The Truth About Julie Andrews' Relationship With Dick Van Dyke

When "Mary Poppins" was first released in 1964, it captured the hearts of audiences everywhere — both young and old. The story of the ever-busy banker, George Banks, hiring the magical nanny Mary Poppins to look after his children through various adventures was mesmerizing, as was the addition of Mary Poppins' friend, the cockney chimney sweeper, Bert.

While children were drawn to the musical numbers and colorful mix of live-action and animation sequences, adults enjoyed watching the charming relationship between Mary Poppins and Bert, played by Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke, respectively. Their on-screen chemistry was undeniable, and Andrews even gushed about her co-star later on in her 2008 biography, "Home: A Memoir of My Early Years." As she wrote (via Vanity Fair), "He was dazzlingly inventive, always in a sunny mood, and he often made me roar with laughter at his antics." Sure enough, their friendship translated perfectly onto the silver screen.

"Mary Poppins" ended up being a hit, taking home five Academy Awards, one of which was Andrews' for her leading role as the titular character. She also went home with a newfound friendship with her co-star — one which has endured decades in Hollywood. Let's take a look at the truth about Julie Andrews' relationship with Dick Van Dyke.

Julie Andrews' first ever movie scene was with Dick Van Dyke

Julie Andrews wasn't the celebrated Tinseltown star (and Dame of the British Empire) she is today when she starred in "Mary Poppins." Per Biography, Andrews came from a family already in the entertainment industry, "her mother was a pianist and her stepfather ... a singer." Born in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, England, in 1935, the actor found her first big break on stage in the latter half of the 1940s, before traveling across the pond and snagging the role of Eliza Doolittle in the musical "My Fair Lady." Earning her first Tony nomination, her career only soared.

As it turned out, "Mary Poppins" was Andrews' first role behind the camera, ditching the stage for the glistening lights of Hollywood. In 2008, Andrews noted in her book, "Home: A Memoir of My Early Years" (via Vanity Fair), that she quickly learned how different acting behind a camera was as opposed to on stage. The first scene she shot was the "Jolly Holiday" song-and-dance sequence — with her co-star Dick Van Dyke as Bert. As Andrews wrote, the beginning of the scene was simple: She was expected to "strike a pose" while Van Dyke exclaimed, "You look very pretty today, Mary Poppins!" Walking past him, Andrews' first line was, "Do you really think so?"

"I was extremely nervous and fretted over how to say that one simple line," the actor reflected in her memoir. "In the end, I simply said the words and hoped for the best."

Dick Van Dyke always believed that Julie Andrews would be a star

It was fairly obvious that Julie Andrews had a knack for entertaining — even as a young girl. Per Biography, the U.K.-born star grew up with her entertainment industry parents, and before she was even in her teens, Andrews was already performing. As singer Petula Clark revealed to The Guardian, after being discovered at the age of 9 on a BBC show, she and Andrews — who was three years her senior — embarked on a U.K. tour by train to sing for British troops during World War II. "Now, she could really sing," recalled Clark.

By the time she was in her 20s, Andrews already had a few stage performances under her belt in America, and in 1960, she snagged her second Tony nomination for her lead role in the musical, "Camelot." From there, it only took her four years to transition over to Hollywood — and she flourished, snagging the titular role in "Mary Poppins."

"Nobody knew who she was," Dick Van Dyke shared on "The Dick Cavett Show" in 1974, adding that she was still just seen as a Broadway star. "I thought at that time, 'Just you wait,'" he mused, adding that after their film, she "became one of the biggest stars in the whole world." Of course, Van Dyke was absolutely correct.

The two first met during dance rehearsals

Joining the cast of 1964's "Mary Poppins" must have been nerve-wracking for newcomer at the time, Julie Andrews. After all, she was cast alongside Dick Van Dyke, who was already a TV favorite thanks to "The Dick Van Dyke Show," which launched in 1961. If that's not all, the flick was a Disney production, with an intimidating budget of $4.4 million, per The Digital Bits. Nevertheless, it was Walt Disney himself who vouched for Andrews after seeing her impressive Broadway role in "Camelot" (via "Anderson Live").

As Andrews recalled in her book, "Home: A Memoir of My Early Years" (via Vanity Fair), she first met Van Dyke "during dance rehearsals" for "Mary Poppins." When it came time to film their first scene together, Andrews revealed how anxious she was — yet her budding friendship with Van Dyke didn't waver, and one can only assume he most likely helped calm her nerves. "We hit it off from day one," she wrote in her memoir, adding that he wasn't ever found to be in low spirits.

While reflecting on that first scene the pair had together — the "Jolly Holiday" animated sequence that saw Van Dyke and Andrews walking together — the Brit wrote, "I performed Mary Poppins's demure, ladylike version of the step — but Dick flung his long legs up so high that I burst out laughing." All in all, it was "the camaraderie on set" that made Andrews' first Tinseltown experience "unforgettable."

