September 27, 2014: The Sound of Music (1965)


Cast and Crew: Robert Wise (Director), Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II (Music); Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer, Eleanor Parker, Richard Haydn, Angela Cartwright

What It’s About: Looking at the movie poster, you might guess that this film was about a sort of elfin Pied Piper of Salzburg, who effortlessly skips across Alpine meadows in high heels (is this sci-fi? because that’s impossible!) while followed by a Day-Glo youth brigade and observed by a disgruntled Bavarian autocrat.  You’d be partially correct.  However, popular as family-friendly musicals are, that description leaves out some of the most important elements that went into winning this film five Academy Awards and making it the highest-grossing film of its era.  Adapted from a successful 1959 Broadway musical, the film relates a highly fictionalized version of the story of the large von Trapp family, how they met their (step-)mother, and the genesis of their musical career.  While Georg von Trapp was, in fact, opposed to Nazi policies and Nazi domination of his homeland, the story massages the account to make the family’s actions much more directly a rebellion against Nazism.  In the middle of the 1960s, sandwiched between blockbuster war films like The Great Escape (1963) and Where Eagles Dare (1968), it’s clear that Germany was still an adversary British and American film audiences loved to hate.  Director Robert Wise made sure the musical had the necessary ingredients of good singing (Julie Andrews), good acting (Christopher Plummer), cute faces (such as Angela Cartwright, later of Lost in Space), quality cinematography and lush European locales.

Why Watch it Today?: The von Trapps departed Europe permanently for the United States on September 27, 1939, passengers on the SS Bergensfjord.  They had been in America previously in the course of their singing career, as evidenced by the birth of the youngest son, Johannes, in Philadelphia in 1939.  This time, however, they would not leave.  They purchased land in Stowe, Vermont, where the family continues to run the fabulous Trapp Family Lodge.  It’s a wonderful place to enjoy craft lagers and a cozy fireplace in between skiing the beautiful (but not particularly flat) Nordic terrain.

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