British actress and singer Julie Andrews, who has had a chalet in the Bernese resort of Gstaad for more than 40 years, has been awarded honorary citizenship of Saanen, the local municipality to which Gstaad belongs.
Andrews, 78, best known for appearing in the musical films Mary Poppins (1964) and The Sound of Music (1965), attended the event on Friday – only the tenth time such honorary citizenship has been bestowed. Other recipients include violinist and conductor Yehudi Menuhin.
Andrews first came to Gstaad in 1968 with US director Blake Edwards, whom she married the following year. She has described seeing the village as “love at first sight” and they eventually bought a chalet, Fleur de Lys, in 1971.
In his address, the mayor of Saanen Aldo Kropf recalled some of Andrews’ contributions to local life.
He remembered how, in the 1970s, she wanted to add a bit of sparkle to the village at Christmas and offered to pay for 1,000 lights, which would have far exceeded the budget of the tourist office.
“For 12 years you paid the maintenance of this delightful Christmas decoration. The Julie-Lämpli – as we call them here – can still be seen all over the Saanenland and are still very much appreciated!”
Kropf also noted how from 1995 to 1998 the couple founded and sponsored “Cinemusic”, a festival for film music which attracted artists from all over the world including Liza Minnelli, Quincy Jones, Henry Mancini and Roman Polanski.
Blake Edwards, who died in 2010, shot two films in Gstaad: The Return of the Pink Panther (1975) and The Tamarind Seed (1974), in which Andrews starred alongside Omar Sharif. He also wrote the script for Victor/Victoria (1982), for which Andrews received an Oscar nomination, in his Gstaad chalet.
Other contributions by Andrews included for many years presenting the trophy to the winner of the Swiss Open tennis tournament, still held in Gstaad. Roger Federer won in 2004 but Andrews had stopped handing over the cup by then.
To mark the occasion, the cinema in Gstaad is showing Andrews’ three most popular films: The Sound of Music ran on Thursday evening, Mary Poppins will be shown on Friday (dubbed into German – listen out for “Superkalifragilistischexpiallegetisch”) as will Victor/Victoria (in English).
Dame Julie Andrews (she was made a Dame by the Queen in 2000) was born in Surrey, England, in 1935.
She is a best known for appearing in the musical films Mary Poppins (1964) and The Sound of Music (1965). She won an Oscar for Best Actress for Mary Poppins (her feature film debut) and was nominated for The Sound of Music.
She made her Broadway debut in 1954 in The Boy Friend and in 1956 appeared as Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady (opposite Rex Harrison).
After several successes in the 1960s (including Hitchcock’s Torn Curtain (1966)), her film career slowed down in the 1970s before making a comeback with 10 (1979) and Victor Victoria (1982), for which she got another Oscar nomination.
She later reappeared in The Princess Diaries (2001) and voiced a character (the Queen) in the Shrek films (2004-2010).
In addition to an Oscar, she has won a BAFTA, five Golden Globes, three Grammys, two Emmys and various other achievement-type awards.
Her soprano singing voice was known for being very pure and clear. She was also known for her four-octave range. But since a botched throat operation in 1997, she hasn’t been able to sing.
Andrews has also written more than 20 books, including an autobiography and various children’s books.
She has been married twice, most recently for 31 years to US film director Blake “Pink Panther” Edwards until his death in 2010.end of infobox