14 Facts About The Sound of Music

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.

Bonus: Here’s A Recreation Of “The Lonely Goatherd” With The Muppets

5 Simple Ways to Upgrade Your Green Bean Casserole

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iStock.com/bhofack2

Green bean casserole became a fixture of Thanksgiving spreads shortly after Dorcas Reilly invented the dish in 1955. The classic recipe, which includes Campbell’s condensed cream of mushroom soup and French’s French fried onions, is a sacred piece of Americana—but there's nothing stopping you from playing around with it this Thanksgiving. Just brace yourself for skeptical looks from your more traditional relatives when these variations hit the table.

1. USE HOMEMADE FRIED ONION RINGS.

Green bean casserole typically calls for crispy fried onion bits from a can—and that's fine if you're pressed for time on the big day. But if you're looking to make your casserole taste unforgettable, it's hard to beat to fresh onion rings fried at home. Homemade onion rings are more flavorful than the store-bought stuff and they provide an eye-popping topper for your dish. If you're interested in making onion rings part of your Thanksgiving menu, this recipe from delish will walk you through it.

2. ADD SOME GOUDA.

This recipe from Munchies gives the all-American green bean casserole some European class with shallots, chanterelles, and smoked gouda. Some family members may object to adding a pungent cheese to this traditional dish, but tell them to wait until after they taste it to judge.

3. LIGHTEN IT UP.

As is the case with any recipe that calls for a can of creamy condensed soup, green bean casserole is rarely described as a "light" bite. Some people like the heavy richness of the dish, but if you're looking to give diners a lighter alternative, this recipe from Food52 does the trick. Instead of cream of mushroom soup, it involves a dressing of crème fraîche, sherry vinegar, mustard, and olive oil. Hazelnuts and chives provide the crunch in place of fried onions. It may be more of a salad than a true casserole, but the spirit of the classic recipe is alive in this dish.

4. MIX IN SOME BACON.

Looking to make your green bean casserole even more indulgent this Thanksgiving? There are plenty of recipes out there that will help you do so. This "jazzed-up" version from Taste of Home includes all the conventional ingredients of a green bean casserole with some inspired additions. Crumbled bacon and water chestnuts bring the crunch, and Velveeta ups the cheesy decadence factor to an 11.

5. TURN IT INTO A TART.

If your Thanksgiving menu is looking heavy on the side dishes, consider making your green bean casserole into an appetizer. This green bean and mushroom tart from Thanksgiving & Co. has all the flavors of the traditional casserole baked on an easy-to-eat tart. A tart is also a tasty option if you're looking to repurpose your green bean casserole leftovers the day after.

9 Not-So-Pesky Facts About Termites

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iStock.com/Thithawat_s

Termites get a lot of hate for chewing through buildings, but the little creatures are far more interesting—and ecologically valuable—than we often give them credit for. Unless, of course, you’re Lisa Margonelli, the author of Underbug: An Obsessive Tale of Termites and Terminology, a new book that explores their amazing world. Here are nine facts about the highly social—and occasionally pesky—insects that we learned from the book.

1. THERE ARE FAR MORE TERMITES THAN PEOPLE ON EARTH.

Termite queens live up to 25 years, and can lay somewhere around 30,000 eggs a day. As a result, a single mound can be home to millions of individuals at a time. While the numbers vary from study to study, scientists estimate that the biomass of all the termites in the world is at least as great as that of humans.

2. MOST TERMITES AREN’T PESTS.

Of the 2800 named termite species in the world, the majority have no interest in eating your house. Only 28 species are known to chow down on buildings and infrastructure. Most are actually very beneficial to their ecosystems, clearing dead wood, aerating the soil with their intricate tunnel systems, and enhancing plant growth. Researchers have found that contrary to being pests, networks of termite mounds can help make dry environments like savannas more resilient to climate change because of the way termite mounds store nutrients and moisture, among other benefits.

