The Hills Are Alive! Behind The Scenes With The Sound of Music

The Sound of Music was an international phenomenon. Behind the music and compelling story, here’s the real scoop!

A Classic For Many Generations

The Sound of Music just turned 50 in 2015, but it’s not showing any signs of slowing down in popularity. The iconic musical, starring Julie Andrews as Maria, became wildly successful when it was first released on March 2, 1965, and it continued to gain momentum – it quickly surpassed Gone With The Wind to become the highest-grossing film of all time.

The Real Truth Will Be Revealed

Beyond the international popularity and award-winning recognition of the film, The Sound of Music is also one of the greatest movie musicals of all time. Going forward through the next slides, we will take a deeper look at this cultural and historical phenomenon, review interesting facts, and learn the real truth behind the von Trapp Family Singers.

The Reason The Story Was Told

The Sound of Music was loosely based on Maria von Trapp’s memoir, The Story of the Trapp Family Singers. The book was published by J.B. Lippincott Company of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1949. Although she claimed that she only wrote her story to prove that she had no writing skills, Maria’s story quickly became a bestseller.

From Books To Broadway

The more direct source for The Sound of Music film was the 1959 Broadway musical, with music by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein. Hammerstein died in 1960, so he never saw the film, but his work is still heard throughout the famous musical. But it’s also fair to say that the movie is also made even more famous by the music that defined it (via Rodgers and Hammerstein)!

Julie Andrews and Chris Plummer Really Didn’t Like Each Other

Julie Andrews was said to be an angel on set, but Christopher Plummer couldn’t handle just how nice and gentle the actress was! Plummer even confessed to the media that working with Julie Andrews was like, “getting hit over the head with a Valentine card.” Ouch. To add insult to injury, Plummer wasn’t shy about telling everyone how much he disliked the “sweet” nature of the film. He often referred to the film as “The Sound of Mucus,” and “S&M.”

Julie Andrews as Maria

Julie Andrews will be forever linked to the story of the young governess, Maria, who rises from such unremarkable beginnings to become the lady of the house. Her voice and the vibrancy of her character made the role come alive for audiences around the world, but it also became a career milestone. We will always remember Julie Andrews as linked with Maria von Trapp, with all her courage, tenacity, and her motherly ways.

Chris Plummer as Georg

Chris Plummer played a bit more abrupt of a character than the “real” Georg. The von Trapp family even appears to have taken issue with the cold way that Plummer impersonated the von Trapp patriarch. His acting had the marvelous effect of becoming the dark cloud that was the background against which Maria (played by Julie Andrews) shined.

Many times, the actors who play lovers or partners, can’t stand to be around each other or look at each other. This was just the case when it came to Christopher Plummer and Julie Andrews.

Endless Amounts Of Recognition

Although The Sound of Music was not the first (or last) adaptation, it is the most famous so far. It received five Academy Awards, including one for Best Director and Best Picture, but it also received two Golden Globe Awards for Best Actress and Best Motion Picture. And, those are only a few of the many awards and accolades. The 1965 musical also received the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Written American Musical and the Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement.

Following A Religious Path

The Sound of Music portrays Maria as a devout young novice, who feels the calling to join the church. With the early death of her parents, though, her foster parents raised her as an atheist. Even with the way she was raised, she still felt a calling to join the church, which eventually led her to the von Trapp family. The rest is history!

Music Makes You Mellow

In The Sound of Music, Maria encourages the children to sing, which brings a calming effect to the rambunctious children—in true Mary-Poppins fashion—but also helps to improve the relationship between the Captain and his children. The real story may be a bit less dramatic, but Maria did teach them to sing madrigals.

Rain, Rain Go Away

It was cold and rainy when the film crew captured all those beautiful panoramic views of the Alps for The Sound of Music film. Austria is well-known for the relative frequency of thunderstorms, but the weather for this movie shoot was worse than even what could have been expected.

Biking Through The Sound of Music

The biking tour by Maria and all the von Trapp children is a memorable, even carefree and fun part of The Sound of Music. It’s part of the process by which the children begin to know (and grow to love) Maria, but it’s also important because the children had not been allowed to play. That bike-tour experience is also now a part of tours related to The Sound of Music, through Salzburg, Austria.

Orphaned With Religious Fervor

Born on a train, Maria was orphaned and alone by the age of ten. She was then forced to live with and escape from a violent uncle. She naturally gravitated toward the Catholic church. Thrust into a teaching role, she intended to become a nun until her path was inextricably waylaid by the von Trapp Family.

There’s Something About Maria

The real-life Maria was really nothing like the sweet-but-passionate novice—in the romantic role, played by Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music—who becomes the governess for the Captain’s seven unruly children. But, given Maria’s true personal history, who can blame her?

