FILM (1965)

50 years of The Sound of Music - and the hills are still alive

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 28 February, 2015, 11:12pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 28 February, 2015, 11:12pm

The Sound of Music
Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer
Director: Robert Wise


This month marks the 50th anniversary of the release of The Sound of Music, the movie based on the real-life story of the von Trapp family's escape from Nazi-occupied Austria.

Adapted from a hit Broadway musical, it became one of the most commercially successful films in history and picked up five Oscars - for best director for Robert Wise, best film, best sound recording, best editing and best musical adaptation.

And it launched the international film career of Julie Andrews as the nun-turned-governess Maria, who struggles to win over her hard-to-please charges with music. Andrews will always be remembered for the stunning opening scene: shot from a helicopter, the camera swoops across the mountains and over a lush valley where we see Andrews singing her heart out. Sadly, the years of singing would take its toll on her voice in later life, but in the mid-1960s she sang like an angel and with incredible reach.

The film's songs are a testament to its popularity. Start humming Edelweiss almost anywhere in the world and it won't be long before someone joins in. It's even a staple on North Korean karaoke machines. And there are other classic sing-along songs such as Do-Re-Mi and My Favourite Things.

Christopher Plummer, who played the widowed von Trapp, was unsure about taking the role and is said to have dismissively referred to it as "The Sound of Mucus", but he puts in a great performance, giving real depth to the character.

A large part of the film's appeal is that it is based on a true story. Maria Augusta Kutschera was a novice candidate at a convent in Salzburg when she was sent to work as a governess looking after the seven children of the recently widowed Baron Georg von Trapp. She married the baron and began a family choir that performed in Austria. After fleeing Nazi-occupied Austria in 1938, they fled to the US where income generated from the choir allowed them to buy a farm in Vermont, where the Trapp Family Lodge is today a hotel.

The Sound of Music as a stage musical picked up six Tony awards but it is the film we remember and still love 50 years on.