"[T]he pressures were tremendous. Yet she never wavered. Her optimism, delicious humour and selfless nature were always on parade. It was if she'd been hired not just to act, sing and carry the entire film, but to keep everyone's spirits up as well. She did. She held us together and made us a team. Julie was quite transparent. There was no way she could conceal the simple truth that she cared profoundly for her work and for everyone else around her. I think that beneath my partly assumed sarcasm and indifference she saw that I cared too. As two people who barely came to know each other throughout those long months of filming, we had somehow bonded." (In Spite of Myself, p. 396).
So wrote Christopher Plummer about Julie Andrews in "The Sound of Music".
In her own always-generous if always-measured way, Julie Andrews returns the compliment in this volume (p. 55):
"I didn't see much of Chris Plummer beyond the workday, as he spent most of his spare time at the Bristol. Word spread that he was becoming renowned for his late-night performances at the piano in the hotel bar. In his youth, he had trained to be a concert pianist, and he was very good indeed. He apparently spent his evenings at the bar getting quite smashed and playing Rachmaninoff or Tchaikovsky until the wee hours. That said, Chris was the glue that held us all together; the one who always kept us from going too deep into the saccharine side of the story. He was so disciplined in his acting, so knowledgeable, that he was appropriately imposing as the Captain. Yet he was very gentle, and constructive too. He'd make suggestions as to how we would play a certain scene..."
In that last sentence is reflected one of the pervading themes of this volume of Andrews' memoir: her relative insecurity as an actor (she took no acting lessons prior to making these blockbuster movies), which is the more striking in comparison to her complete confidence in her musical side.
Just as her singing features impeccable diction and razor-sharp intonation, Andrews' prose here is correct and well-crafted (and has gone through careful editing, obviously, by her daughter Emma Walton Hamilton). Though it's idiomatic and not over-formal, you will search in vain for exclamation marks or exaggerations in her prose. The net effect, especially if you are not reading carefully, is rather emotionless. It is only if you look carefully at exactly which well-chosen words she has actually chosen that you can read the emotion, barely beneath the surface. This is particularly true, of course, when she writes about her family - her divorce from her first husband, Tony Walton; and her long marriage to director Blake Edwards, and creation of a blended family (Emma, two of Edwards' children acquired through marriage, and two adopted orphans from Vietnam).
The detailed portion of the book, true to its title, is largely focused on Andrews' Hollywood films - the three huge musical hits (Mary Poppins, The Sound of Music, and Victor/Victoria) as well as the somewhat lesser-known films, some hits and some misses (The Americanization of Emily, Hawaii, Star!, Thoroughly Modern Millie, S.O.B., 10 - and several others I've missed out, I'm sure). Since it's a chronological account, we also get stories about the Julie and Carol television specials, as well as her own TV series. In addition she chronicles the beginning of her side-hustle as a children's book writer. Since there's no mention of her late-life work (the Princess Diaries movies, for instance), I think it's possible that a volume 3 is in contemplation.
Oh yes, did that bond from "The Sound of Music" last? If you can believe the joint interview of Plummer and Andrews (2005) that I pulled up on youtube the other night, it most certainly did. The affection and respect between them didn't look at all acted to me.
If you're at all interested in Julie Andrews' work, or in Hollywood history, I heartily recommend this one.