Home Work: A Memoir of My Hollywood Years by Julie Andrews

Synopsis

Home Work is the second installment of Julie Andrews’s memoirs, beginning with her arrival in Hollywood to make her screen debut in Walt Disney’s Mary Poppins, followed closely by The Sound of Music. The result is an astonishing rise to fame as those now-classic films brought Andrews almost overnight success. It was the beginning of a career that would make her an icon to millions the world over.

With her trademark charm and candor, Andrews reveals behind-the-scenes details and reflections on her impressive body of work – from the incredible highs to the challenging lows. Not only does she share her professional experiences and collaborations with giants of cinema and television; she also unveils her personal story of adjusting to a new and often daunting world, dealing with unimaginable public scrutiny, being a new mother, moving on from her first marriage, embracing two stepchildren, adopting two more children, and falling in love with the brilliant and mercurial Blake Edwards. The pair worked together in numerous films, including 10, S.O.B., and Victor/Victoria, the gender-bending comedy that garnered multiple Oscar nominations.

In her first memoir, Home – a number one New York Times international bestseller – Andrews recounted her difficult childhood and her emergence as an acclaimed singer and performer on the stage. In Home Work, she takes us on a rare and intimate journey into the next chapter of her remarkable life that is funny, heart-rending, and inspiring.”

-Synopsis from front cover

Review

Home Work: A Memoir of My Hollywood Years picks up right where Julie Andrews’s first memoir, Home: A Memoir of My Early Years left off in which Andrews has arrived at Hollywood to begin work on Mary Poppins. What follows is a very detailed recounting of Julie Andrews’s life from that point onward, specifically from the years 1963-1986.

There are so many behind-the-scenes details about each movie she role she took on during those years, including Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music, everything from how she prepared for her roles, to what it was like to learn how to act for the camera. This was a major theme throughout the book. Despite the years she spent onstage as a child and young adult, that experience didn’t quite prepare her for working on films in Hollywood in the ways that she hoped. Filming movies was entirely different from both Broadway and vaudeville and required more from her as an actor.

She felt inadequate at first for being such a newbie among the other experienced actors she worked with. Eventually she took the time to learn about cameras and film as it was impressed upon her that she should know what was going on behind the camera in order to be more successful in front of it. An example of something she learned early on was to focus her eye contact and blink as little as possible so as not to confuse the audience; she had never considered this before, because with acting onstage, the audience doesn’t see the actors that closely.

“I feel that my professional life has consisted of four major stepping stones. The first encompassed my London debut in Starlight Roof at the age of twelve, and the subsequent years in vaudeville.

The second was the good fortune that took me to Broadway; and the third, my film work in Hollywood. The four encompasses my eventual return to Broadway, publishing and directing projects, more films, and other creative pursuits that are still underway.

Each has required me to learn a new craft, to place trust in the hands of people that I did not know, and to do my homework.”

from, Home Work: A Memoir of My Hollywood Years by Julie Andrews

As with her previous memoir, Andrews shares so much about her personal life including her family, her first husband Tony Walton, and her second husband Blake Edwards. The reader can immediately get a sense of much her family matters to her. This included her parents and her siblings in England whom she tried her best to keep in touch with and support, but which proved to be difficult as the years went on. Although she involved them in her life as much as possible, their relationships were strained for many years. She also shares about watching her daughter Emma grow up, and what it was like to combine her life with Blake Edwards, who also had two children who were older than Emma.

Later in her life, she and Edwards decided to adopt two infants from Vietnam. A few years afterward, Andrews traveled to Vietnam on a humanitarian visit. She felt it was important to see where her daughters were born so that if either of them wanted to visit one day, she could be knowledgeable about the country.

She shares many journal entries of that time, when she visited orphanages, hospitals and former prison camps.

“My trip to Southeast Asia changed me on a profound level. Whereas before, my creative work seemed the most significant pursuit, now a heightened awareness of the basic human right to the essential elements of life – clean water, adequate nourishment, safe shelter – had given me a new sense of purpose.”

from, Home Work: A Memoir of My Hollywood Years by Julie Andrews

At one point while reading this memoir, I thought it was amazing that Andrews could remember so much detail about not just what was going on in her life at certain times, but how she felt and the decisions she had to make. At various points she includes journal entries that paint a picture for the reader, but I still thought it was impressive that she was able to recall so many moments, not just the big ones but the day-to-day snapshots of her life, in such detail.

Despite all of the challenges thrown at her, she is adamant about the fact that her voice and ability to sing are a gift and that she has tried to honor that her entire life.

“The many paths my life has taken continue to astound me. I am often asked how I feel about the success I have enjoyed. Am I proud of my work? What informed my choices? Did I know I would be a success?

But what is a success?

Is it the pleasure in doing the work, or the way it’s received afterward? The latter is ephemeral. The doing is everything.”

from, Home Work: A Memoir of My Hollywood Years by Julie Andrews

I think any fan of Julie Andrews will sincerely appreciate this memoir and it sounds like there will be at least one more to come.

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