Solid, decent, likable and a bit dull—rather like its subject.



The squeaky-clean story of Hollywood’s ultimate nanny.

Stirling charts the life and career of Julie Andrews (born 1935) with a wealth of detail and an agreeably light tone that suits the family-entertainment doyenne. There are no sexual indiscretions here, no sordid drug interludes or bouts with the bottle. The reader is left with the details of a career marked by spectacular early success followed by a long fallow period, an amicable divorce and happy second marriage, a botched throat operation and Andrews’s attempts to escape her goody-goody image—none of it exactly gripping material. The actress is depicted as a quintessentially English trouper: reserved, stoic and determined to get on with the show. She could not escape her image, ultimately, because she embodied it so completely. The author refers to her at points as an “automaton,” perhaps venting frustration over so unjuicy a subject. Stirling quotes playwright Christopher Durang, who remarked, “I almost don’t have any good Julie Andrews stories because she’s just so nice and easy to be around.” (“Tell me about it,” one imagines the biographer muttering to himself.) Early chapters on Andrews’s childhood career as a music-hall performer are of some period interest, and Stirling adroitly conveys the excitement engendered by her explosive entry into the American consciousness with the show-business hat trick of My Fair Lady on Broadway and Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music on film. She would never equal these early triumphs, appearing in some unsuitable roles in a series of flops conceived by her second husband, film writer and director Blake Edwards. At this point, the book becomes a slog through the career setbacks of a talented but fundamentally uninteresting personality who perseveres with grace and good humor.

Solid, decent, likable and a bit dull—rather like its subject.

Pub Date: March 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-312-38025-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2008

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This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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