How did Julie Andrews lose her voice?

Julie Andrews became a Hollywood legend thanks to her powerful voice, which landed her leading roles in classics such as 1964’s Mary Poppins and 1965’s The Sound of Music. Unfortunately, the star hasn’t sung since 1997, when she lost part of her vocal talents.

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While most people know Andrews for her enviable Hollywood career, the actress’ first passion is theater. Andrews began to perform at an early age by the side of her mother, Barbara Ward Wells, and stepfather, Ted Andrews, both part of the Entertainments National Service Association put together to entertain British troops during World War II. In 1947, when Andrews was only 12 years old, she made her professional singing an aria at the London Hippodrome. A few years later, Andrews would begin a brilliant Broadway career across the ocean, using her voice to charm audiences for generations.

As the 40th Anniversary Edition DVD of Mary Poppins reveals, Andrews was invited by Walt Disney himself to take over the leading part in the House of Mouse’s iconic adaptation of Pamela Lyndon Travers’ books. Disney saw Andrew performing in Broadway’s Camelot and decided she was the only one who could do justice to the enchanted nanny. The movie’s production was halted so that Andrews could give birth to her first child in London before returning to America.

It’s hard to think of a big studio making financial compromises of this scale for an actress with no experience in filmmaking. Yet, Disney was right on the money, as Andrews’ performance would go on to win her a Best Actress Oscar. She would be nominated for the same award for The Sound of Music and Victor/Victoria, two projects that showcase the star’s impressive singing voice.

Unfortunately, the year 1997 would soon rob Andrews of her ability to sing.

Why can’t Julie Andrews sing anymore?

Image via Walt Disney Pictures

While performing on Broadway in 1997, Andrews noticed her voice becoming hoarse. After consulting with a physician, she received the news she had non-cancerogenic nodules in her vocal cords that had to be removed. But when she woke up from her surgery, she found out she could no longer sing.

The result of the surgery would be tragic enough without malpractice from the responsible doctor. However, as it turns out, Andrews never had nodules, and her hoarse voice was caused by muscular striation. That means she received an incorrect diagnosis in 1997 and could have had her condition treated in less invasive ways. In 1999, Andrews filed a suit against the doctors of Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, getting a settlement in 2000. Regardless of any legal compensation, the damage was done, and Andrews would be forced to abandon her career as a singer.

Andrews underwent multiple surgeries to try to fix her voice but to no success. That meant she had to be careful when choosing roles for film and TV projects. But it didn’t stop her from winning our hearts in The Princess Diaries movies, which we all hope will one day get a third installment. In addition, Andrews found a new calling writing children’s books with her daughter, Emma Katherine Walton Hamilton.

Andrews currently lends her voice to Lady Whistledown in Netflix’s Bridgerton. Bridgerton’s third season premieres on the streamer on May 16, 2024.

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