She Really Held The Reins

While The Sound of Music film portrays Maria as a sweet soul that infiltrates the household of a commandeering father, in real life it was actually quite the opposite. After their marriage, real-life Maria managed the families finances and directed the way things were run, while real-life Georg was merely there for moral support.

An Unbelievable Snub

When the film came out in 1965, real-life Maria was still alive but she wasn’t even invited to the premiere! When she asked the producers if she could attend the premiere of a film based on her memoir, they told her no. This was because there apparently weren’t any seats left to offer.

Becoming A Singer

Julie Andrews also had a troubled childhood, which may explain why she played the role of Maria to such dramatic effect. We love to imagine her as the naïve governess who falls in love with the dashing hero. And like Maria, Julie’s identity became inextricably linked with her singing.

It Was Only A Matter Of Time

In The Sound of Music, the story condenses the entire story line — moving quickly from the initial introduction of Maria through her interactions with the von Trapp family and onto the decision to escape from Austria. Maria and Georg were married for 11 years before they were forced to leave their homeland.

She Only Signed Up For One Child

In The Sound of Music, Maria arrived at the von Trapp estate to take on the role of governess to seven children. According to her memoir, though, Maria was asked to become the governess for just one child: Maria von Trapp, who was recovering from scarlet fever.

Was It A Trapp?

In The Sound of Music, Maria becomes the governess for the seven von Trapp children, which omits three of the children in the family. There may have been any number of reasons to focus on seven instead of ten. Not only would it have added more kids to the mix, but it may have also been seen as a further complication to the story line.

What’s Love Got To Do With It?

The romance between Maria and Georg in The Sound of Music is pure fiction. While Maria said that she loved the von Trapp children at first sight, she didn’t fall in love with Georg until later. When she was torn between her religious calling or marrying him, the nuns advised her to marry Georg. The whirlwind romance and honeymoon does add that extra bit of spice to the epic plot, though.

You Can’t Blow Me Down

Who could forget the famous wide-angle film footage in The Sound of Music that depicts Maria singing and dancing on the mountain slopes? What’s even more memorable, though, is the story of how Julie Andrews was repeatedly knocked down by the downdraft of the helicopter, as it shot the footage.

Julie Always Bounces Back

The whole story dramatically demonstrates how film techniques and technology have evolved since 1965. After all, the footage could now be more easily captured via drones or even behind-the-scenes computer magic. The fact that she just kept getting back up also demonstrates something about the tenacity of the leading lady.

Cross Every Mountain

The scenery offers an unforgettable backdrop for The Sound of Music, particularly as Julie Andrews dances through the fields. As far as geography and the true-to-life story is concerned, the von Trapp family really wasn’t required to cross the Alps to escape from the Nazis.

It Wasn’t As Dramatic In Real Life

So, what was the real escape? They left their house, climbed on a train, and left Austria. It was really as simple as that, though the drama is much more interesting with the soldiers chasing after them. There’s also the heart-wrenching episode of love lost and the arduous trek over the Alps.

The Public Ate It Up

With all the turmoil in the world at the time that The Sound of Music was released, at least one critic called the film a “sugar-coated lie that people seem to want to eat.” Despite the mixed reviews, the public loved the film – the negative reviews did not stall the ever-more-overwhelming success of the film.

An Unforgettable Getaway For These Actors

The group of child actors spent a lot of time together during the filming of The Sound of Music. All the filming locations and many of the most personal off-beat, off-set moments from the movie are now part of tours in Salzburg, Austria. As we follow the map to the famous spots, we get the best possible sense of what the actors experienced as they were playing their parts for The Sound of Music.

By Any Other Name

The original title of the musical was: The Singing Hearts. Though it sounds a bit corny, the title perfectly captures the sweet-and-wholesome tone that the screenwriter and everyone else associated with the film was trying to portray. With an open heart, and holding tight to family, we can overcome even the most hopeless war-time experiences.

Julie Tells You About Her Favorite Things

Even if you don’t remember anything else from The Sound of Music, you probably remember “My Favorite Things,” a song written in 1959, as part of the Rodgers and Hammerstein music score. Originally associated with the Mother Abbess in her office, the song helps to create the perfect scene, as Maria sings the children through a thunderstorm.

It’s Not Even A Real Austrian Song

It seems like “Edelweiss” is an Austrian folk song, but the real story is that Hammerstein wrote the song as an afterthought, at the very last minute before the Boston tryout. The song was written specifically for the Captain von Trapp character. The song is a tear-jerker, with an unforgettable (even hopeful) message.

This Was Probably Traumatizing For Her

Another of the memorable incidents in The Sound of Music was the capsized rowboat. What’s even more troubling about the episode is the fact that the youngest star was not able to swim, so little Anthea Kimberly “Kym” Karath (playing Gretl) was continually dumped in the water and afraid of drowning. Kym now notes that she still doesn’t like the water.

