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What Makes The Sound of Music a Phenomenon?

Updated on February 24, 2014

I love the Sound of Music (1965)! I first saw this movie when I was very young, probably 5 years old or so. My parents bought the movie soundtrack album and I played it until the lyrics to all of the songs were memorized. To this day, I watch the movie when it airs on network television. I even choreographed a dance to My Favorite Things when I was in high school.

When I lived in Vermont with my family during the late 1960s, we drove to Stowe to visit the Von Trapp Lodge. It was a simple large house and I was not impressed. It was not the opulent mansion you see in the movie and not the resort that is there today.

Differences Between Movie and the Original Story

When you go to the Von Trapp Lodge website, owned and managed by members of the Von Trapp family, they are careful to explain many of the differences between the real Von Trapp family and the family we came to know from the Rogers and Hammerstein musical. The names of the children were changed and the plot was enhanced,

  • To begin with, Maria was first hired as a tutor for one of the young children who was recovering from scarlet fever and was never a governess.
  • Maria originally fell in love with Georg's children not with Georg himself, that came later. Georg and Maria were married in 1927 and not in 1938, right before they left for the United States.
  • The Von Trapps were singing before Maria arrived, she didn't inspire their singing careers, however, she did push their singing once they arrived in the United States.
  • The Von Trapps fled Austria through Italy by train and did not climb the Alps on foot. For more information, you can also go to, the link is below.

Maria first wrote a book about their story in 1949. She sold the rights to her story to the German government for a flat fee. American producers in turn bought the rights from the Germans. Hence the Von Trapps never made any money directly from the American productions of the Sound of Music.

What makes this movie memorable?

Given the differences between the original story of the Von Trapp Family Singers and the Sound of Music, I still believe that the play and movie can stand on their own and are memorable.

One of the things that make this movie so unforgettable are the songs. They have fun lyrics and make you feel good when you hear them. My husband makes fun of the Edelweiss lyrics -- "small and white, clean and bright" he says it always makes him think of an ad for laundry soap.

There is also some great dialogue spoken by wonderful actors. The first scenes between Maria, Julie Andrews and Captain Georg Von Trapp, Christopher Plummer when the Captain calls each of his children with a whistle and tries to implement a whistle signal for Maria and she refuses. There is the jealousy that Baroness Schraeder, Eleanor Parker harbors toward Maria, who appears clueless, "is there anything you can't do?" is uttered sarcastically after The Lonely Goatherd marionette scene and number. The scene after Maria dances the Ländler with the Captain and Maria is invited to join the fancy dinner party. Baroness in her efforts to get Maria ready to join the party says, 'Why don't you put on that dress that you had on the day Georg couldn't keep his eyes off of you?" and goes on to explain how Georg is in love with her. Out of respect for the Baroness and her employer who are betrothed, Maria leaves the household. It had all the makings of a scene from a soap opera.

Of course, there is the song My Favorite Things that is sung during a storm when all the children, including the boys are afraid of the thunder and lightning. The Reverend Mother is oh-so-wise and gives such wonderful sage advice to Maria and through the song Climb Ev'ry Mountain tells her she must face her problems and not run away to the Abbey to avoid conflicts.

The Scenery

That opening helicopter sequence as the camera pans over the Alps before Julie Andrews belts out the title song, The Sound of Music is breathtaking. The scenes in Salzburg during the number Do Re Mi, and the romantic kisses in the gazebo that are shared by Liesl (Charmain Carr) and Rolfe (Daniel Truhitte) and later by Maria and the Captain give me goosebumps. The cathedral in the wedding sequence with the aerial shot of Maria walking down the aisle with her incredibly long train made wonder how she danced at her reception and the boys who are raised off the ground as they ring the wedding bells after the ceremony look like they were having fun.


The Wedding Party Landler

The Phenomenon

This movie has inspired a remarkable phenomenon. There are Sound of Music sing alongs, where moviegoers view the film with the lyrics to the songs as subtitles and members of the audience sing along, even in Austria. There are places where one can learn the version of the Landler used in the movie in folk dance classes. Bridal couples along with their wedding parties dance to this version at their receptions! As a publicity stunt, 200 dancers perform to "Do Re Mi" in Antwerp station.

So why is The Sound of Music a phenomenon? The acting, music, lyrics, movie direction, Austrian scenery? I think it's all that and more. I believe it's the nurturing, warmth and strength of the central characters, which is a credit to the original Maria and Georg and the story telling of Rogers and Hammerstein. Maria in particular is very endearing. She sang, went hiking, rode bikes, created marionettes and puppet shows, played the guitar, wasn't afraid to stand up to her boss, shared her talents and engaged each of the seven children who varied in age from 3 to 16 individually and as a group. Maria listened to problems, offered good advice, had a great song to rid your worries and made clothes from curtains ala Scarlett O'Hara. The movie exudes warmth which strikes a chord in people young and old alike. The Sound of Music is still one of my favorite movies and still has an impact on all generations who see it as my niece is now a fan of the film as well.

More than 200 dancers performed "Do Re Mi", in the Central Station of Antwerp.


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    • profile image

      mplo 6 years ago

      This is interesting info. Thanks for posting it, and sharing it with everybody.

    • ChaiRachelRuth profile image

      ChaiRachelRuth 8 years ago

      Thanks for the comment, I had a lot of fun writing and researching this piece.

    • LowellWriter profile image

      L.A. Walsh 8 years ago from Lowell, MA

      Good work. Thank you for answering my request! :)