Julie Andrews: Everyone’s Favorite Nanny

Every summer and holiday growing up, my parents would haul us to our grandparents’ house in rural Tennessee where we would watch either The Sound of Music or Mary Poppins in my grandparents’ tiny bedroom, in order to avoid the fantastic staring contests being held by all the adult members of our family. If it was a overnight visit, we’d watch them both. Twice. We had all the time to kill in the world while tales of the local Church of Christ potluck were being bandied about in the Southern kitchen across the house.

Despite my average level of comprehension and awareness, though, I was completely unaware that the characters of Maria Von Trapp and Mary Poppins were played by the same actress. I could have read the credits. I could have looked at Julie Andrews’ face, which to my knowledge wasn’t altered through plastic surgery during the time between the films. But I didn’t. Her different haircuts in the movies just threw me off completely. Remember that cute Jennifer Aniston with her nice Rachel haircut? Whatever happened to her?

As far as I can tell, Julie Andrews was the only person who was qualified to sing in a movie in the 1960s. I’m sure other people auditioned for the roles of Frauline Maria and Mary Poppins, but Jules was Illuminati like whoa back then and she beat them out before they even had a chance. She was the nanny of choice for several generations. Need a buttoned-up taskmaster who can also pull lamps out of her bag? Mary Poppins is your gal. How about a flighty failed nun who will warm your heart as well as the hearts of your 32+ kids? Have I got a governess for you!

One of these people doesn't make me want to stick forks in my eyes. Can you guess which one?

One of these people doesn’t make me want to stick forks in my eyes. Can you guess which one?

In honor of Dame Julie Andrews*, who basically babysat me while I was at my grandparents’ house, today I thought I’d break down her two nanny films.

*I’m not sure if she is a “dame”, but if Judi Dench gets that title, then certainly Ms. Andrews deserves it too. I mean, she dealt with Anne Hathaway before she went to Oscar Reform School. Kudos to her for that. 

Mary Poppins (1964) was basically an appetizer to The Sound of Music. Mary Poppins is a flying nanny who comes to watch the two Banks children. They are portrayed to be difficult children, but really the only “naughty” thing they do is avoid cleaning up their room. Incidentally, they appear to share their room despite the fact that they are different genders, to which I can only respond “ewww.” If their parents can afford tons of in-house help, you’d think they’d be able to afford a place that can house their entire family comfortably. Hopefully they upgraded before the kids hit their teen years.

Mary Poppins flies in one day and strong arms her way into the home. The kids love her even though she is not exactly warm and fuzzy. She has them cleaning their room within 20 minutes of her employment. Jane and Michael’s mom doesn’t really take much of a stance on Mary Poppins because she is too busy campaigning for women’s suffrage, which for those of you who aren’t up on history was the bra-burning of the turn of the century. However, their father doesn’t like her at all, which is odd to me because he is really a serious, grouchy person and so is Mary. I guess he was jealous that she had a best friend in Dick Van Dyke while he had to hang out with 120-year-old bankers all day. Mary is forced to leave her job after she invites a bunch of dancing chimney sweeps into the Banks residence. Mr. Banks is understandably livid that his house is covered in soot and the residue of Industrial Age child labor, but Mary Poppins has already done her damage of softening his heart towards his kids. By the end of the movie, he is flying kites with Jane and Michael. Dang hippy.

Mary Poppins made good and sure that bird understood that if it didn't play nice, she'd banish it to that weird bird lady in front of the Cathedral.

Mary Poppins made good and sure that bird understood that if it didn’t play nice, she’d banish it to that weird lady selling birdseed in front of the Cathedral.

Although it came out only a year later, The Sound of Music was where Julie Andrews really came into her nanny self. I’ve heard before that the historical Maria Von Trapp was really not a pleasant person to be around, but you’d never know it from Ms. Andrew’s silver screen portrayal of her. She is adorably naïve and sweet – essentially the most likable character in any movie ever. The setting is Austria at the beginning of World War II, and Captain Von Trapp needs a governess to watch his seven children. Unlike the Banks kids, these kids really are bad, evidenced by the flagrant hijinks they play on Maria – a woman of the cloth, for cripes sake – on her first day in their castle home. It turns out, though, that they are really just sad and lonely because their mom has died* and their father’s only means of communicating with them is via whistle signals. Frauline Maria teaches them to sing like professionals in the space of an afternoon and makes playclothes for all seven of them out of the curtains that are hanging in her room. Like Mr. Banks, Captain Von Trapp is angered by her rampant tomfoolery and honeywaggery, but instead of staying angry he falls in love with her. WHAT.

*I am going on the record saying that I don’t buy this. She had seven kids and a husband without a sense of humor. I’d run too.  

It turns out that Maria loved him all along too, and once that tart Baroness Schraeder is out of the way, the Captain makes his move and they are married by the next scene. And by the way, it is really hard to find a long-sleeved wedding dress like Maria’s. I know. I looked into it for myself. From then on, the movie gets really serious and there are a bunch of swastikas and Hitler Youths running around ruining everyone’s day. The one bright spot is that the kids now call Frauline Maria “Mother”. Awwwww. Even though the family has to escape their beloved Austria on foot because the Captain refuses to serve the Nazis, all is well because Maria has taught them to sing properly.