Julie Andrews stood by Dick Van Dyke when his critics tore him to shreds

"Mary Poppins" was an instant success. The flick took home five Oscars, was praised by reviewers, and according to "Film Facts," is 26th on their list of "the top 200 moneymaking movies of all time." And while Julie Andrews was a darling amongst critics (Variety dubbed her transition from Broadway to Hollywood a "triumph"), not everyone responded positively to Dick Van Dyke's performance as Bert.

Van Dyke, an American born in Missouri, took on the role of the chimney sweeper Bert and suddenly found himself having to do a cockney accent. The verdict? As USA Today revealed, critics "ripped" his attempt "to shreds." According to The Irish Times, it was later revealed that actor David Tomlinson helped Van Dyke with his accent. Tomlinson, who came from the more upper-class Henley-on-Thames in England, wasn't the best choice as a tutor for Van Dyke. "Oh, that was very generous of David," exclaimed Andrews to the outlet, adding that Van Dyke actually asked her for some training, as well. "I had the same experience, and he was very aware that he was stumbling about. He was adorable, so talented and charming anyway, so who cares, really!"

Andrews has stood by her friend in the years that followed, always one to offer up praise when outlets touch upon the American's attempt at the accent. "Doesn't seem to have harmed the film that much, 50 years later," she coyly told USA Today in 2013.

One thing about Julie Andrews 'scared' Dick Van Dyke

When filming commenced for "Mary Poppins," Dick Van Dyke and Julie Andrews were at two very different points in their careers. As Andrews notes in her book, "Home: A Memoir of My Early Years" (via Vanity Fair), her co-star "was already well established as a consummate comedian," having been in movies, television, and even Broadway. Andrews, on the other hand, was new to Tinseltown but had already achieved Broadway success, and had been singing for much longer — a talent that would come in handy for the Disney musical.

In fact, Andrews was such a talented crooner that Van Dyke admitted in his biography, "My Lucky Life in and Out of Show Business: A Memoir," that his co-star's voice actually "scared [him] to death." As he wrote, "Julie's voice could have been used to tune a piano. She was pitch perfect — and I never was." It was actually because of Andrews' singing that Van Dyke noted that "recording with her was a challenge."

The former Broadway star had years of experience as a singer. According to her Academy of Achievement profile, Andrews took singing lessons when she was still a young girl, and by the time she was 8, "she was taken to study with Lilian Styles-Allen, a noted concert singer." Almost two decades before snagging the role of Mary Poppins, Andrews "made her radio debut" on the BBC, and by the '50s, she was a radio "regular."

Neither of them were 'practically perfect' on set

It's no secret that some of Hollywood's most iconic children's flicks were less than idyllic behind-the-scenes. "The Wizard of Oz" set was famously problematic, with director Victor Fleming even known to slap Judy Garland (via Time). While nothing that harrowing happened on the set of "Mary Poppins," its two leading stars were a far cry from being "practically perfect in every way," as was the flick's titular character.

"There was swearing. Julie Andrews was smoking on set," dished Karen Dotrice, who played youngster Jane Banks in the movie, to The Sun. Adding that behind the scenes, "It was a very real 1960s set," Dotrice further revealed, "They were polite around minors to begin with, but that soon ended."

While the concept of everyone's favorite cinematic nanny chain-smoking may come as a surprise, Dick Van Dyke's antics while cameras weren't rolling weren't as happy-go-lucky as that of his character, Bert, either. According to The Sun, he was struggling with alcoholism. The actor has been upfront with his once-difficult battle, even opening up to The Telegraph about it. "I was an alcoholic for about 25 years," he explained, echoing Dotrice's comments that in the '60s, "everybody had their martini, everybody smoked incessantly." As Van Dyke added, "I would go to work with terrible hangovers which if you're dancing is really hard." Considering the amount of entertaining he had to do in "Mary Poppins," it's impressive he made it look so easy.

The author of Mary Poppins wasn't impressed with the two actors

Anyone who's seen 2013's "Saving Mr. Banks" knows of the difficulties that Walt Disney went through to acquire the rights to Pamela Lyndon Travers' series of "Mary Poppins" books to bring to the big screen. "It took Walt [Disney] 20 years to talk Travers into giving him the rights for the picture and then she fought him tooth and nail all the way through it," recalled Dick Van Dyke to The Telegraph years later.

It turns out that Travers wasn't a fan of the jovial Disney adaptation after she saw it, either. Per USA Today, she hated the "prancing and dancing" and musical aspect of the flick. But that's not all: The author also wasn't too keen on Julie Andrews or Dick Van Dyke. "She hated me, she hated Julie Andrews," remembered Van Dyke while speaking to The Telegraph. "She didn't think either one of us were right."