Making The Most Of It

The Sound of Music is infamous for its big spaces and varied wardrobe, but the most memorable outfits were those that Maria created from the remnants of curtains. In the storyline, she wanted the children to have play clothes, and she didn’t have any funds for cloth, so she made use of the fabric that was available.

The Uncredited “Actors”

The “Lonely Goatherd” puppetry scene is another memorable part of The Sound of Music. Bill Baird designed the puppets, and he later donated them to Macnider Art Museum in Mason City. These hand-crafted puppets are just another example of movie memorabilia that is still left to us more than 50 years after the blockbuster film hit the big screen.

Nicholas Hammond as Friedrich

We remember Nicholas Hammond as Friedrich von Trapp in The Sound of Music, but he was also Peter Parker/Spider-Man in The Amazing Spider-Man series on CBS. His initial film debut was in the Lord of the Flies (1963). He also appeared in episodes of The Brady Bunch, General Hospital, and Hawaii Five-O.

Heather Menzies Urich as Louisa

Beyond her role as Louisa von Trapp in The Sound of Music, Canadian actress Heather Menzies Urich also took on the role of Jessica in Logan’s Run. Other film credits include: Endangered Species (1982), Piranha (1978), How Sweet It Is! (1968), and more. She appeared on The Love Boat, Captain America, T.J. Hooker, Bonanza, and Dragnet as well.

Angela Cartwright as Brigitta

Angela Cartwright is an English-born American actress. She was Brigitta von Trapp in The Sound of Music, but she was also Penny Robinson in Lost in Space. She appeared in My Three Sons, Adam-12, and The Love-Boat. She took on the role of Theresa Mazzetti in Beyond the Poseidon Adventure.

Debbie Turner as Marta

Debbie Turner is famous as the child actress who played Marta von Trapp, but she stopped acting after her role in The Sound of Music. After completing her education, she went into interior design, launching an event and floral design company: Debbie Turner Originals. Even though she isn’t a career actress, she’s still part of The Sound of Music commemorative events.

Kym Karath as Gretl

Anthea Kym Karath is an American actress, who took on the part of Gretl von Trapp, the youngest of the children. She later appeared on Family Affair, The Brady Bunch, Lost in Space, as well as All My Children, Lassie, and Spencer’s Mountain. Kym left acting for a number of years after her son was born in 1991.

Duane Chase (Kurt)

Duane Chase is an American, who played Kurt von Trapp on The Sound of Music. He discontinued his modeling and acting career after high school, and he went on to become a software engineer, after earning degrees in geology. He currently develops software for geologists and geophysicists.

Charmian Carr as Liesl

Charmian Carr was an American actress, known for the part she played as the eldest daughter, Liesl von Trapp, in the blockbuster movie The Sound of Music. We remember her as the beautiful young girl who sings and dances her heart out in “I Am Sixteen Going On Seventeen.” She left the film business and devoted her life to her family and children.

The Very First Loss

Charmian Carr passed away on September 17, 2016. She was the first prominent member of The Sound of Music cast to die, and her death was confirmed by her website and the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization. As reports said, her death at 73 was due to “a rare form of dementia.” Her fans, family, and friends still lament her loss.

Carrie Underwood Takes On Maria

It was the perfect time to resurrect The Sound of Music legacy and Carrie Underwood was the perfect choice to belt out the songs as Maria von Trapp. It’s really impossible to fill the very beautiful (and unforgettable) shoes of Julie Andrews, but the nostalgic impression and impact were awesome.

A Touching Tribute

It was a first for Lady Gaga, which is kind of a big deal in itself. She performed a medley of songs, including: “The Hills Are Alive,” “My Favorite Things,” “Edelweiss” and “Climb Ev’ry Mountain.” Then Julie Andrews came on stage and said, “It really warmed my heart, it really did.” The Sound of Music has a way of doing that (warming our hearts)!

But What About The Real von Trapps?

Despite the phenomenal success of the von Trapp family’s story, none of the actual von Trapps saw any profits from the film. After Maria’s memoir gained traction, she sold the film rights to German producers, but unknowingly also signed away any of her own rights to the story. American rights to the story were bought from German producers. This is probably why people mostly don’t know The Sound of Music is based on a real family.

The von Trapps Certainly Had An Opinion

In a 1998 interview with The New York Times, Johannes von Trapp (one of the children) said, “[i]t’s not what my family was about… [We were] about good taste, culture, all these wonderful upper-class standards that people make fun of in movies like ‘TitanicSound of Music‘ simplifies everything. I think perhaps reality is at the same time less glamorous but more interesting than the myth.”

In The Aftermath

The real von Trapps settled in Vermont in the 1940s, where Maria and five of her stepdaughters applied for U.S. citizenship. Two of the boys, Rupert and Werner, served in the U.S. armed forces during WWII. Two more of the von Trapp girls derived citizenship after Maria gained hers. The final von Trapp, Johannes, was born in the U.S. and was already a citizen.