Internationally beloved as an unforgettable enchanted Mary Poppins (among her many roles), British singer/actress Julie Andrews was awarded the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement here at the Venice Film Festival on Monday.
Andrews, 83, was honored with the festival’s top award for a career at a special ceremony hosted by Italian director Luca Guadagnino at the Cinema Palace in Lido di Venezia.
The ceremony was followed by a screening of another of her iconic movies, the musical comedy “Victor Victoria” (1982).
“I am still amazed … I have been a lucky girl, who had the opportunity to play beautiful roles,” the actress said, smiling.
Visibly touched as the audience crowding the Cinema Palace’s major hall greeted her with a 10-minute standing ovation, Andrews appealed to young filmmakers, advising them to “remain faithful to their own dreams and visions”.
“This way, gratifications will be unparalleled,” she stressed.
A VERSATILE TALENT
Explaining the decision to honor her with the career Golden Lion, Venice Festival director Alberto Barbera recalled how Andrews’ first Hollywood movie, “Mary Poppins” (1964), gave her “top-tier star status, which was later confirmed in another treasured film, ‘The Sound of Music'”.
“Those two roles projected her into the Olympus of international stardom, making her an iconic figure adored by several generations of moviegoers,” Barbera said.
Despite this success, Andrews did not remain confined in family-movie roles, but looked for challenges during her long career, proving to be very versatile, the director noted.
“She accepted roles that were diverse, dramatic, provocative and imbued with scathing irony,” Barbera stated. “For example ‘The Americanization of Emily’ by Arthur Hiller, and the many movies directed by her (late) husband Blake Edwards, with whom she formed a very profound and long-lasting artistic partnership.”
“This Golden Lion is a well-deserved recognition of an extraordinary career, which has admirably parsed popular success with artistic ambition, without ever bowing to facile compromises,” Barbera said.
FROM MUSICALS TO HOLLYWOOD
Julie Andrews was born in Surrey, England, and started her artistic career in musicals in London, debuting as a solo singer with “Starlight Roof” at the Hippodrome in 1947.
She later moved to Broadway and debuted there in 1954.
She had first set foot on stage much earlier: she was 10, in fact, when she began singing to accompany her pianist mother and singer stepfather in their performance.
After some years of experience in Broadway, in 1964, Walt Disney offered her the lead role in “Mary Poppins,” the story of the magical English nanny adapted from children’s books written by Australian-English author Pamela Lyndon Travers.
“Mary Poppins” became one of Disney’s greatest successes ever, and earned Andrews an Academy Award.
Also in 1964, the actress starred in the sentimental comedy-drama “The Americanization of Emily,” set during the Second World War, along with James Garner.
Two years later, she starred in Alfred Hitchcock’s political thriller “Torn Curtain” together with Paul Newman.
Despite other cinema and TV interpretations, some years would have to pass before Andrews returned to a successful role in the popular comedy “10” (1979) directed by Blake Edwards, whom she had meanwhile married.
From then on, she started being offered more diversified roles, and with the musical comedy “Victor Victoria” (again directed by Blake Edwards, and also starring James Garner) she received an Academy Award nomination.
In that movie, Andrews plays a female soprano who struggles to make ends meet, and decides to present herself as a male artist performing as a female impersonator.
In 1986 — with the movie “Duet for One” — she proved again her versatility by playing a world-famous violinist stricken by multiple sclerosis. For this role, she received a Golden Globe Best Actress nomination.
Her presence on the movie screen lasted long, and she also remained active as a singer and writer. Her most recent movies include the comedy “The Princess Diaries” (2001) and its sequel “The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement” (2004).
Between 1992 and 2006, Julie Andrews also served as a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM).