14 Things You Might Not Know About 'The Sound of Music'
This year the movie version of The Sound of Music—starring Julie Andrews as Maria von Trapp, an aspiring nun who is sent to care for the seven children of an Austrian naval captain—turned 50. With its iconic camerawork, catchy musical score, and great performances, it’s not hard to see why so many people still love The Sound of Music, even after all these years.
1. Julie Andrews Kept Falling Over During The Mountain Scene.
The opening scene of Andrews twirling on the mountaintop may look effortless, but it was anything but. Not only was it raining and cold throughout production, the helicopter kept knocking Andrews over. “This was a jet helicopter,” she said. “And the down draft from those jets was so strong that every time … the helicopter circled around me and the down draft just flattened me into the grass. And I mean flattened. It was fine for a couple of takes, but after that you begin to get just a little bit angry… And I really tried. I mean, I braced myself, I thought, ‘It’s not going to get me this time.’ And every single time, I bit the dust.”
2. It Was The Last Rodgers And Hammerstein Musical.
The musical theatre partnership between Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II yielded Oklahoma!, South Pacific, and The King and I, among others. The Sound of Music, based on two German films about the von Trapp family (as well as a memoir by Maria von Trapp), opened on Broadway in 1959 to tepid critical reviews. In 1960, Hammerstein died from stomach cancer. The last song he wrote was "Edelweiss."
3. Two Years Before The Movie, Julie Andrews Spoofed The Musical.
In the 1962 TV special Julie and Carol at Carnegie Hall, Andrews and Carol Burnett parodied The Sound Of Music in a skit called Pratt Family Singers. You can watch it above.
4. Andrews Almost Wasn't Cast.
Richard Rodgers knew that Julie Andrews would be the perfect Maria for the role after she auditioned for one of his musicals in 1956, but she starred in My Fair Lady instead. No one felt that the theater actress would work well on a movie screen in color—until Walt Disney showed William Wyler the rushes from Mary Poppins, and everyone realized she was perfect. Except for 20th Century Fox, who wanted a four film contract. Ultimately, it got haggled down to a two film contract, and movie history was made.
And as for the story that Julie Andrews was worried about being typecast as a nanny after Mary Poppins? She said, “Having done the Americanization of Emily between Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music, I hoped that would show I didn’t only play nanny roles!”
5. The Boat Scene Traumatized Gretl
The scene where the rowboat overturns and Maria and the kids fall into a lake was hard on Kym Karath, who played 5-year-old Gretl. Since Karath couldn’t swim, Andrews was supposed to fall forward when the boat turned over and rescue her. Instead, Andrews fell backwards and couldn’t get to Karath in time. “I went under, I swallowed a lot of water, which I then vomited all over Heather [Menzies-Urich, who played Louisa],” Karath said.
6. Christopher Plummer Hated The Movie.
Plummer, who played Captain von Trapp, hated the film so much that he called it The Sound of Mucus. “Because it was so awful and sentimental and gooey,” he said. “You had to work terribly hard to try and infuse some minuscule bit of humor into it.” He drank and ate away his sorrows in Salzburg, which caused him to gain so much weight his costumes had to be let out. He also admitted on the DVD commentary that he was drunk when filming the music festival.
7. Andrews Kept Giggling During The Love Scene.
When Maria and Captain von Trapp declare their love in the gazebo, Andrews and Plummer had to stand close together and sing “Something Good.” But the romance was interrupted when the lights above them made rude noises that caused Andrews to giggle. “Christopher would be looking into my eyes and saying 'Oh Maria I love you,' and there’d be this awful raspberry coming from the lights above us,” Andrews said. Finally, director Robert Wise turned the lights off and filmed the scene in silhouette.
8. Here’s Mia Farrow Auditioning For Liesl.
Farrow was one of many actors who tested for Liesl, but in the end, the part went to Charmian Carr.
9. Carr Injured Herself During “Sixteen Going On Seventeen.”
While filming the song “Sixteen Going On Seventeen,” Carr—who, incidentally, was 21 years old at the time—fell through the glass in the gazebo and injured her ankle. In the scene, she’s wearing a bandage covered with make-up on her leg.
10. Friedrich Grew Six Inches During Filming.
Nicholas Hammond, who played Friedrich, grew from 5-ft. 3-in. to 5-ft. 9-in. during the six months of shooting. Since Friedrich had to be shorter than Liesl but taller than Louisa, the growth spurt posed a continuity problem. At the start of the film, Hammond had lifts on his shoes; by the end, his shoes were off, and Carr had to stand on a box.
11. Julie Andrews Yodeled With The Real Maria Von Trapp.
When the real Maria von Trapp popped up on an episode of The Julie Andrews Hour, she told Andrews that the actress was "absolutely wonderful" in the film, but her yodeling was not quite up to par—which led to this little duet.
12. The Von Trapps Didn’t Escape Over A Mountain.
In the movie, the von Trapp family escapes the Nazis by crossing over the mountains into Switzerland. In real life, the von Trapps took the train to Italy. If they had gone over the Austrian mountains, they would have ended up in Germany—right by where Hitler had his mountain retreat.
13. Overall, The Movie Is Historically Inaccurate.
For instance, there were 10 von Trapp children, not seven. The real Maria von Trapp left the convent to tutor one child, not to be governess to all the children. She and Georg von Trapp were married 11 years before the Nazis took over Austria, and by all accounts, Georg was a kind man, not the harsh disciplinarian from the film. Most surprisingly, Maria wrote that she didn’t love him when she married him: "I really and truly was not in love. I liked him but didn't love him. However, I loved the children, so in a way I really married the children.”
14. The Movie Saved 20th Century Fox.
After the financial failure of Cleopatra, 20th Century Fox was close to bankruptcy. Luckily, The Sound of Music was so successful, it surpassed Gone With The Wind as the number one box office to date and went on to win five Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director. Today, adjusted for ticket price inflation, The Sound of Music is the third highest grossing film of all time. It’s considered the most successful musical ever on film.