SoundofMusicPoster

“The hills are alive, with the sound of music…”

– Title Drop in the film’s opening

 

As the song goes, “Let’s start from the very beginning, a very good place to start…”

In September of 1938, Georg and Maria von Trapp, who, along with their seven children, made up the talented singing group The Von Trapp Family Singers, emigrated from Austria to America to escape the growing hostility of Hitler’s early years in power. Their story was made into a film in 1956, “The Trapp Family”, which was seen by Broadway director Vincent J. Donehue. He thought it would be the perfect vehicle for his actress friend Mary Martin and brought on Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, aka Rodgers and Hammerstein, aka the songwriting team known for “South Pacific” and “The King and I” among others, to write a couple of songs for it. Eventually R&H ended up turning the play with music into a full-out musical, and in the process created one of the most iconic and beloved shows to date. The original production won five out of its nine nominated Tonys, many of its songs have become vocal standards, and it’s enjoyed countless revivals on Broadway and the high school theater circuit (I myself was in my school’s production; despite the fact I had a good chance of playing Liesl I got the role of the housekeeper because the director liked to play favorites when casting).

Naturally the show’s success meant a film adaptation was inevitable, and much of the show’s original creative team was on board. Cancer had other plans, however, and it sadly took the life of Oscar Hammerstein shortly after the original theatrical production premiered, leaving Rodgers to re-work the music and write new songs on his own. Despite losing half of Rodgers and Hammerstein, there wasn’t much difficulty in getting the film made apart from coaxing Robert Wise – who had already directed the Oscar-winning adaptation of West Side Story and was the first choice to direct this movie – to sign on. Another first choice to play Maria was Julie Andrews, who screenwriter Ernest Lehman clamored to join immediately after seeing her in Mary Poppins. A much harder actor to get was Christopher Plummer for the role of Captain Von Trapp; he eventually agreed but only if he could work with Lehman to improve the character. Normally when an actor does this it rarely turns out well (and Plummer later admitted that he was quite arrogant at the time due to his successful stage career), but I think Plummer’s enhancements were a major improvement to Captain Von Trapp, and I’ll get into why later.

The Sound of Music is often cited by critics and theater fans in general as one of the greatest musicals of all time, and arguably the best stage-to-screen adaptations to date – and they’re not wrong. As someone who’s been in the stage version, I personally think the movie is even better (and that’s not bitterness towards the director talking). The musical numbers are iconic to the point of being parodied countless times AND most revivals of the show go out of their way to incorporate elements from the film rather than follow the show’s original book. The Hollywood Bowl in California has a sing-along with the movie every year that always sells out, Austria has a popular tour route that visits locations where the film was shot, it’s been shown annually on ABC during the holidays since 1976, and it has the unusual distinction of being Seth McFarlane’s favorite movie (then again, looking at how many times he’s referenced it on his shows, it’s no big surprise. I swear he hosted the Oscars just so he could make this joke when introducing Christopher Plummer).

So after all that buildup, how does the film hold up? Let’s find out.

 

We open on a version of the 20th Century Fox logo without the traditional fanfare. Sounds weird, huh? It’s hard to imagine it without the music that always accompanies it, but it leads into the film in a way that took Robert Wise a lot of convincing on his part to accomplish, and pays off brilliantly. The film truly begins on a montage of the Austrian countryside, starting through the clouds and flying over the mountains. I remember hating this part as a kid because there was no music and it felt like it dragged on forever. It was something I never truly appreciated until I was older, however. Slowly the film draws us into its world, showing us the majesty  and making us anticipate the  Also, thanks to the magic of blu-ray, we can hear the orchestra starting up in places like snatches of birdsong on the wind, all leading up to the film’s most iconic shot – in one long take, we pull in on a vast green hill, where a tiny lone figure climbs up and spins in rapture as we draw closer.

And the opening song…my words can do no justice. Enjoy.

Everything from the visuals to Julie Andrew’s beautiful voice makes it one of the greatest film openings of all time. I admit, it’s hard for me not to get a little choked up seeing it.

The sound of church bells calls Maria away and after returning for her discarded habit, she runs to the abbey. After the opening credits, we see the nuns in the abbey performing mass, and regardless of whether or not you’re religious in any capacity, this whole scene is beautifully shot. It gives you the idea of how these nuns live, showing their devotion to God through their solemnity.

After the mass, Mother Abbess (Peggy Wood) is approached by one of the sisters who is searching for Maria. Mother Abess recommends searching somewhere unusual since Maria herself is “unusual”. This leads into her and the rest of the nuns, Sister Margaretta, Berthe and Sophia (Anna Lee, Portia Nelson and Marni Nixon respectively) discussing the situation that is Maria – she is a novice hoping to take her vows, but she has a youthful enthusiasm and playfulness that is impossible to tame. Sisters Margaretta and Sophia find her antics amusing, but Sister Berte finds her immature and out of place in the abbey. The others are split, and they sing about her transgressions – her lateness for everything except supper, her honest penance but (gasp!) singing in the abbey – in “How Do You Solve a Problem Like a Maria”, a tune that’s impossible to get out of your head once you hear it. As if to prove their point, Maria herself interrupts the number by running in to wash up and sneak into the chapel, only to realize she’s been caught and skulks off.

Also, if I may, I’d like to give a shout-out to Marni Nixon. You’ve probably heard her sing in a lot of other classic musicals but have never seen her face – this is because she was hired to dub over the singing for some of the actresses. Natalie Wood in West Side Story, Deborah Kerr in The King And I, and Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady are all guilty of “stealing” her voice.

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Robert Wise liked Miss Nixon enough to recognize that she could act as well as sing, and gave her a role in the film. It’s nice that after a long time of singing behind the scenes, she was able to finally do so onscreen.

Mother Abbess calls Maria into her study to talk to her about her habits (bad-dum-tish). Though Mother Abbess insists there’s no need for apologies, Maria does so profusely for not being able to resist enjoying some time in the mountains. They hold a lot of significance for her, as she not only spent her childhood days playing there but also heard the nuns singing vespers and watched them at work, which inspired her to join them. She does admit, however, that she has trouble fitting into the conventional lifestyle of the abbey due to her outspokenness, irrepressible spirit and urge to always sing (well at least we can blame the latter  on the fact that this is a musical). It’d be easy to write Maria off as a blithe spirit oblivious to the world around (the Animaniacs parody, as hilarious as it is, does this) but Julie Andrews grounds her with a real desire to please and conform to the sisters’ ways. And God help me if I don’t chuckle a little at this line: “You know how Sister Berthe makes me kiss the floor every time we have a disagreement? Lately I’ve taken to kissing the floor when I see her coming just to save time.”

Mother Abbess tells her that she’s clearly not prepared to take on the role she desires and suggests she spends some time outside the abbey’s walls to find out what God has in store for her. In spite of Maria’s pleas, she informs her that the Von Trapp family is in need of a governess for their seven – seven! – children and her warm attitude towards kids makes her the perfect candidate.

So Maria, not out of spite or punishment, is shipped out to Salzberg the next morning, away from the safe confines of the abbey to see if the nun’s life is truly for her. She starts out her journey timid and fearful, but as she sings her next song “I Have Confidence”, her…confidence in herself grows stronger, faltering only when she first lays on the vast Von Trapp estate. This is one of the two songs Rogers wrote on his own for the movie after Hammerstein’s passing, and it’s not bad for a solo effort. A bit different sounding from all the others, but most of them are earworms anyway and this one is no exception.

Maria is greeted by the butler whom she initially mistakes for the Captain and is told to wait for him in the foyer. She can’t help but be curious about her new surroundings however and peeks inside a closed-off golden ballroom.

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“Oh if only I had a Beast to dance with right about now…”

Unfortunately she’s caught by Captain Von Trapp, who is understandably peeved at finding her snooping about, least of all in places that don’t hold any significance to him and especially his late wife whatsoever, thank you very much. Christopher Plummer as the Captain is a lot of things – aloof, a touch smarmy, confident, a man of deep integrity with a calm, assertive demeanor that hides his lingering pain at losing his wife. The first three adjectives are the only ones that come through in the stage version though, and it wasn’t until the rewrites that Plummer demanded that the Captain became an interesting character in his own right. You can expect him to follow the story arc you already know he’ll go through from reading these past few sentences, but Christopher Plummer’s sardonic delivery and the time devoted to seeing him interact with other characters makes him a vast improvement over his counterpart, whose only trait seems to be the need to contradict everything people tell him to do and love his country.

