Dame Julie's big win, I've compiled some of her best, and best-loved, roles for you to indulge in:

The Sound of Music (1965) - Andrews plays the female lead in Rodgers and Hammerstein's heartwarming musical tale of love and loyalty in the face of impending war, and for many, it represents not only the pinnacle of her career, but the paramount of movie musicals. Romance, drama, and history all meld into one enchanting story; the soundtrack alone is worth the watch, but Andrews has never been more beautiful, nor the breathtaking Austrian scenery so vibrantly captured on film. If you haven't seen this movie, please vacate your computer seat immediately and view accordingly...you're not allowed to return til you love it, either.

Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967) - Part musical, part spoof, but mostly a delightful romp through 1920's New York as thoroughly-modern Millie Dillmount (Andrews, in her final ingenue role) sets out in search of a husband and career in the big city. Let's just say this is probably the only film ever made that features explosive Chinese opium dens, Carol Channing getting shot out of a cannon, and sweet Mary Tyler Moore involvement in an underground prostitution ring...all played for comedic effect, of course. Beautiful flapper fashions are showcased throughout, with Andrews' saucy sartorial statements proving to be as huge of a visual appeal (anything to take your eyes off of Carol Channing, right?) as her histrionic facial expressions, played to the camera like a true 1920's film.

Victor/Victoria (1982) - Regarded by many as a valentine to his wife, V/V is a true Blake Edwards masterpiece: it's simply an excellent piece of entertainment, with dazzling color, beautiful songs, snappy, terse dialogue, and a seamless combination of romance, drama, comedy and music that only Edwards could create. Andrews is dazzling among the lush Parisian scenery, and presents - or should I say amazes - with her flawless musical numbers and incredibly impressive vocal range. If you're only familiar with Andrews as a wholesome, motherly family-film character, then to see her take on the role of a soprano disguised as a crossdressing male in 1930's Paris (yes, you read that right) will leave you marvelling at the dexterity and versatility of her talent. Supporting players Robert Preston, James Garner and Lesley-Ann Warren are hilarious, and keep the pace of the film fast enough to intrigue and delight, yet moderate enough to let us marvel in the aesthetic impressiveness and comedic and dramatic aspects of the film. Don't miss Henry Mancini's stunningly beautiful score featuring the film's theme, "Crazy World", and the up-tempo "Le Jazz Hot", both performed by Andrews in her typical, unforgettable fashion.

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