She was born in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey on October 1, 1935, and made her stage debut at an early age, appearing in London's West End in 1947. She graduated through radio (on the show Educating Archie) and theatre to starring in stage productions of musicals such as The Boyfriend, My Fair Lady and Camelot. When she lost the starring role in the film of My Fair Lady to Audrey Hepburn (whose singing was dubbed by Marni Nixon), she received the consolation of the starring role in Walt Disney's musical version of Mary Poppins (1964), winning an Academy Award as a result. She was nominated again, the following year, for her role as Maria von Trapp in The Sound of Music (1965), and thus became, briefly, one of the most sought-after stars in Hollywood.
The decline of the musical was damaging to Andrews' subsequent career, and, despite several starring roles in musical and non-musical films - including some directed by her husband, Blake Edwards, such as 10, Victor/Victoria, and S.O.B., she has been seen very rarely on screen since the early 1980s.
In the 2000 New Years Honours she was made a Dame of the British Empire (DBE), becoming Dame Julie Andrews. Since then she has been struggling to recover her singing voice, following a throat operation, but had a short tour of the USA at the end of 2002 with Christopher Plummer, Charlotte Church, Max Howard and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
Dame Julie's career is said to have suffered from typecasting, as her two most famous roles in Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music cemented her image as a "sugary sweet" personality best known for working with children. Her roles in Blake Edwards's films could be seen as an attempt to break away from this image: in 10 her character is a no-nonsense career woman; in Victor/Victoria she plays a woman pretending to be a male transvestite, and, perhaps most notoriously, in S.O.B. she plays a character very similar to herself, who agrees (with some pharmaceutical persuasion) to "show my boobies" in a scene in the film-within-the-film. For this last performance, late night television comedian Johnny Carson thanked Andrews for "showing us that the hills were still alive", alluding to her most famous line from the Sound of Music.
Julie received Kennedy Center Honors in 2001. She also appears in the 2002 List of "100 Great Britons" sponsored by the BBC and voted for by the public.