Julie Andrews and Elizabeth Taylor, two legendary actresses of stage and screen, enjoyed a day of pomp, pageantry and exceptional honor, May 16. Both were made Dame Commanders of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth, according to the Daily News (May 17).
Andrews, the film star of "The Sound of Music," "Mary Poppins" and "Thoroughly Modern Millie," and stage star of My Fair Lady, Victor/Victoria and Putting It Together, has been struggling of late with a throat ailment that effectively ended her career in musical comedy. According to Reuters, Andrews, 64, filed a medical malpractice lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Manhattan Dec. 14, 1999. The vocal-cord surgery at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City, she alleges, robbed her of singing voice and "precluded [her] from practicing her profession as a musical performer.'' She is asking for "substantial damages to compensate for loss of past and future earnings." The hospital and two doctors, Scott Kessler and Jeffrey Libin, are named in the suit, announced by her publicist, Gene Schwam. "Singing has been a cherished gift, and my inability to sing has been a devastating blow,'' Andrews said in a statement.
Taylor, 68, who has also had medical battles and a checkered marital history, told reporters that her only regret was that actor Richard Burton -- to whom she was twice wed -- didn't live to see the ceremony. "I came to Buckingham Palace once before," Taylor told the Daily News, "years ago, with Richard. I miss him so much. I wish he was here." (Burton had been made a Knight, the male equivalent of Dame Commander.)
Taylor was honored by the Queen not only for her film work ("Cleopatra," "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf") and theatre work ("Private Lives") but for her commitment to AIDS research and fund-raising.
-- By David Lefkowitz
and Kenneth Jones