The Captain runs his house as ship-shape as he does his own navy. Just to prove what a hardass disciplinarian he is, he summons his children down with a whistle and asks Maria to memorize their individual signals. Maria defies him – and not for the first time in this movie – by rightfully telling him that using a whistle to call human beings like they were animals is downright humiliating. She also unwittingly puts the shoe on the other foot by asking what his signal will be in case she needs him. The frustrated Captain leaves her to get acquainted with the children, five girls (Liesl, Louisa, Brigitta, Marta, and Gretl) and two boys (Friedrich and Kurt) ranging from teenagers to preschoolers. The kids, who know a thing or two about scaring away previous governesses, attempt to send her packing with a few pranks, but Maria takes the saying “fight hate with love” to a new level by saying a very heartfelt and borderline passive-aggressive grace at dinner that sends them into tears (OUCH. Bottom line, don’t mess with Maria!)

That same evening, a “terribly important” telegram boy named Rolf delivers a notice to Captain Von Trapp and uses the visit as an excuse to spend some time with Liesel after dinner.  The two are in the throes of first love and they plot ways to see each other without having to sneak out of the house or deliver false telegrams. Rolf does admit that he may be away for a while because he’s part of something important, something big that’s coming…something that’s headed by a German…

Oyyyyy…..

Anyway, all unfortunate future implications aside, they act out fantasies of romance in “Sixteen Going on Seventeen”. Rolf playfully teases Liesl for not being prepared for the world and Liesl plays the part of naive young schoolgirl depending on her man though she’s clearly the one calling the shots in this scene. It turns into a wonderfully filmed and choreographed dance in a gazebo as a storm breaks out, which I admire especially for the fact that they managed to pull it off in such a small enclosed space and with the actress playing Liesl suffering an injured ankle at the time. It culminates in the two sharing a sudden first kiss, which is killed by Rolf running off as Liesl screams “WHEEEEEE!” while lightning goes off like she’s a freaking witch.

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“I’ll get you my pretty, and your little Führer too! WHEEEEEEEE!!!!”

Meanwhile, Maria is getting ready for bed and prepping herself for a week alone with the kids – the Captain is going to Vienna to see the Baroness Elsa Von Schrader, a woman whose company he’s been seeking quite often. The housekeeper, Frau Shmidt, brings Maria some new material for her clothes and dishes out some info on the Captain – as is expected, he’s banished all music from the household because it reminds him of his late wife and even avoids spending time in the mansion or with his children for the same reason. She also tells her that the Captain is considering asking the Baroness to marry him, though she ain’t exactly mother material if you get her drift.

Maria gets ready for bed but her prayers are interrupted by a soaked Liesl sneaking in through the window. She’s quite understanding, however, and helps her to clean up so no one will notice she was out. It’s a rather nice moment considering how earlier Liesl stated she was too old for a governess and learns accepts Maria’s friendship.

The sounds of the thunderstorm scare the other children into her room. To take their minds off it, Maria suggests they think of things that make them happy, like raindrops on roses, and whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens, brown paper packages tied up with –

Oh come on, don’t tell me you didn’t start singing it too!

Out of all the songs in the movie, “My Favorite Things” is probably the one everyone remembers the most, and it’s my personal favorite. It’s impossible to forget the words and you can feel every ounce of joy in Julie Andrews’ voice as she sings it. She and the all the kids get swept up in the fun until –

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“You’re having a slumber party and I wasn’t invited?!”

Captain Von Buzzkill sends them back to bed, berates Maria for her lack of discipline and brushes off her request for more fabric so she can make the children something other to wear than their sailor uniforms. That’s when Maria notices the curtains…

The next day, Maria takes the kids on a jolly holiday through Salzberg in their…colorful new outfits and they bond via happy times montage. While on a picnic in the mountains, Maria decides to teach the children a song to sing for the Baroness when she arrives and is surprised to learn that they don’t know any songs since their father forbids music (I’m starting to sense a pattern here). She teaches them how to sing through THE biggest earworm in the entire musical (and that’s saying a lot since we literally just got through four of them), “Do Re Mi”. This was the very first song I remember ever hearing from The Sound of Music. In grade school once a week we had music class, which was essentially nothing more than a guy with a guitar coming to the classroom, handing us some xeroxed song lyrics and leading us in a sing-along for twenty minutes. “Do Re Mi” was one of those songs, though I wouldn’t learn where it came from until I joined a children’s theater group and we did a short revue of familiar tunes from The Sound of Music.

