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business and pleasure: blake edwards and julie andrews

In this six-part series, Kiah Meadows takes a look at the relationship between famous directors and their muses throughout Hollywood’s history.

 

So far, this series has been all doom and gloom: drug taking, abuse, exploitation. But the story of Blake Edwards and Julie Andrews may rekindle your faith in the filmmaker-muse relationship.

Marrying after a long courtship in November 1969, their careers were already established with Breakfast at Tiffany’s, The Party, Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music. Edwards and Andrews’ relationship blossomed wholly from love, and not from the opportunity to further their careers. However, Edwards did something for his wife’s career that marked the death of the old Maria Von Poppins and the birth of her new image.

In an interview with David Frost in 1970, Andrews agreed that her image had very much been shaped by Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music, saying, ‘If I really wanted to change my image, I’d do the centrefold of Playboy with the hat, the umbrella and the carpet bag of Mary Poppins. Period.’

This is essentially what Edwards achieved in Darling Lili (1969), his first film with his new bride.  The musical number that is aesthetically reminiscent of Mary Poppins performed meekly in its first instance is reprised as a striptease towards the end.

‘The first two weeks were awful,’ Andrews offered in the David Frost interview.

‘Hell…it’s very awkward when your wife is making passionate love to the leading man,’ Edwards confessed. ‘I found I was getting very uptight most of the time and I went in and confessed it. I said, “I can’t be objective about this whole thing, you take over.”’

Something must have gone right, though. In the first 16 years of their marriage, Andrews only made one film without Edwards. His main work without her was in his Pink Panther franchise.

‘It’s really pretty complicated,’ said Edwards, ‘Your neuroses show more than usual.’

Edwards and Andrews made it clear that the key to salvaging a personal relationship when working together is communication and keeping your ego in check. But things weren’t always a spoonful of sugar.

‘She has a very real terror of gunshots, explosions, and I think I understood it, but I really didn’t understand the extent of it and I was trying to unnerve her because that was what was needed in the scene.’ Edwards explained about a certain film. ‘So at one point I went over and got a 38 full load, and I fired this thing off and watched my wife go into complete catatonia, she just froze… And I learnt that that kind of playing around with those really tricky emotions, when you know what someone’s real weak point is and to take advantage of it can be very dangerous.’

In 1974, Andrews and Edwards adopted their first daughter together, Amy, who joined their three children from previous marriages. Another adopted daughter, Joanna, followed shortly.

‘It’s very hard to try and keep a balance in the home and on the set. It’s probably the most difficult thing I’ve ever gone through.’ Edwards confessed. ‘There were times when we thought, we’re just not gonna make it, but we were determined, and so far we have.’

The couple were married for 41 years until Edwards’ death in 2010 at the age of 88 from complications of pneumonia. From their meeting in the mid-sixties, Edwards and Andrews transformed each other’s personal lives and careers with humour and a great degree of love. ‘People had been conjecturing on and on about what made Julie successful,’ Edwards told an interviewer for Playboy in 1982.

‘And at just the right moment, I said, “I can tell you exactly what it is. She has lilacs for pubic hair.” After the laughter subsided, Stan Kamen, an agent with William Morris, said, “With your luck, you’ll wind up marrying her.” And with my luck, I did! … And now I get lilacs every anniversary.’ Andrews chimed in… ‘In every way, shape and form, don’t you, Blake?’ ‘Yes, dear.’

 

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