Whether or not Julie Andrews should have had the role of Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady, she did go on to win Best Actress that same year for Mary Poppins. And Robert Wise gave her another chance to prove herself the following year in 1965’s Best Picture The Sound of Music (although Audrey Hepburn was also considered for the lead), good fun for the whole family.
When you read this post’s title, which song did you automatically begin humming?
“Doe, a dear, a female dear…”
“The hills are alive with the sound of music…”
“Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens…”
If you’ve been steeped in the first twenty-five years of Academy Award-winning Best Pictures, you would most likely experience a fading (and somewhat creepy) montage blend of all eleven songs at once. And now that I’ve jogged your memory, good luck getting these songs out of your head the next week or two. (I am still playing the lyrics on a mind-controling loop.)
You may or may not know that The Sound of Musicis based on Maria von Trapp’s (yes, she is real) memoir The Story of the Trapp Family Singers, published in 1949. The film remains surprisingly true to the biography of the von Trapps, especially considering its musical adaptation. Georg (pronounced GAY-org) von Trapp was indeed a naval commander in the Military Order of Maria Theresa, and he married Agathe Whitehead (granddaughter of the inventor of the torpedo) in 1911. Seven children later, Agathe died of scarlet fever in 1922. All of the children’s names were changed for the film: Rupert (the oldest was a boy, not a girl), Agathe, Maria, Werner, Hedwig, Johanna, and Martina. Maria Augusta Kutschera was in fact orphaned and entered Nonnberg Abbey in 1923. She was sent to the von Trapp family in 1926; however, the task was to tutor only Maria (third child) who was ill–not to govern the entire household. Maria and Georg married a year later and were married ten years before the Nazi annexation of Austria. Together, they added three more children to the crew: Rosemarie (reportedly born 2 months and 13 days after the wedding), Eleonore, and Johannes.
The family had been living primarily off of Georg’s first wife’s family fortune, which was lost in a failed bank during the Nazi invasion. They did “flee” to Italy (not Switzerland) by train (not foot) around 1938, and then moved on to the US. Having picked up singing as a hobby in Austria, and performing at festivals, the family began touring as the Trapp Family Singers and ran a singing camp in Vermont. In 1947, the family founded the Trapp Family Austrian Relief, Inc., also based in Vermont.
The one major complaint the real Maria von Trapp had about the film was the apparently inaccurate portrayal of Georg von Trapp as a stern, detached father. Ironically, Christopher Plummer, who played the role of Georg, hated working on “The Sound of Mucus,” as he called it, and compared his work with Julie Andrews to “being hit over the head with a big Valentine’s Day card, every day” (www.imdb.com).
Actress Marni Nixon shows up yet again in this film as Sister Sophia, who we see maybe three times. Although we did not get to see her face in films prior, she sang in place of Natalie Wood for West Side Story‘s Maria (1961) and for Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady (1964). She also dubbed over Deborah Kerr in both The King and I (1956) and An Affair to Remember (1957). She even helped Marilyn Monroe with a few high notes in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes for “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” in 1953 and recently sang for Grandmother Fa in Disney’s Mulan(1998). This woman who made famous some of 20th Century’s best musicals was not even credited for her dubbing roles, landing her the nickname “The Ghostess with the Mostess.”
As an added bonus, if you watch The Sound of Music Five Star Collection Edition, you have the option to turn on a “sing along” feature, in which each song’s lyrics float along the bottom of the screen in case you forget how to “solve a problem like Maria.”