Soon the kids are prancing about the city singing their hearts out while everyone else around them simply ignores them or doesn’t care (as is the way in musicals). This includes the Captain himself, who, while driving back home with the Baroness and their friend Max (Richard Hadyn), spots the children playing along the road but doesn’t quite recognize them. Max is a musical talent scout hoping to find a new act to manage for the annual Salzberg Music Festival (and in case you’re wondering, yes, that is a real festival they hold every year). The Baroness and the Captain, however, are more interested in getting closer to each other. Seeing them together you get the idea that he’s tried to fill the void his wife left by showering himself in alternating doses of discipline at home and decadence with the Baroness (and Eleanor Parker’s affections don’t hurt either). The Baroness does point out that as much as he denies it, he seems more at home here than out in the city. This is where those additions Christopher Plummer requested pay off and give the Captain that much needed bit of depth.

Then Maria and the children return from their outing on a canoe and as is the case in these movies, they wind up tipping over the boat on seeing the Captain is home. The children revert to standard discipline mode and go get changed while the Captain chews out Maria for deliberately disobeying him. Maria in turn lashes out at him for ignoring his own kids and instilling fear in them rather than love.

 

The Captain is ready to show Maria the door…

 

But then something happened that hadn’t before.

 

The sound of kids singing started up low…

Then it started to grow…

 

And what happened then?

Well, in Salzberg they say,

That the Captain’s small heart

Grew three sizes that day.

SoM4Moved by the first bit of music he’s heard in his own home in years, or perhaps seeing how his happy children are and remembering how he used to be, the Captain joins in their reprise of “The Sound of Music” before tearfully embracing them.  This act not only charms the Baroness but gets the Captain to realize how wrong he’s been and he asks Maria to stay with them. This scene may sound contrived, but darn it, something about it gets me every time.

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“Playing games, singing songs…you’re a loose cannon, Fraulein Maria, but dammit you get results!”

This directly leads into another song (geez, for a movie called The Sound of Music I forgot just how much music there is!) The children and Maria put on a puppet show to entertain the Captain, Baroness and Max. Funny story, in the original and most other stage productions, this song, “The Lonely Goatherd”, is sung by Maria and the children in place of “My Favorite Things”, and “My Favorite Things” is sung earlier between Maria and Mother Abbess before she leaves the abbey. I think the switch on both accounts works in favor of the movie, so much that most revivals follow the film’s example, even if “The Lonely Goatherd” adds little to the overall plot other than being another song that will pop in your head when you least expect it and drive you nuts all day. Also, if you have a fear of puppets, you’re probably better off skipping this part. I personally find them to be charming, but I know a few people who tend to disagree.

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It’s the eyes, man, the freaking EYES…

Max in particular is enthralled by the children’s singing talent and suggests to the Captain that they form a group he can enter in the music festival. The Captain is still as stubborn as ever even after his change of heart and refuses to let his family be turned into a spectacle. He does, however, let Maria and the kids turn the mic over to himself and perform the heartfelt “Eidelweiss” on guitar. The song’s popularity in the years following the film led to many people mistaking it for Austria’s national anthem (not all that surprising considering how it returns in the second act). It’s also a way for the Captain to show his pride in his native country, which, as I just mentioned, will come up again later. It’s another of the film’s well-done tender moments, but the Baroness can’t help but notice how Maria and the Captain are looking at each other while he sings…

Shortly after, the Captain and Baroness hold a ball where the cream of Austrian society is invited…and a couple of those no-good Nazi supporters too (they should really put limitations on who your plus-one is for these occasions). It’s here in addition to Rolf’s hinting to Liesl about his interests other than being an “important telegram boy” earlier that we see some political dissent on the horizon and the Captain doesn’t take the threat of a German invasion quietly.

The children watch the dancing from the veranda and attempt it themselves, only for Maria and the Captain to school them. They perform the traditional Austrian folk dance the Laendler, which being a non-Austrian I can only describe as a mix of a waltz, a quadrille and the Mexican Hat dance, but by the time it’s over Maria realizes it may have been more than a simple demonstration.

