"The Sound of Music" - Still Alive After 40 Years
- Monday, November 14, 2005
The couple, who had three more children together, were also married for more than a decade before fleeing Austria. And they did not walk over the Alps, as they do in the film. Had they done so, they would have ended up smack in the middle of Hitler’s summer retreat! Instead, the Von Trapps merely took a train to Italy, eventually making their way to the U.S.
Also, although the family was extremely wealthy when Maria came to live with them, they soon lost their entire fortune when the Austrian banking system collapsed. Maria took in boarders to make ends meet – among other odd jobs that she and the children performed because Captain Von Trapp, ever the aristocrat, felt that it was beneath him to work. The most significant difference in the story, however, is how the children learned to sing.
Although Maria encouraged and initially taught them, it wasn’t until a musically-gifted priest came to live with the family that they learned to sing on key. The Trapp Family Choir, as they originally called themselves, went on to won first prize in a local contest and tour around Europe. This income was lost, however, when they moved to the U.S. Fortunately, an astute agent, who made them change their name to the Trapp Family Singers, was finally able to book them, which allowed them to continue their musical legacy in this country, from their home in Vermont.
The saddest part of the story is the fact that in the haste to sell her story (contained in her autobiography), Maria Von Trap neglected to consult with an attorney. She sold the rights to the saga for a mere $9,000 – without any royalties whatsoever. Thus, while “The Sound of Music” has become one of the most thriving films and musicals of all time, the Von Trapps have not benefited at all from the success.
The most wonderful thing about “The Sound of Music” is not just the quality of the film – which includes the acting, the singing, the script and the cinematography – but the fact that it is a film for all ages and all generations. This is something that we rarely see today, and the pleasure, whether secret or shared, of singing along with the film is one that many will enjoy again with this re-release.
I must make one caveat, however small. Rogers & Hammerstein were a powerful duo who ignited the stage with fabulous musicals that endure to this day, including “Oklahoma!” and “South Pacific,” to name just two. And their lyrics and music are always great fun to sing. But, like those tunes from the '70s and '80s that I occasionally find myself mouthing, some of the lyrics had a way of surprising me this time around.
“Nothing comes from nothing,” breathes Andrews, in her love scene with Plummer. “Nothing ever will.” Whoa! Didn’t God create the world ex nihilo (from nothing)? And doesn’t He spend His days resurrecting good from nothing for us? “So somewhere in my youth or childhood, I must have done something good,” Andrews continues. This line, repeated again and again throughout the song, implies that blessing is self-created and comes from us, by doing good – rather than from above, from the Father of Heavenly Lights. What a lie! And one that I so often sang, without realizing what I was saying.
This caution is minimal, to be sure, but it’s worth noting that even in the midst of such a wonderfully nostalgic and family-friendly work of art, we still find false teaching – as well as some that is simply misguided, like Maria’s catchy, “I have confidence in confidence alone!” Is the DVD re-release nevertheless worth owning? Absolutely! I wouldn’t miss it for the world, and nor should you. But as always, be sure to look for – and talk about – these things, even as you enjoy the enduring legacy of this delightful film.
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