The "Sound of Music," and the von Trapp Family.
Julie Andrews defies the years.
Still a delight after 47 years
The “Sound of Music” and the von Trapp Family.
Every Christmas, the main cable channels in Britain - BBC 1 and 2, Itv 1, Channel 4 and 5, dig through their archives cramming as much free archived rubbish into our lives as they can find. We get no sport, but every Scrooge film ever made - and there are a lot.
All the old British movies with a cast of apparently amoral but inept comic actors, most of whom are homosexual or appear so. There is no original programming and every offering has an “R” for repeat after it.
Luckily, swanning through this depressing miasma of the film maker’s worst attempts at their art, we come upon a few old chestnuts that are watchable - and certainly listenable - no matter how many times we are privy to the great locations and superb scores.
Such is the “Sound of Music,” the largest grossing celluloid musical ever and recipient of 5 academy awards.
You all know the movie by now: the glorious countryside of Saltsburg, Bavaria, and the foothills of the Alps; the storyline which tells of the early life and times of the von Trapp family and the wonderful music and lyrics by Rodgers and Hammerstein, entrancingly interpreted by the evergreen Julie Andrews, the actors playing the Trapp kids, and some clever dubbing from other professional nightingales.
The film was a somewhat of an embarrassment to Austria which had endeavored to show the Anschluss (Nazi takeover of the country) as a violent confrontation - the reality was they all but sauntered in and were soon made welcome by the large percentage of Austrians. More justifiably, they pointed out that the movie’s story line was inaccurate in all but the bare bones - the family did exist, there was a Maria and a Captain Georg von Trapp who married in 1927, and the kids were taught to sing. But the Captain - father Trapp and the governess - Maria, took on one another’s personalities in the movie…in real life, he was easy going and gentle, Maria the disciplinarian; most of the musical training was provided by a professional friend. Moreover, the family had nowhere near the opulent life that was shown in the movie.
Of course, the Sound of Music was made into a Holly wood film in 1965, well after the rise and descent into obscurity of the Von Trapp Singers.
They had, indeed, escaped into Switzerland (by train into Italy, not happily yodeling as they strolled across the Alps). From there, they had beat-feet to Ellis Island, entering the US on a six-month entertainment visa, which they parlayed rather cleverly - Maria was nothing if not determined - into a lifetime of residency.
They did carry on touring the US as singers with sort of gospel/Euro-folk overtones and were soon booked out for years in advance.
The money began to roll in as post-war Americans looked around to be entertained and the enterprising governess/husband bought a lovely property in Stowe, Vermont, that the family said reminded them of Austria. (Still there in von Trapp hands today I believe).
Some time in the late 1950’s, the family all but abandoned their musical career and became absorbed into the great American post-war dream in farming and other pursuits. They were still held together as a dynasty by the indomitable Maria until her death at 82 in 1987. (Capt. Georg passed on in 1947), and some of the children have found it difficult to form lasting relationships. However, there are a handful of grandchildren and close relatives alive and well able to tell their remarkable story to members of the media who still visit, as the Sound of Music still keeps a world’s interest alive.
There has been a German Sound of Music made which claims to be a more accurate representation of the real von Trapp’s and their adventures, plus many stage plays (since the book, then the original which began things in the late 1950’s).
I noted that the surviving family members all seem very well educated and have no aminus towards the rather farcical Hollywood account of their lives. Indeed, the movie kept the von Trapp’s from sliding into obscurity by the 1960’s and they are - or should be - most beholden to angel-voiced Julie Andrews (love that woman) and even po-faced, wooden, Christopher Plummer who seemed little enamored with his part.
I haven’t attempted to really address the life of the von Trapp’s in this hub, but just give the few who might be unfamiliar with the background an idea of whom they were.
Please forgive any inaccuracies in this account.
Note. Austria finally broke down and arranged their own stage musical of the Trapp's which was well received.