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The Hills Are Still Alive

Can you imagine more than 50 years have passed since the classic and heartwarming movie “The Sound of Music” was released? It is most meaningful for me because when the movie came out in movie theaters on March 2, 1965, I was 8 years old and my dad took me to see this movie. Two years later the movie was again in theaters, I have just forgotten what holiday time it was released for, and this time I went with my mom and my dad had passed away. Here are some interesting and perhaps unknown facts about “The Sound of Music”.

Rights to the movie

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The real Maria Von Trapp wrote her book about her life “The Story of the Trapp Family Singers” and it was published in 1949. The Trapp Family ran into monetary problems in 1955 and Maria sold the rights to German movie producer Wolfgang Reinhardt for a mere $9,000. However, we must consider the fact that in those days this amount of money was worth a whole lot more than it would be in today’s terms. What I do find amazing is that Maria and the Von Trapp family never got any royalties from the two German movies that were released based on their life nor did they receive anything from the Broadway production of “The Sound of Music” which ran for over three years or from the movie.

The movie might not have been made 

On BroadwayThe Sound of Music” opened in 1959. The Broadway version at the Lundt Fontaine Theater in New York City starred Mary Martin and Theodore Bikel. Since this musical proved to be a big hit 20th Century-Fox bought the movie rights for $1.25 million. The reason that the movie was almost not made was that the making of the movie “Cleopatra” put such a drain on studio reserves that for some time Fox shut down. When Richard Zanuck took over the production of Fox studios this film was once again put up for consideration. It would have been such a shame if it had never seen the light of day.

A more disturbing movie 

If anyone thought that “The Sound of Music” could have used more war action and more Nazi action you would have gotten your wish if Director William Wyler had remained on this film Wyler who was Swiss-German and Jewish had already won three Best Director Oscars and he was prepared to make a film which would show many more Nazis, swastikas and cheering Austrian crowds eager to greet the Anschluss at the end of the movie. Instead, Wyler chose to direct the psychological thriller “The Collector” and Robert Wise took over as director. So we got more enjoyment and more musical scenes which I think is great.

Choosing the actors

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Julie Andrews as Maria and Christopher Plummer as Captain Von Trapp 

One of the biggest problems for any movie production is making the choice of the right actors for the various parts. I have seen movies which translate very well from the pages of the book to the screen and some which don’t translate at all. Up for the role of Maria were actresses Doris Day, Leslie Caron, Anne Bancroft and Grace Kelly. Personally, I don’t see any of them as Maria and that is not because I have seen Julie Andrews in this role. It is because I have seen them in other roles and in those roles they translate well just not in this one.

Now when it comes to Captain Von Trapp they were considering Walter Matthau, Yul Brenner, and even Bing Crosby. I say horrors, I really do. Picture some of these combinations – Doris Day and Bing Crosby or Grace Kelly and Yul Brenner. Luckily the filmmakers saw footage of another wonderful movie starring Julie Andrews “Mary Poppins” and so she became the top choice. Christopher Plummer was chosen for the dashing figure that he presented. I say, well done to the filmmakers.

Older than sixteen

Beating out other young actresses for the role of the eldest Von Trapp daughter Liesl was Charmian Carr, however, she was not 16 going on 17 she was 21 when she got the role. Other actresses who were considered were Lesley Ann Warren, Teri Garr, Sharon Tate and Mia Farrow. Of these, if Carr had not landed the role I would have chosen Lesley Ann Warren, who in the year this movie was released was 19.

Malfunctioning hair 

There were some problems with Julie Andrew’s naturally brown hair. It was decided that her hair should have some blond highlights and as a result, her hair took on an orange tone. Therefore before the shooting of the song “My Favorite Things”, her hair was bleached blond.

Filling out the sounds of music 

As you know with any movie that is made whether it is a musical or not if there is some singing to be done you cannot always get the perfect combination of an actor and a great singing voice. Of course, there are exceptions to the rule. The voices of Peggy Wood, who played the Mother Abbess and Christopher Plummer, who portrayed the Captain were dubbed. The real voices of the children playing the seven Von Trapp children were recorded. There were seven additional children’s voices and five adult voices used to fill out the sound.

“Do-Re-Mi” 

Many problems were encountered filming on location in Salzburg, Austria. As with many European countries, spring can be wet and quite chilly. This presented problems when singing out in the open air. They had to wait for the sun to shine and shooting stretched from eight to eleven weeks. The song “Do-Re-Mi” which is only around nine minutes long took practically two months to get it right.

When the hills are alive 

Everyone who has seen “The Sound of Music” remembers the awesome scene at the beginning with Julie Andrews as Maria singing atop of the mountain. It sure looked easy, didn’t it? Well, there was a helicopter that was shooting that scene. So a great deal of the wind running through Andrew’s hair was the downdraft from the helicopter. Finally, they managed to film this scene but right after the actress had a misstep from being blown about and fell. Luckily that did not translate on camera.

“Something Good”

The romantic scene between the Captain and Maria at the gazebo was filmed in silhouette for a specific reason. This was one of the last scenes to be shot and it was taken back in Hollywood, California. The problem was caused by the arc lights which had been hung over the gazebo set. These lights tended to produce a “raspberry sound” in the words the actress was saying. As a result of which, these little fart sounds set off both Andrews and Plummer in a fit of giggles. To be able to finish filming this scene cinematographer Ted McCord had the actors filmed in shadows so they looked serious and romantic and very much in love.

As you all know the resulting movie “The Sound of Music” became a classic and is now being enjoyed by future generations as well.

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