Uncle Max is really the icing on the cake of the whole movie.

Uncle Max is really the icing on the cake of the whole movie.

To be completely honest, I’m not sure Julie Andrews was in any movie during the time between The Sound of Music and The Princess Diaries. But it doesn’t matter if she wasn’t. She was practically perfect in every way in both of her nanny roles so she earned her 30 years off. If not for the singing, then at least for spending all that time watching other peoples’ kids.

44 thoughts on “Julie Andrews: Everyone’s Favorite Nanny

  1. Haha! this was excellent, Emily!! Of course Julie Andrews did the most alarming thing during those thirty years- she did that movie Victor Victoria wear she plays a man pretending to be a woman pretending to be a man. Something like that. YIKES! nice way to kill off Maria and Mary! I think she wanted to show people that she was more than a nanny.

    To kill more of her goody two shoes characters off, Julie Andrews recently wrote her memoirs and revealed that she was sexually abused as a child. Who knew? Very sad.

    I’ve lived in the Chicago suburbs for 15 years. The only time I went to the Oprah show was recently, for the reunion of The Sound of Music. That’s right, the whole cast was right before my eyes. It was my friend’s idea, not mine. I’m sure I would have enjoyed another topic more but in the long run, it was sort of historical because I think that will be the last reunion.

    anyway… I loved your post — you never fail to make me laugh with your observations. You’re a great addition to Kidz Showz.

    • I never knew she was in Victor Victoria! I have never seen it so I am bumping it up about 30 spots on my movies-to-see list. As to your Oprah viewage, I have two comments. One, JEALOUS. When I lived in Chitown, I had two separate people who promised me tix but they never delivered. Grrrrr. Two, if I could go and see the entire cast of TSOM in front of me, I would probable die from happiness. Scratch that, I would definitely die from happiness. Poor C would have to grow up telling her friends about the sad demise of her mother. “She was in the same room as Liesel, Brigitta, Curt, Gretel, Marta, and Julie Andrews and – BOOM! – she passed out, never to return. What a strange way for my poor ol’ mom to go.”

  2. Dame Julie Andrews – yup, she’s “Dame” – is pretty much my favorite actress. And you profiled my two favorite movies of all time. I think I’ll be watching them both. Soon. When I have 5 hours to kill.

    • They are so great, right?! I am physically incapable of watching The Sound of Music without bursting into tears at least four times. They are the good tears, though ;D

  3. I only hope that she approaches the end of her career taking ridiculous roles for an ungodly amount of money (Think Judy Dench in Chronicles of Riddick).

  4. So funny! I love me some Dame Julie.

    We watched The Sound of Music every Christmas. My parents probably ran out and did the last minute Christmas shopping while we sat slack jawed in front of the boob tube. But hey, it makes for great memories!

    Hubby and I went to TSOM Pavilion while we ere in Austria. I had to sing and dance of course. Just wish I would have had a brocade, drapery outfit for the occasion.

    • My cousin went to the little pavilion where Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer sang “I Must’ve Done Something Good” when she was in Austria and I am totally jealous of both of you for going to those places! One of these days when I’m rich, I am going to take a Sound of Music tour ;D

  5. I have a small confession regarding Mary Poppins: I turn it off once they’re not in the cartoon world anymore. I mean, I’ve watched it all the way through before, so it’s not like I’ve never seen the rest of it. But, for the most part, I have the attention span of a toddler.

    • Hahaha! I think I have only watched it all the way through maybe three times. The video my grandparents had was a VHS that they taped from TV, and the video ran out of tape right after the scene where they cause a melee at the bank. My memories are slightly marred because of that.

  6. Nice job! 🙂 I don’t know that I realized those two nannies were the same person either…ah the oblivion of youth! Did you know that Julie Andrews also played Nanny in the recent Eloise movie and the sequel Eloise at Christmas time? I would highly recommend that you and Miss Cee watch them at some point. Absolutely amusing 🙂

  7. Well, now I am reliving my childhood and will spend the day running down the halls singing, “I HAVE CONFIDENCE IN SUNSHINEEE, I HAVE CONFIDENCE IN RAAIIN.”

  8. I am sad to say I have not seen either of these movies. Don’t worry, my friends and family are horrified too.
    Is “Sound of Music” actually based on real people??? I didn’t know that.

    I shall have to check these out at some point. Apparently along with “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” or something like that.

  9. I never realized that was Julie Andrews in the Sound of Music. Maybe I did. I don’t know who I thought it was.

    Why do you think there were so many Nazi things back in the 60s? Was it propaganda to remind people in the US about the Germans so they’d support the war on Communism more?

  10. Can I just point out that you made this blog thrive with your one post? Kay cool.

    You bring up so many good points and observations. I asked myself while reading this if I would rather be a Banks child or a Von Trapp. I think I have to go with Banks solely because they never have to listen to their dad sing Edelweiss. But they DO have to listen to the pigeon lady which is equally as painful. I think the Banks kids have better adventures–going into chalk paintings, dancing with chimney sweeps, riding on carousel horses, etc. The Von Trapp kids only really get to run through downtown Vienna or Salzburg or whatevs. Boring.

