8 Supercalifragilistic Facts About Julie Andrews on her 80th Birthday

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A spoonful of trivia helps the birthday cake go down…

From her beginnings as a child actress performing onstage with her parents in England to her classic turns as Mary Poppins and Maria Von Trapp, Julie Andrews has proven an unsinkable talent – an actress with the innate ability to endure the ebb and flow of a seven-decade career and emerge as one of the greatest stars to ever grace the stage and screen.

Blessed with a four octave singing voice, Andrews turned down suggestions to go into opera in favour of acting. And we, along with her millions of fans, are very happy that she did. In honour of the star’s 80th birthday, we take a look at eight Supercalifragilistic facts you might not know about Julie Andrews.

A rocky childhood

Despite playing nanny to a slew of different on-screen children in some of her most famous roles, Andrews’ own childhood was anything but easy. She grew up relatively poor and, at age five, endured the Nazi’s bombing of London – the Blitz – before escaping to the county of Surrey with her father and brother. Her parents divorced and she found out at age 15 that a family friend, who her mother ended up marrying after the divorce, was actually her biological father and that she was conceived during an affair.

September 1950: Peter Brough’s ventriloquist’s dummy, schoolboy Archie Andrews, whispering into the ear of singer and film star Julie Andrews. (Photo by George Konig/Keystone Features/Getty Images)

Not your typical child star

While many actors and actresses land their first gigs as children, very few find themselves performing before royalty. Andrews performed with her parents in small stage shows in England as a child, but her unique singing voice landed her a spot at the annual Royal Command Variety Performance. At age 13 she performed before King George VI, becoming the youngest solo act in the event’s history.

When one door closes …

After a celebrated turn as Eliza Doolittle, opposite Rex Harrington as Henry Higgins, in a Broadway production of My Fair Lady, Andrews was considered for the lead in the film adaptation of the play. Warner Bros. head Jack L. Warner, however, opted for Audrey Hepburn, given she was a bigger star. Andrews, instead, signed on as the lead in Mary Poppins, for which she eventually won the Oscar for Best Actress in 1964.

My Fair Lady won a number of Oscars that same year, including Best Picture, and was nominated in every major category except for one: Best Actress.

Julie Andrews in the Broadway production of “My Fair Lady,” 1955

All is “fair”, however, in love and theatre

Andrews announced earlier this year that she’s directing a 60th anniversary production of My Fair Lady at the Sydney Opera House in 2016.

That time Maria Von Trapp “bit the dust” on the mountainside

It wasn’t just the hills that were alive when Andrews shot the famed opening sequence to The Sound of Music. There was also a helicopter filming her from above as she spun a top the mountainside which really threw a wrench into her song-filled celebration of life.

She recalled the experience: “This was a jet helicopter. And the down draft from those jets was so strong that every time … the helicopter circled around me and the down draft just flattened me into the grass. And I mean flattened. It was fine for a couple of takes, but after that you begin to get just a little bit angry… And I really tried. I mean, I braced myself, I thought, ‘It’s not going to get me this time.’ And every single time, I bit the dust.”

Of course, this wasn’t Andrews’ only onset tumble. While shooting Mary Poppins  Andrews went “plummeting onto the soundstage when her wires gave one day while shooting flying scenes.”

“I have to admit,” she told USA Today, “there were several Anglo-Saxon words I let fly.”

A rose by any other name …

Andrews’ list of accolades is a long one that includes an Oscar, multiple Emmys, Grammys and Golden Globes, getting ranked the 59th greatest Briton by the BBC and named a Disney legend and being made a dame by Queen Elizabeth II. But perhaps her most unique honour came in 1992 when London’s Chelsea Flower Show named a rose after her. Dubbed the “Julie Andrews Rose,” the honour also benefitted others when portions of the rose’s sale were donated to charity.

Andrews singing on “The Julie Andrews Show,” 1965

The day the music almost died

A bungled 1997 throat operation robbed Andrews of her signature singing voice and, while she has sung on stage and screen since, her trademark vocal range was completely erased. It’s been reported that Andrews received approximately USD$30 million in a settlement following the operation, though she hasn’t publicly disclosed the amount.

Julie Andrews and daughter Emma Walton Hamilton attend their book signing in 2009.

She’s still caring for the children

Though careful not to wind up typecast as a nanny following the success of Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music, Julie Andrews clearly loves children just as much as she did in her most famous roles. She and her husband aided in the rescue of wounded children during the Vietnam War – she even adopted two of them – and Andrews has authored a number of children’s books, including some with her daughter Emma. She writes under the name Julie Andrews Edwards, taking her second husband’s surname.

Andrews also has nine grandchildren and three great-grandchildren – all of whom we’re sure are thrilled to wish her a happy 80th birthday today!