Julia Elizabeth Wells was born on
October 1, 1935 in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, just eighteen miles south of London. Julie was named for her grandmothers, Julia Morris and Elizabeth Wells. Her father, Ted Wells, was a woodwork teacher and her mother, Barbara Morris Wells, was a piano instructor.
Julie’s first performance came at the age of two when she appeared as fairy in a dance pageant at the school run by her aunt, Joan Morris. By 1939, Barbara Wells began a new job as a variety show pianist. On the show she met a Tenor named Ted Andrews and they soon became a double act. However, as World War II closed in, Ted and Barbara grew apart and eventually divorced. Soon thereafter, Barbara married Ted Andrews.
In an attempt to get to know his new step-daughter a bit better, Ted began giving Julie singing lessons. The family was amazed to find Julie had perfect pitch and a fully developed four octave vocal range. Julie quickly became a part of Ted and Barbara’s act and she changed her last name to both honor her step-father and simply the billing of the ensemble’s name.
At age eight, Julie began taking singing lessons from world renowned concert singer, Madame Lilian Stiles-Allen. At age ten, Julie was making appearances on stage with her parents and spending the summer touring England with Ted and Barbara’s act. Julie made her radio debut in 1946 when she sang with her step-father on a BBC variety show. That same year, Julie performed solo at London’s Stage Door Canteen while the Queen and Princess Margaret were in attendance. In 1947, twelve year old Julie made her stage debut in “Starlight Roof” which opened at the London Hippodrome. The show ran an amazing 649 performances. During this time, Julie also became the youngest performer to ever appear before royalty at the London Palladium in a Royal Command Variety Performance. She performed The Polonaise from Mignon in front of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth and astonished the audience with her ability to hit an F note above high C!
In 1949, Julie made her television debut on a BBC program called “Radiolympia Showtime”. Throughout 1950, she regularly appeared on BBC radio on a show called “Educating Archie”. At this time, Julie began touring all of Great Britain performing and met up with Tony Walton, whom she would eventually marry.
Throughout the next few years, Julie performed in various revues and shows where she was noticed twice by Cy Feuer who thought she would be perfect for his new musical. The Boyfriend was running in London, but Cy and Ernest Martin had bought the rights to perform it on Broadway. As part of their attempts to keep English actors in the cast so as not to lose the feel for the show, Julie was offered the leading role of Polly Browne. Julie agreed to a one year contract with the show. On Broadway, the show became a smashing success and Julie became an instant star.
1955 brought Julie’s American television debut when she starred in one of the earliest “made-for-tv” movies. The movie, Hi Tor, Had Julie playing opposite Bing Crosby and aired just five days before the opening of Julie’s second wildly successful Broadway show – My Fair Lady in which she starred in the role of Eliza Doolittle. The show opened in 1956 and ran for two years in New York and another 18 months in London’s west end. CBS commissioned Rodgers and Hammerstein to write the musical Cinderella for Julie in 1957. The next big event for Julie came on May 10, 1959 when Julie married Tony Walton.
In 1969, Julie was offered the role of Queen Guinevere in what aws to become another Broadway sensation – Camelot. The show ran for two years and one fateful night, Walt Disney was in the audience. He thought she would be perfect to star in a new movie the studio had developed. Julie agreed to accept the role. The name of the movie was Mary Poppins.
A score of big events was soon to come Julie’s way. On November 27, 1962, Julie gave birth to her daughter, Emma Kate Walton. On April 5, 1964, Julie won an Academy Award for Best Actress for her role as Mary Poppins. In February 1965, Julie received her first Golden Globe Award for her role in Mary Poppins as well.
After Mary Poppins, Julie undertook her first purely dramatic role – The Americanization of Emily. Following this, Julie accepted the role that would make her famous worldwide – Maria in The Sound of Music. The film was a blockbuster at the box office and won five Oscars. In 1966, Julie received a second Golden Globe for her Best Actress Performance in The Sound of Music.
Other films followed in the 60’s including Thoroughly Modern Millie, Hawaii, Star, Torn Curtain, and Darling Lili. During this decade Julie and Tony divorced, though the two remained good friends. Julie received another award in both 1967 and 1968 – a Golden Globe for “World Film Favorite Actress”. To close out the decade, Julie married director/writer Blake Edwards and became step-mother to Blake’s two children – Jennifer and Geoffrey.
Julie and Blake worked on a number of projects together including The Tamarind Seed, 10, S.O.B., That’s Life, and Victor/Victoria. For this last role, Julie won a fourth Golden Globe Award and was nominated for an Academy Award. Julie was also awarded Golden Globe nominations for That’s Life and Duet for One. In the decades to follow, Julie stayed busy raising her growing brood including two orphan girls she and Blake adopted in 1974 – Amy and Joanna. She also was performing at concert halls, receiving accolades, making movies, and returning to Broadway to critical acclaim in a stage version of Victor/Victoria.
As the new millennium dawned, Julie was busier than ever. In 2000, Julie was made a Dame Commander of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace. The same year, she returned to the silver screen for the adaption of Noel Coward’s play Relative Values. She also began work on a new Walt Disney film to be called The Princess Diaries. In 2001, she and her Sound of Music co-star Christopher Plummer teamed up for a life broadcast of On Golden Pond. Later in the year, The Princess Diaries became a box office sensation.
Never one to rest on her laurels, Julie returned to the publishing world. Under the name of Julie Edwards, she published her first children’s book entitled Mandy in 1971. Over the years, she has penned several other books including The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles, Little Bo, and numerous books in the “Dumpy” series which features the adventures of a wonderful little dump truck, and which Julie co-writes with her daughter, Emma. Currently, Dame Julie is also working on her autobiography.
With the success of The Princess Diaries, more offers came flooding Julie’s way. She has starred as the nanny in the popular Eloise at the Plaza and Eloise at Christmastime movies. She returned to the role of Queen Clarisse in the celebrated Princess Diaries 2 sequel and also did the voice of Queen Lillian in Shrek 2.
At present, Julie is spending time directing the play in which she made her debut on Broadway – The Boyfriend. She also stays busy with her many charities including Operation USA, Unicef, and Save the Children.