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.
Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.
Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").
Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)