Julie Andrews and Carol Burnett have been one of the great, if frustratingly under-utilised, professional partnerships of American showbiz. From their early days working together on The Garry Moore Show in 1961/62 where Carol was a regular feature performer and Julie an occasional guest star, it was obvious that the two women had terrific on-stage—and, by all accounts, off-stage—chemistry and soon thereafter they graduated to performing as a duo in a series of influential TV specials.
In many ways they were an unlikely pairing, Julie the patrician English soubrette and Carol the goofy Texan cut-up, but it was arguably these stark differences that made for an engaging partnership. Like most of the great performing duos, theirs was a relationship of complementary contrasts with each serving as a foil for the other: Julie the ‘straight man’ to Carol’s clown, Carol the gutsy belter to Julie’s crystalline soprano. Indeed, the opening sequence of their very first TV variety special wittily played up this sense of them as an odd couple who “belong together” precisely because of their contrasting differences. "You’re So London" sings Carol, rattling off a list of things about Julie she admires but lacks herself, before Julie returns serve with a litany of qualities she most envies in Carol.
Julie and Carol’s professional collaborations weren’t numerous, alas, but they were memorable and influential. Their first outing, the 1962 special Julie and Carol at Carnegie Hall, is widely regarded as a landmark in the history of musical variety TV. With a script by Mike Nichols and musical supervision by Irwin Kostal, both of whom would come to figure quite centrally in Julie’s career, the show was a ratings bonanza for CBS and went on to win both an Emmy Award for Outstanding Program Achievement in the Field of Music and the Rose d’Or Award at the Montreux Entertainment Festival. Critics were generally fulsome in their praise as can be seen here and here, with many reviews highlighting the charm of the pair’s unexpected chemistry. Columbia also issued a soundtrack LP of the special which racked up solid sales. There was initial talk of Julie and Carol possibly taking their “act” on the road for a cross-country tour in 1962 but Julie’s pregnancy put paid to those plans.
After their initial Carnegie Hall special, Julie’s film career soon took off and not too long thereafter Carol’s career also rocketed skyward with the 1967 launch of her long-running comedy variety series. As a result, it would be a full decade before the two women worked together again in the follow-up CBS special, Julie and Carol at Lincoln Center in 1971. Given the pair’s by-now superstar standing, the program came in on a wave of pre-broadcast publicity as seen here, here, here, here, here and here. Once again, the special proved a hit with audiences and critics alike, earning three Emmy nominations and a raft of generally enthusiastic reviews such as here and here. An accompanying soundtrack LP from this special was also released in 1971.
Julie and Carol’s next collaboration was a long while in the coming with several ‘nearly-weres’ and false starts. In the mid-70s it was rumoured they would re-team for a TV special with a Hollywood theme to be staged in an old picture palace. There was also talk of a possible Vegas show together. In 1984, the pair reunited for a special benefit concert in aid of Operation California (later renamed Operation USA), a humanitarian relief organization with which both stars have had a long association. Titled “Julie and Carol: One Night Only”, the concert was a gala affair held in the Grand Ballroom of the Beverly Hilton Hotel but, to the best available knowledge, it was not taped and certainly never publicly broadcast.
It wasn’t until 1989 that the the pair’s third public collaboration finally came to pass in the form of the ABC TV special, Julie and Carol: Together Again. The show was originally scheduled to be taped live at Carnegie Hall in New York and was already sold out in advance when a scheduling conflict forced a last minute change of venue, and change of coast, to the Pantages Theatre in Los Angeles. Once again the third special attracted considerable pre-show publicity, as seen here, here, here, here and here, and aired on December 13 to strong audience numbers and positive crits such as here, here and here .
Throughout the intervening years, Julie and Carol have appeared together at numerous events and awards shows—for example, each hosted the tribute section at the other’s Kennedy Center Honors ceremony, Carol for Julie in 2001 and Julie returning the favour for Carol in 2003— helping further consolidate their public image as an entertainment duo.
Finally, in 2004, it was announced in the trade papers that Julie and Carol would reteam for a fourth TV special, scheduled for broadcast on CBS later that year. Given that Julie, by this stage, could no longer sing, the show was largely planned as a retrospective with the two reminiscing about their work together with clips from previous shows and some new sketch material added. Unfortunately, the special never materialized, possibly due to difficulties getting copyright clearances for the earlier material to be re-used. It’s for this reason that the earlier specials also haven’t yet been issued on DVD. Nevertheless, in interviews over ensuing years there have been hints that this fourth special may still be in the pipelines. The chances grow slimmer with each passing year but we can still fervently hope Julie and Carol get another, possibly final, opportunity to work their magic ‘one more time’…
Burnett, Carol. This Time Together: Laughter and Reflection. New York: Random House, 2010.
Church, Carol B. Carol Burnett: Star of Comedy. Mankato: Crestwood House, 1976.
Terrace, Vincent. Television Specials: 5,336 Entertainment Programs, 1936-2012. Jefferson: McFarland, 2013.
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