Added to my Afterthoughts on 17 June 2019 but originally written on 01 February 2010
How delightful it was to see Dame Julie Andrews looking as ravishing as ever on the Andrew Marr Show (with Sophie Raworth sitting in for the absent Andrew) this Sunday morning, 01 February 2010, on BBC TV. The very first time I had become aware of Julie Andrew’s existence was sometime in 1945 or 1946. Her parents, Ted and Barbara Andrews, were a popular singing duo who performed regularly throughout the early 1940s on BBC variety programmes on the wireless. Ted and Barbara performed the same three-song routine every time. First, Ted would introduce a solo by Barbara, then they would swap roles, and finally they would sing a duet, usually a love song that started quietly and built to an impressive forte conclusion. Their repertoire, as I recall it, consisted mainly of songs from well-known light operettas.
My own interest in music was just developing in the mid-1940s and I thought Ted and Barbara Andrews were wonderful. One day that I remember well, they varied their routine when Ted announced that their daughter Julie, who was exactly two weeks younger than me, was going to make her very first wireless broadcast and sing along with them. (This was about the time I was tricked into giving an voice audition myself for entry to the Wakefield Cathedral School). Even then, Julie had a wonderful voice. However, within a couple of years my musical tastes had changed and I found that I got far more pleasure from the classics than from light operettas and I don’t think I thought of Julie again for about 20 years.
Then, in mid-July 1967 while I was at home from the RAF for the weekend for my parent’s wedding anniversary, I took Mum and Dad to the Majestic Cinema in Leeds City Square to see Julie Andrews in the recently-released film ‘The Sound of Music’. I had pre-booked three of the best seats in the Grand Circle – you had to book in advance in those days! My Dad, who didn’t like ‘musicals’, had barely settled himself into his plush seat than he asked no-one in particular in an embarrassingly loud voice, “What time does it finish?” Mum gave him a dig in the ribs and emitted a loud “Ssshh”.
After watching Dame Julie on the Andrew Marr Show yesterday, I looked her up on the Internet to check on her birth date and to try and find the date of her very first wireless broadcast. I quickly discovered that unlike mine, her own childhood had been far from happy. I was able to read some of the private details that few people in the 1940s would have known about – or wanted to know about
Above: That's me with my sister Kathleen in 1946 when films for private use were just starting to become available after the end of WW2.
I was never keen on going to the cinema - as a young lad I was not very tall and always seemed to be seated behind a large adult so that I had to squirm continuously trying to see the screen. I did not like the special 'children's' Saturday morning films after the end of WW2 because many unruly boys used the darkened auditorium as an invitation to run riot. As I grew older I rarely went to a cinema - there always seemed to be something better to do. When I took my parents to the Leeds Majestic to see ‘The Sound of Music’ in 1967, it was almost the last time I went to a cinema in UK (the very last time was 1968 to see ‘2001 A Space Odyssey′ in London).