The Sound of Music: The Ultimate Throwback

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Admit it—there’s at least one occasion in your life when you’ve seen this production, which graced the silver screen fifty-one years ago. Do the songs “Do-Re-Mi,” “My Favorite Things,” “Climb Ev’ry Mountain,” and “So Long, Farewell” sound familiar? Certainly, you’ve heard at least one of these tunes. From the iconic poster down to the catchy songs, the movie surely rings a bell to many.

The Sound of Music is based on the 1949 autobiography The Story of the Trapp Family, written by Maria von Trapp herself. Hollywood wanted its hands on it, but Maria refused due to the reason that the story would be disregarded, in favor of using the title only. In 1956, Wolfgang Reinhardt gave an offer worth $10,000. Unwillingly signing the deal, Maria surrendered not only the film rights, but her right to royalties as well. After a few weeks of becoming an American citizen, Reinhardt called her to ask if she could accept $9,000 (in cold, hard cash) all at once. Because she needed the money, Maria granted his request. The two German movies, Die Trapp Familie and its sequel Die Trapp Familie in Amerika, went on to become successful in Germany, Europe, and South Africa; they were released in 1956 and 1958, respectively. Maria was heavily involved in the screenplay, writing the screenplays for both films for the purpose of the accuracy of portrayal of her life.

 

Musicals were all the rage in the United States during the ’50s; work for the stage adaptation of the memoir began in 1958 with the Rodgers & Hammerstein team at the helm. It premiered in 1959 Broadway, running successfully for three years with 1,443 shows. The musical piqued the interest of Hollywood producers who wanted the musical to be made into a movie. The adaption, similar to its German counterpart, referred to Baroness von Trapp’s memories as source material. The film rights were bought from the German producers. It is widely known that Maria earned little profit from the German films and did not make any profit at all from the Hollywood production. Some scenes in the movie mirrored the direction set in the original adaptations but still drifted far from the original story. Although it hurt the Trapp purists, the movie’s (and its tunes’) success was unhindered.

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Set in the Austrian city of Salzburg, The Sound of Music revolves around protagonist Maria (Julie Andrews) as she is sent away from the abbey to become the governess of strict Captain von Trapp’s (Christopher Plummer) seven children. Full of mischief, the children initially disobey Maria until she wins them over with music, teaching them how to sing in the process.

Later on, a friend of Captain von Trapp named Max invites the children to sing at the local festival, much to the refusal of the captain. Although Captain von Trapp had been busy appealing himself to a haughty baroness with the intention to propose, he begins to take notice of Maria at a ball he hosts; the two then start to develop feelings for each other. Expected to join the Nazi ranks as they get ready to take over Austria, the captain chooses Maria as the family’s foray into a singing contest turns into a run from the Nazis.

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With its story, captivating scenery, and infectious music, The Sound of Music not only bagged five Academy Awards but also captured the hearts of millions who saw the film. Today, it remains to be a classic musical masterpiece beloved by many—indeed, the hills are still alive with the sound of music.

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by Rosalie H. Contino, PhD