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Uh-oh, Vaseline-Vision. Somebody’s in loooove…

Soon it’s time for the children to head on up to bed, but not before they bid their guests goodnight with one more song.

And if you need further proof that Seth McFarlane loves this movie, here’s the parody I go to every time I hear it –

The Captain invites Maria to dine with them and the Baroness volunteers to help her find a suitable dress. Alone in her room she heaps on the thinly-veiled jealousy until she forces Maria to realize that she does indeed have feelings for the Captain, and perhaps he might be reciprocating them. The Baroness subtly suggests she return to the abbey rather than hurt each other by saying anything. Maria rushes to pack her things and the Baroness leaves her on one hell of a stone cold note –

“Goodbye, Maria. I’m sure you’ll make a a very fine nun.”

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Schraeder, you magnificent bitch.

With her betrothal to the Captain and a direct opportunity to get Max his children’s choir assured, the Baroness and Max toast to the future while Maria changes back to her old dress and sneaks out out of the house.

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Act Two begins in the Von Trapp household, which has become as dour as it used to be now that Maria has been gone for some time. The children are in no mood to sing, no matter how much Max tries to encourage them, and the Captain especially is brought down by her sudden departure though he’s keeping a stiff upper lip. He does announce to the kids that the Baroness is to be their new mother, but neither party is as overjoyed as they hoped. Despite her best efforts to get on with the children and play with them, the Baroness is no substitute for Maria.

The kids decide to seek out Maria at the abbey, but the nuns tell them that she’s in seclusion and turn them away. Her isolation worries Mother Abbess and the other nuns, and she is eventually brought to the reverend mother to see why. Maria confesses that she’s returned to hide from her love. Mother Abbess tells her in the inspirational song “Climb Every Mountain” that she cannot hide from her troubles and has to face them in order to live the life she is meant to. It’s a song I’m a bit mixed on; on one hand, the lyrics are inspirational and the orchestration and Peggy Wood’s soprano makes it soar. On the other hand, it feels a bit repetitive, the framing is largely static as opposed to the grand melody, and I had to sing this fifty times at my eighth grade graduation so…meh.

The children return home where their father interrogates them on where they’ve been. The kids try to lie to him about being out picking berries but he is on to them from the get-go. Christopher Plummer cranks up the dry humor to 11, smiling and nodding as their lies fall apart around him. (The scene from The Jungle Book where Shere Kahn confronts Kaa springs to mind). In the end, he tells them since they must be so full of the thousands of berries they found, there’s no need for them to have their supper tonight.

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Von Trapp, you magnificent bitch.

The kids turn to song once more to lift their spirits, only to find someone joining in with them – Maria! Everyone is happy again…until Maria learns that the Captain and the Baroness are to be wed (well, that’s what happens when you wait too long, Maria. You snooze, you lose). The Captain is surprised and rather pleased that Maria has returned, but the Baroness isn’t worried. She’s got the rock, so her rule is assured, right?

lightning

That night after dinner, Maria wanders into the garden, unaware of the Captain watching her. The Baroness interrupts his deep thinking with talk of honeymoon plans, but he’s clearly uninterested. Finally, he forces himself to admit that he no longer feels for her the she does for him. It’s clear to all that his heart now belongs to Maria.

But of course, the Baroness isn’t going to let him go without a fight. She wails at him for backing out, she and Maria get into a huge catfight and it ends with her stomping out humiliated after the children play one hilarious naughty prank on her…

…at least that’s how it would be if this was made, say, during the mid-to-late 90’s era of most kids’ films.

I will give this movie a lot of credit for handling what would otherwise be the shrewish romantic partner backing out of your usual love triangle as maturely as possible. For one thing, even though Baroness Schraeder has more than her fair share of bitchy moments, she still acts like a real human being, and the movie respects her enough to treat her as one. Sure she was planning to have the kids shipped off to boarding school, but that was because she realized she didn’t know how to handle the burden of being both a mother and a wife. Plus, she’s already rich, so she’s not after the Captain for his wealth. She really does love him, and when she finds that he doesn’t love her anymore, you can see how much it hurts her. Still, she lets him go in her own way, spinning it around so that she has her own frivolous reasons why they can’t get married, clearly trying to mask her pain. She accepts that she can’t have him and departs gracefully, even giving him one last push in Maria’s direction to know she’s fine with letting her win. In the musical the reasons why the Baroness and Captain go their separate ways have almost nothing to do with Maria. The Captain finds that the Baroness would rather play nice with the Nazis than stand up to them, and her and Max’s urges to compromise his beliefs for his own safety fall on deaf ears. Unable to reconcile their differences, they break off the engagement just in time for Maria to return and the Baroness makes a rather passive-aggressive exit on seeing her. Point – movie.

