The hills are still alive with “The Sound of Music”

photo credit: drafthouse.com
photo credit: drafthouse.com

The classic film “The Sound of Music” celebrated its 50th anniversary last week. Based on the true story of Maria von Trapp and her family, “The Sound of Music” was a big success. In 1965, Robert Wise (“West Side Story”) directed the film, which won five Academy Awards including the award for Best Picture.

The movie wouldn’t have been possible without the book “The Story of the Trapp Family Singers,” written by Maria von Trapp. The book and the movie have some differences. According to archives.gov, Maria was a tutor to one of the von Trapp children in 1926. Her and Georg, known as Captain von Trapp in the movie, ended up getting married the year after in 1927. In the book, Georg was a kindhearted person that had love for music and his family and showed it greatly. Robert Wise changed the story to make the focus Maria and her love for the children and music.

The von Trapp family patriarch, Captain Georg von Trapp, was a captain in the Austrian navy during World War I. The Nazi’s came to annex Austria and Captain von Trapp decided that he wouldn’t submit to the Nazi regime. Their policies and beliefs didn’t coincide with what the Nazi’s wanted and they decided to leave.

“The Sound of Music” was first adapted as a stage musical and opened on Nov. 16, 1959 at the well-known Lunt-Fontanne Theatre in New York City. Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein II wrote the musical score for this production which eventually became the same score for the movie. The musical also came out on top at the Tony Awards the following year in 1960 and won six awards including Best Musical.

Two years later, in 1962 Ernest Lehman (“Hello Dolly” and “West Side Story”) was hired by 20th Century Fox to write the screenplay for the film adaptation. Lehman decided it would be a good idea to have Robert Wise direct “The Sound of Music” film. They worked on the 1961 movie “West Side Story” together. Lehman knew right away that he wanted Julie Andrews to play Maria. She was the first one who was cast in the movie, the last person being Dan Truhitte who played the role of Rolfe.

The enchanting music and dancing draws the viewers in. Choreographers Marc Breaux and Dee Dee Wood (“Mary Poppins”) worked on all of the choreography in the movie, including the puppet scene “The Lonely Goatherd.” It took less than a year for the filming and photography to be completed before the film was released. The soundtrack was named number one on Billboard 200 in 1965 and was also named the biggest-selling in the United Kingdom in 1965, 1966 and 1968.

The film’s first reviews were far from positive. Reviewers thought it was corny and that it was too catered towards children. As it opened across the United States however, the viewers flocked to the theaters and the movie ultimately became the number one movie in the country. According to Julia Antopol Hirsch’s book “The Sound of Music: The Making of America’s Favorite Movie,” “The Sound of Music” was the first American movie to be translated completely in a foreign language. Eight years later in 1973, the movie was released on video and earned approximately $11 million.

“The Sound of Music” still lives on. In 2013, there was a television version of the movie starring Carrie Underwood as Maria. That version of the movie was directed by Beth McCarthy-Miller (“Saturday Night Live” and “MTV Video Music Awards”) and Rob Ashford. Also at this year’s Academy Awards ceremony, Lady Gaga gave a powerhouse performance of a medley of songs from the movie. She was given a standing ovation and left viewers teary eyed as Julie Andrews came out to embrace her.

“The Sound of Music” was a historic movie and 50 years later it is still making an impact on future generations.

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