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Friday, 3 August, 2001, 10:05 GMT 11:05 UK
Dame Julie clings to singing hope
Dame Julie Andrews and Anne Hathaway
Dame Julie plays a queen in The Princess Diaries
By Peter Bowes in Los Angeles

Dame Julie Andrews has said she still holds out hope that one day she will be able to sing in front of an audience.

The Oscar winning actress and singer lost the ability to vocalise after routine throat surgery in 1997.

My speaking voice has come back enormously - I was just croaking before

Dame Julie Andrews
Dame Julie, who stars in the Princess Diaries, a new Disney comedy which opens on Friday in the US, said she was "devastated" when she learned the operation to remove a small polyp from her vocal chords, had robbed her of the ability to sing.

Four years after the disastrous operation, Dame Julie acknowledged that the loss of her trademark voice still preys on her mind.

"I think about it all the time," she said.

"Let me put it this way - I'm still optimistic and I haven't given up looking for any avenue that might help me regain. I haven't given up hope from day one."


Dame Julie, who is now 65, said she was encouraged by the fact that her distinctive, once four octave, voice was improving all the time.

"My speaking voice has come back enormously. I was just croaking before," she explained.

"I'm optimistic that if that's come back then the rest will."

Dame Julie, who is still best known for her role in the 1965 classic, The Sound of Music, said she was practising again - but that progress was slow.

"I do vocalise and it's pretty daunting at the moment because it's the middle register that's gone. I can't go through without it just falling apart on me," she added. "I'm very good at singing like Ol' Man River."


Last year Dame Julie settled a malpractice claim against two doctors at New York's Mount Sinai hospital after she claimed the throat operation left her unable to sing professionally.

Terms of the settlement were never revealed.

At my age I don't think I'll be probably doing My Fair Lady again

Dame Julie Andrews
The Princess Diaries comes 37 years after Dame Julie last worked for the Disney studio.

As a tribute to the actress, the studio yesterday renamed a sound stage, at its complex in Burbank, The Julie Andrews stage.

Sound Stage Two is where Dame Julie filmed Mary Poppins and returned nearly four decades later to make The Princess Diaries.


"What a spoiling. What a treat. I hope you know how really honoured I feel," said Dame Julie at the naming ceremony.

In The Princess Diaries, Dame Julie plays the strict queen of a fictitious European country, called Genovia, who must turn her shy teenage granddaughter into a Princess.

Dame Julie on the set of the Sound of Music
Dame Julie on the set of The Sound of Music
The precocious 16-year-old, played by Anne Hathaway, lives in San Francisco and has no intention of leaving her normal life to become the ruler of a far-off country.

It is Queen Clarisse's job to change the reluctant teenager's mind and coach her in the responsibilities that come with royalty.

For Andrews, the role is a reversal of the Eliza Dolittle role she created opposite Rex Harrison in the 1956 Broadway production of My Fair Lady.

"I get to play the Henry Higgins part this time instead of Eliza (Dolittle)," explained Dame Julie.

The film, directed by Garry Marshall, who made Pretty Woman, is expected to play well with audiences of teenage girls, although initial reviews have been mixed.


"A refreshingly - but not aggressively - reformist fairy tale that doesn't talk down to its audience," according to one.

Faint praise came from another: "A perfectly average piece of Disney live action entertainment."

Most critics appear to agree that Dame Julie's performance shines above her fellow cast members.

"The classy Julie Andrews almost saves this picture from mediocrity," said one reviewer.

While busier than ever acting, writing childrens books and her autobiography, the main focus for Dame Julie remains her desire to perform on stage again and use her voice.

"At my age I don't think I'll be probably doing My Fair Lady again but I'd like to have good use of it because it gave me so much pleasure," she explained.

  • The Princess Diaries open in the US on 3 August and in the UK on 26 December.

    Dame Julie Andrews
    "My voice gave me so much pleasure"
    See also:

    31 Aug 99 | Entertainment
    Andrews voices singing hopes
    26 Dec 98 | Entertainment
    Andrews hopes to sing again
    20 Nov 98 | Entertainment
    Andrews 'may never sing again'
    16 May 00 | Entertainment
    Queen honours movie Dames
    15 Dec 99 | Entertainment
    Andrews sues over lost voice
    31 Dec 99 | Entertainment
    Dame Julie: The sound of music
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