The Captain meets Maria in the gazebo (possibly a nod to Liesl and Rolf’s scene in the first act) where they finally confess their love through the other Rodgers-only song, “Something Good”.  The song itself is decent and subdued, not to mention a far better alternative to the other one originally featured in the musical, but how it’s captured is what makes it so memorable. It is one of the most beautifully shot moments in the entire film and it adds to the romance. The closeups are in soft light, but for most of the time the couple is seen in complete silhouette against the blue night. Any frame taken from these few minutes looks like a painting.

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So, there you have it. Maria and the Captain are married, the children have a new mother, and there’s love and music back in the Von Trapp household for good. Looks like it’s happily ever after, right?

 

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Aw crap…

Yes, while Georg and Maria are enjoying their lengthy honeymoon, the Anschluss happens, and Austria along with much of Europe is now under German control. Even preparations for the music festival – which Max has taken the liberty of signing the children up for behind their father’s back – has an undercurrent of tension. What’s more, Liesl has a run-in with Rolf who’s gone all Hitler Youth and is too busy zeig-heiling to give her the time of day.

Maria and the Captain return home after a month away (daaaaaaaaaamn!) only to find their beloved country has taken a turn for the worse. While Maria and Liesl have a girl talk, the Captain receives distressing news: he’s been offered a commission in the German navy, one which, if refused, would be his and his family’s death sentence. Their only choice is to make a dash for the border before it closes. It won’t be easy with the kids and leaving everything they know behind, but it’s better than the alternative.

The following night, the family and Max quietly leaves the house, not even daring to start the car until they’re far from home for fear of attracting attention. Unfortunately once they get out the gates –

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“Guten evening, Herr Plummer. Whatever are you doing out this late?”

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“Ummm…I’m on my way to play a villain in a good Pixar movie?”

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“Okey-dokey, then – hey, that movie isn’t out for another 44 years!”

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“All right, you caught me. I’m on my way to play a villain in a mediocre Don Bluth movie.”

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“Oh, ok. That’s – hey! THAT movie’s not out for another 26 years!”

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“Uhh…we’re going to sing in a festival?”

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“What a coincidence! That’s where we’re headed too! Need a lift?”

Now the entire Von Trapp family is herded into singing at the music festival, and with a party to escort the Captain out to sea once it’s over they’re gonna have a hard time getting out of this mess. They entertain the masses with a reprise of “Do-Re-Mi” that for some reason turns the “drink with jam and bread line” into this grand finale (I never got that, do you?) It’s followed by Georg performing “Eidelweiss”, this time as a love song to his country. He has difficulty getting through it on his own until his family joins him, and then the entire audience as a show of solidarity and subtle middle finger to the Nazis in the wings.

Max, who happens to also be running the concert, bids the family as quick and heartfelt a farewell a shyster like him can knowing this will probably be the last time he ever sees them, and allows them to perform one more song together while the judges determine the winner (which would probably be distracting for the judges and have the side effect of them leaning egregiously in their favor but who cares, there’s fifteen minutes of runtime left and they need to be filled with as much music as possible even if they are nothing but reprises). The family sings “So Long, Farewell”, though there seems to be a lot of suspicious glancing as each of the children exits the stage.

The song wraps up, Max announces the winners (the 20th Century Fox fanfare plays for each one that receives their prize, nice touch) with first place going to…the Von Trapp Family!

The Family Von Trapp!

The Von Trapp Family Singers!

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“They’re gone!”

As great a twist as this is, I have to wonder just how they got past all the security to escape? The entire concert hall was as secure as your average airport on red alert. Did the kids that leave the song every few verses walk by the Nazis saying “Uh, we left something in the car, we’ll be right back,” and pray they were too stupid to notice they had all piled in and drove off until it was too late?