3. TERMITES ARE GOOD FOR CROPS.

Termites can help make soil more fertile. In one study, researchers in Australia found that fields that were home to ants and termites produced 36 percent more wheat, without fertilizer, compared to non-termite fields. Why? Termites help fertilize the soil naturally—their poop, which they use to plaster their tunnels, is full of nitrogen. Their intricate system of underground tunnels also helps rainfall penetrate the soil more deeply, which reduces the amount of moisture that evaporates from the dirt and makes it more likely that the water can be taken up by plants.

4. TERMITES HAVE VERY SPECIFIC ROLES IN THEIR COLONY.

Each termite colony has a queen and king termite (or several), plus workers and soldiers. This caste system, controlled by pheromones produced by the reigning queen, determines not just what different termites do in the colony but how they look. Queens and kings develop wings that, when they’re sexually mature, they use to fly away from their original nest to reproduce and start their own colony. Once they land at the site of their new colony, queens and kings snap off these wings, since they’ll spend the rest of their lives underground. Queens are also physically much larger than other castes: The largest type of termite, an African species called Macrotermes bellicosus, produces queens up to 4 inches long.

Unlike their royal counterparts, most workers and soldiers don’t have either eyes or wings. Worker termites, which are responsible for foraging, building tunnels, and feeding the other castes in the nest, are significantly smaller than queens. M. bellicosus workers, for instance, measure around 0.14 inches. Soldier termites are slightly bigger than workers, with large, sharp mandibles designed to slice up ants and other enemies that might invade the nest.

5. TERMITES ARE ONE OF THE FASTEST ANIMALS IN THE WORLD.

Apologies to cheetahs, but termites hold the record for world’s fastest animal movement. Panamanian termites can clap their mandibles shut at 157 miles per hour. (Compare that to the cheetah’s run, which tops out at about 76 miles per hour.) This quick action allows tiny termite soldiers in narrow tunnels to kill invaders with a single bite.

6. TERMITES ARE SKILLED ARCHITECTS.

In Namibia, quarter-inch-long termites of the genus Macrotermes can move 364 pounds of dirt and 3300 pounds of water each year total in the course of building their 17-foot-tall mounds. Relative to their size, that’s the equivalent of humans building the 163 floors of Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, no cranes required. And that’s not even the tallest termite mound around—some can be up to 30 feet high. More impressively, termites cooperate to build these structures without any sort of centralized plan. Engineers are now trying to replicate this decentralized swarm intelligence to build robots that could erect buildings in a similar fashion.

7. TERMITES BUILD THEIR OWN AIR CONDITIONING.

Some termites have developed an incredibly efficient method of climate control in the form of tall, above-ground mounds that sit above their nests. Organized around a central chimney, the structures essentially act as giant lungs, "breathing" air in and out as the temperature outside changes in relation to the temperature inside. Thanks to these convection cycles, termites keep underground temperatures in their nest between roughly 84°F and 90°F.

8. TERMITES ARE FARMERS.

Humans aren’t the only ones cultivating crops. Termites farm, too. They’ve been doing it for more than 25 million years, compared to humans’ 23,000 years. Some species of termite have evolved a symbiotic relationship with Termitomyces fungi, growing fungus in underground gardens for food. When they fly off to create a new colony, termite queens bring along fungus spores from their parent colony to seed the garden that will feed their new nest. Foraging termite workers go out and eat plant material that they can’t fully digest on their own, then deposit their feces on the fungus for it to feed on. They can then eat the fungus. They may also be able to eat some of the plant material after the fungus has sufficiently broken it down. The mutually beneficial relationship has led some scientists to suggest that the fungus, which is much larger in both size and energy production than the termites, could in fact be the one in control of the relationship, potentially releasing chemical pheromones that lead the termites to build the mound they live in together.

9. TERMITES ARE MICROBIAL GOLD MINES.

As scientists begin to understand the huge role that micobiomes play in both the human body and the rest of the world, termites provide a fascinating case study. About 90 percent of the organisms in termite guts aren’t found anywhere else on Earth. In their hindgut alone, they host as many as 1400 species of bacteria. These microbes are so efficient at converting the cellulose-rich wood and dead grass that termites eat into energy, scientists want to harness them to make biofuel from plants.

Want to learn more about termites? Get yourself a copy of Underbug on Amazon for $18.

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