The voice that defined a generation of musical comedies, from The Sound of Music to Mary Poppins, has been silent ever since Ms Andrews was forced to interrupt her award-winning run on Broadway in the musical Victor/Victoria at the beginning of last year. The operation last June was supposed to strengthen her failing vocal cords, but it appears to have had the opposite effect.
"I don't think she'll sing again - it's an absolute tragedy," her husband, the director Blake Edwards, said yesterday. "There isn't a day goes by that her voice doesn't get weaker."
The voice of Julie Andrews, capable of both unassuming sweetness and gutsy no-nonsense, has been one of the most durable sounds of show business since she made her debut on Broadway in My Fair Lady in 1957. With a face that never seemed to age and a boyish haircut that hardly varied over the years, she seemed to be a fixture in the popular imagination that would never go away.
She hit the pinnacle of her success in the mid-Sixties, when The Sound of Music turned her into a global movie star and Mary Poppins netted her an Oscar for best actress, but she continued to rake in awards and critical plaudits for another two decades.