The Nazis search the entire town for the Von Trapps, including the abbey, which happens to be exactly where they’re hiding. The sisters and Mother Abbess do their best to keep them off their scent while the family plots their next move – the borders have been officially closed, so there’s no way out of the country…unless they take Mother Abbess’ advice to Maria literally and climb every mountain until they reach Switzerland. As ridiculous as the odds are, it’s their best chance of escaping to freedom. Mother Abbess hides them in the crypt and reminds Maria that they will never be alone on their journey – “I will lift up mine eyes into the hills from whence comes thy help.”

The Nazis inspect the crypt and damn if it isn’t a tense scene. There’s more than a few close calls and no music to underscore it, which makes it even more nerve-wracking. The one moment that lightens it somewhat is when Gretl, the youngest of the children, asks if singing about their favorite things would make this less scary and Maria has to assure her that this is the one time where it absolutely would not.

Satisfied, the soldiers leave, but one young stormtrooper stays behind and catches the family coming out – Rolf. The Captain bravely tries to talk Rolf down, stepping closer even as Rolf holds him at gunpoint. He can see Rolf is trying to be what the Germans think is a brave man, though he’s nothing but a scared boy. He manages to get the gun out of his hand and tells him he will never be like one of them.

 

But of course, remembering his love for Liesl before their opposing sides drove them apart, Rolf chooses to let her and her family go as one last favor…

 

…in the stage version.

 

Yeah, you thought this happy ending was gonna be handed to them? In the movie Rolf fucking rats them out like the little Nazi asswipe he is. Not that you can completely blame him with the Captain taunting that he’ll never be like “them” and calling him nothing but a boy throughout the whole movie while he’s trying to act like an adult, but still, the hell Rolf? Is this how you really want the only girl you’ll probably ever kiss to remember you?

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“Rolf, what about us? You and me? We? We?? WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE?????”

The Von Trapps get to their car and make a break for it with the bad guys hot on their heels. The Nazis are forced to give up the chase, however, when they find that their vehicles are having trouble starting up. Sisters Margaretta and Berthe approach Mother Abbess and confess that they have sinned.

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So the Von Trapps get away, and the last we see of them is a beautiful helicopter shot of them going over the hills as “Climb Every Mountain” plays us out.

SoM17

“Wait, we’re heading towards Hitler’s summer home! Everybody turn around!” “Awwwwww, we’ve been walking this way for twelve hours!!”

And that is The Sound of Music, one of the greatest musical movies of all time (and longest at 3 hours and 20 songs). It’s a visual and musical splendor and a decent dramatization of the Von Trapp family (even if the whole Nazi subplot seems to come out of nowhere by the second act and their escape is greatly exaggerated). It was a box-office smash, it swept the Oscars that year, saved 20th Century Fox from bankruptcy after Cleopatra’s historical failure, and is considered by many to be the apex of the movie musical-era of the 60’s. Sure, some critics initially panned the movie for being too sweet and pandering to kids, but time has been considerably kinder to it, and I say anyone who’s interested in filmmaking has to see this movie just for its visuals.

You know who shared those caustic critics’ opinion, however?

Christopher Plummer.

For years he never had a nice word to say about the film or his experience making it. He would refer to it as “The Sound of Mucus” or “S&M”, and said working with Julie Andrews was like being hit over the head with a greeting card all day. He simply couldn’t understand why it was so beloved. It wasn’t until around the film’s 50th anniversary that he saw his granddaughter watching it with her friends and enjoying it that it finally got through to him. When he reunited later with Julie Andrews, he looked at her, smiled, and said, “We really made something good, didn’t we?”

I guess that’s a way of viewing this movie – parts of it can be remembered for being saccharine and overly wholesome, but when you put it in context, it’s a good experience, and deserves the reputation it has. Give it a watch when you can.


Thank you for reading. If you like what you see and want more reviews, vote for what movie you want me to look at next by leaving it in the comments or emailing me at upontheshelfshow@gmail.com. Remember, you can only vote once a month. The list of movies available to vote for are under “What’s On the Shelf”.

We all know that in the movie Maria makes up some phrases to go with the Do-Re-Mi scales so the kids can remember them in order, but now I’m going to make up some of my own:

Do, some cash, a wad of cash

Please send some on its Re to Me

…by clicking here if you can spare it.

Any donation is greatly appreciated no matter if it’s from near or Fa

So, don’t La-llygag and if you give a bit today you’ll be my sweet-Ti.

…And that brings us back to Do, do, do, doD’OH!

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