    Awesome post though! Practically perfect in every way.

    • Aww, thanks! Although I am giving the sole credit to Julie Andrews. If you can’t like a blog post about her, then you are basically kicking puppies. This is fact.

      I think I would rather be a Von Trapp child because then you would always be able to blame your shenanigans on one of many siblings. Also, the Banks kids had to live next door to that weirdo who was always shooting cannons and guns. That would get annoying after awhile.

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  12. Great post! I must admit, though, that I have never watched The Sound of Music and I never will. I am quite partial to Mary Poppins as I think I watched it every day for about 3 years because my daughter(as a toddler) was infatuated with Mary P. Yep– she wanted to be her– she would walk around with white gloves and an umbrella. Thanks for the smile and the flashback.
    PS– Dick Van Dyke had the WORST accent ever in the movie!

    • His accent is SO BAD, right?! I heard an interview with him and he said that to this day he gets a lot of complaints about how bad his Cockney accent is in Mary Poppins.

  13. Ah, The Sound of Music. Such a classic. I don’t watch a lot of musicals (which is weird, because I love music), but I love The Sound of Music. And Bye Bye Birdie. Those are my two favorites. Oh, and Grease. 🙂

    I don’t know if you watch the TV show ‘Go On,’ but last week’s episode showed one of the crazy guys in the therapy group acting like Nanny McPhee, and I suppose, Mary Poppins as well. So funny.

  14. I lurve Julie Andrews with all my heart, and like you, I grew up with her. She taught me to sing, and she didn’t even know it.
    But you’re wrong about Mrs. Von Trapp running. WRONG! The Captain only lost his sense of humor BECAUSE she left, it wasn’t the other way around. He’s a good man with morals, even if he did steal a nun away from Jesus.

  15. Nice post, Emily. I saw “Mary Poppins” when it was first released and frankly, she was my first lesbian love, even though it was a one-sided affair. I was five. I was so insane over that film I couldn’t get it or her out of my head. When Christmas rolled around I was driving my mother crazy because I would not reveal what I wanted. My mother kept insisting I tell her, but I was afraid. She insisted that whatever it was she wouldn’t be angry at me, and I might even get it. I blurted, “I want an English nanny!” My mother swallowed hard. She said in a very restrained tone, “Think of a second choice.”

    I was denied seeing “The Sound of Music”. And I still have not seen it til this day.

    I remember the film Julie Andrews starred in in 1981, a comedy written and directed by her husband, Blake Edwards. It was called “S.O.B.” Even if you’ve never heard of it, it caused a major stir in the viewing masses and did very well at the box office. Why? Well, she bared her breasts. It was her way of giving the finger to her wholesome image. That made me fall in love with her all over again. She’s a very cool woman.

    • She is such a cool person, indeed. I have always said that you can see a person’s true mettle by the way they treat employees and people who serve them. I once worked at a restaurant with a guy who was acquainted with a chef who for many years was Julie Andrew’s personal cook, and she said that she was one of the kindest, most gracious clients (not to mention celebrities) she ever met. That speaks volumes of her character.

      • Emily, about 18 months ago, Milton and I had an actual Lame Adventure in real life with Julie Andrews. Here’s the link:


        I will not take offense if you delete this comment, but she was indeed very cool and, for someone 76, she still looked good!

  16. Em, this was so hilarious. I don’t know if I ever saw Mary poppins. Dick Van Dyke just annoyed me in it and I could never get through the Sound of Music but I have been to the Von Trapp lodge and spun around on those mountaintops there. I’ve always liked Julie Andrews. Loved her in Victor Victoria. Now I don’t have to watch these musicals — prefer seeing that kind of thing live — because your wonderful summation tells me everything I need to know!

  17. Julie Andrews had a very long and prosperous film career in the 1960s. Her movies of that era include “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” “Hawaii,” “Torn Curtain” (directed by Alfred Hitchcock) and “Star,” which cast her again under the direction of SOM director Robert Wise. “Star” flopped miserably, mostly because musical tastes had changed in the later years of the decade (film musicals were out, thank you “Doctor Doolittle,” and gritty reality was in, hello “Easy Rider”). Julie then took her talents to television in the early 1970s with a variety show, “The Julie Andrews Hour.” Her films of the 1970s and 1980s were small pictures — usually under the direction of her husband Blake Edwards — but she did have a hit with “10.” It took until 1982 for her to climb back atop the Hollywood success ladder with “Victor/Victoria,” a movie that earned her her second Academy Award nomination (she lost to Meryl Streep in “Sophie’s Choice”).

    Julie continues acting, even though her singing voice was sidelined by a botched throat operation.

    I have been lucky enough to see her on the concert stage a number of times. And twice I was fortunate enough to meet her, look in those dazzling blue eyes, shake her hand, and thank her for all the joy she has brought me (and millions like me) over the years.

    • Thank you so much for this excellent summary of her career! I will need to check out some of those films you mentioned! I am extremely jealous you’ve had the honor of meeting her. She is indeed a graceful and immensely talented woman.


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