Ultimately, Travers tried to have the last laugh in the entire "Mary Poppins" debacle. According to TMZ, it's believed that she loathed the flick to the point that "she put it in her will that no Americans [would] ever be granted permission to work on a 'Poppins' project ever again." However, as Andrews herself wryly told USA Today, "I'm sure she cried all the way ... to the bank."

They were almost in another movie together

At the time of its release, critics loved watching Dick Van Dyke and Julie Andrews in "Mary Poppins" together. The New York Times praised the flick, seemingly unable to pick their favorite moment. Two scenes that featured both Van Dyke and Andrews came up at the top of the list, from their animated "Jolly Holiday" sequence, to "a brilliant ballet" that saw the duo "scatter and leap with a gang of sooty chimney-sweeps on the London rooftops."

The two co-stars got along famously, too, and immediately after meeting, they became friends. In fact, considering how perfect the pair's on-screen chemistry was, it's remarkable they didn't grace the silver screen together again (save for one 1974 TV special). That being said, they came close to it, with Van Dyke's 1968 project, "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" — a movie he also "repeatedly turned down." As the actor revealed in his book, "My Lucky Life in and Out of Show Business: A Memoir," he thought the Roald Dahl-written movie had "too many holes and unanswered questions." Yet, the flick's producer, Albert Broccoli, "desperately" tried to get Andrews and Van Dyke on board together again, especially after the success of "Mary Poppins."

Van Dyke eventually signed on for "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang," but his former co-star didn't budge. According to "​​Julie Andrews: An Intimate Biography," she didn't want to do anything similar to her "Poppins" character, and the role of Truly Scrumptious was cutting it a bit too close.

Dick Van Dyke appeared in Mary Poppins Returns

Along with refusing another opportunity to work with Dick Van Dyke for 1968's "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang," Julie Andrews also missed out on starring in 2018's "Mary Poppins Returns," yet her reason behind declining that Disney flick is much more endearing.

"Mary Poppins Returns" sees the Banks children all grown up with children of their own, and getting a surprise visit from Mary Poppins herself (played by Emily Blunt). Besides playing Bert in the original "Poppins" flick, Van Dyke also played antagonist Mr. Dawes Sr., George Banks' boss, with layers of makeup applied to appear very elderly. In the 2018 sequel, Van Dyke took on the role of Dawes' son — and this time, in his 90s, he needed no help to recreate the same look. According to Entertainment Weekly, when the iconic actor heard a sequel was in production, his first thought was: "Can I be in it?" It turns out, director Rob Marshall was such a fan of Van Dyke's, he needed no convincing.

As for Andrews? Marshall also approached her to make an appearance in the film, but her immediate answer was a resounding "no." As the director revealed at the movie's premiere (via Variety), "She said, 'This is Emily's show and I want her to run with this. ... I don't want to be on top of that.'" As of 2021, "Mary Poppins Returns" holds an 80% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Dick Van Dyke and Julie Andrews are still close to this day

Dick Van Dyke was immediately drawn to his co-star, Julie Andrews, when they met on the set of "Mary Poppins." In his book, "My Lucky Life in and Out of Show Business: A Memoir," Van Dyke dubbed his friend as his "perfect partner" in the movie, praising her personality and talent. "She was a lady first and foremost, but she also had a great, whimsical sense of humor," he mused, and coming from a legendary comedian such as himself, that's high praise. Van Dyke also praised how easy it was to work with Andrews and claimed she "never once" complained.

After "Mary Poppins" debuted in 1964, Andrews and Van Dyke eventually went their separate ways — but it doesn't mean they haven't stayed in touch. In fact, as Andrews revealed in her 2019 biography, "Home: A Memoir of My Early Years," it appeared that her former co-star must have at one point danced for her again, as she revealed "he can still execute [his] step" that saw him kicking and flailing his legs up high during their "Jolly Holiday" sequence (via Vanity Fair).

In December 2013, the two longtime pals had their red carpet reunion 50 years later during the premiere of "Saving Mr. Banks," per Us Weekly. As the outlet notes, they "were spotted catching up like old friends."

Julie Andrews gave a heartwarming tribute to her friend in 2021

In 2021, at the 43rd annual Kennedy Center Honors in Washington D.C., 95-year-old Dick Van Dyke was celebrated for his lifetime in the entertainment industry. According to Good Housekeeping, Julie Andrews, at the age of 85, was the one who introduced her "Mary Poppins" co-star.

Andrews dubbed her friend "as magical" as her iconic character and even related him to his role of Bert in the movie. "Dick seems to have found the secret to happiness," she explained, adding, "He's an artist, a one-man band, a profound philosopher, a high-stepping showman and spreader of charm ... good luck does rub off when he shakes hands with you."

It turns out, Van Dyke has fond memories of his time on the 1964 children's flick, too, and even told "Today" that same year that "Mary Poppins" is the movie he's "most proud of." As for any plans of quitting acting now that he's well into his 90s? Not a chance. "I don't think I'll ever retire," he declared on the program, quipping, "unless they make me."