Director: Robert Wise
Starring: Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer, Eleanor Parker, Richard Haydn, Peggy Wood, Charmian Carr, Heather Menzies, Nicholas Hammond, Duane Chase, Angela Cartwright, Debbie Turner, and Kym Karath
Academy Awards (1966):
Best Director: Robert Wise
Best Film Editing: William Reynolds
Best Music, Scoring of Music, Adaptation or Treatment: Irwin Kostal
Best Picture: Robert Wise
Best Sound: James Corconan (20th Century Fox-SSD), Fred Hynes (Todd-AO SSD)
Academy Award Nominations:
Best Actress in a Leading Role: Julie Andrews
Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Peggy Wood
Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Color: Boris Leven, Walter M. Scott, Ruby T. Levitt
Best Cinematography, Color: Ted D. McCord
Best Costume Design, Color: Dorothy Jeakins
Salzburg, Austria, 1938
Maria (Andrews), a postulant in the local abbey is assigned as the new governess for the von Trapp family. Georg von Trapp (Plummer), an ex-naval officer grieves the loss of his wife and runs his home like one of his ships. As Maria encourages the children to sing and play, Georg remembers and brings music back into the home for the first time since his wife’s passing. As time passes, Maria and Georg fall in love and marry. Meanwhile, the Nazis move to occupy Austria, and Georg must decide whether to take a commission thrust upon him in the German Navy or flee with his family to Switzerland.
This is one of many films I’ve watched a number of times when I was younger, and it’s interesting to re-watch it now that I’m older. I suppose it’s because my perspectives have changed, which is natural when one grows up. The Sound of Music is a film that has had such a broad appeal over the years that I just can’t see it ever fully going away. Yes, there’s a live production of it on NBC tonight, but that to me serves as a testament to how popular and enjoyed the original film still is today.
As a film shot in 1965, The Sound of Music has a lot of great cinematography. I watched the 40th Anniversary DVD edition for this review, and I really enjoyed the long, scenic shots throughout the film. Robert Wise, who had directed The Day the Earth Stood Still and West Side Story, among many others, had really mastered the craft at this point in his career, and the care given to the cinematography and balance of story really helps the musical numbers and plot flow smoothly throughout.
A number of key roles could have gone to other actors. Julie Andrews, who was 30 at the time of this film, gives a very standout and mature performance as Maria, a free spirit and genuinely caring to the point of being somewhat naive of a person. She strikes a nice balance of being fun but firm. The real life Maria was much stricter, and in contrast Georg wasn’t so hard of a task master as he is portrayed. However, for the purposes of the film, Andrews does great.
Christopher Plummer was not all that thrilled with his performance and the film in general. However, over the years he has come to appreciate The Sound of Music’s place in film history. I don’t know that he gave the best performance, but he does a good job in his transition from grieving father seeking control to appreciating his family and learning to love them again and falling in love with Maria.
Earning an Academy Award nomination for her performance, Peggy Wood does a wonderful job as the Reverend Mother. She brings a great motherly dynamic for Maria, and serves as a strong, wise counsel. Her scenes are among my favorite in the film because she helps Maria make sense of all her confusion. There was also a good balance of her screen time, I think any more would have diminished her character, and any less would have made her far less effective.
Not to be overlooked, the real star of The Sound of Music has to be, of course, the music. Oscar Hammerstein II and Richard Rogers have no doubt created a masterpiece collection of songs. They are, I would imagine, among the most widely-known songs from film. My personal favorite, and one of my all-time favorite songs, is Edelwiess. Since 2005, an annual “Sound of Music Sing-A-Long,” which has featured members of the cast and some of the actual Von Trapp Family Singers has been hosted by the Hollywood Bowl. It has sold out every year.
The Sound of Music is a good example of how a story is “based on real events.” There were a number of changes from what actually happened. Maria and the Captain were married for a number of years before the Nazi occupation. The von Trapp family had also lost a great deal of their wealth. The Captain was seriously considering taking the commission with the Nazis more out of financial necessity than anything else. Salzburg is also nowhere near Switzerland, so fleeing and hiking through the mountains would have been entirely impractical. By the time the film was made, the von Trapp’s had long since sold the rights to their story.
Entertaining, enjoyable, and timeless, The Sound of Music has stayed popular and beloved for nearly 50 years. With fun musical numbers, strong character chemistry, and breathtaking scenery, this film has a wide range of appeal that can be enjoyed by someone 8 to 80, everything in between and more. It goes without saying that this is not the last time I will watch this film. I am looking forward to sharing this with my family down the road.
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.