this month 20th Century Fox released The Sound of Music, based on the musical by Rogers and Hammerstein.
At the time (I was about 12 years old) it was both praised (“three hours of visual and vocal brilliance” [Los Angeles Times]) and panned (“icky sticky” [New York Herald Tribune]). The mixed reviews didn’t dissuade moviegoers who made the film #1 at the box office for thirty consecutive weeks following its debut in March of 1965. The initial release of the movie remained in theatres for the next four and a half years! In concert with box office success, the film garnered numerous awards, including the best picture Oscar for that year.
And what greeted the audience as the lights dimmed? Nothing less than the majestic Austrian Alps and a singing novice played by the remarkably talented Julie Andrews…
The show was loosely based on events in the lives of the von Trapp family. Director Robert Wise (who also won an Oscar as best director for the film) defended his interpretation as “complete dramatic freedom” in order to create a “fine and moving film”. For fans of the movie, it is rather entertaining to compare the narrative unfolding onscreen with the actual story. Three quick examples…
- the movie has the newly married couple returning home following their honeymoon only to find it necessary to escape the imminent Nazi threat in 1938… the actual von Trapps had been married for over a decade (1927) before events dictated their departure from Austria
- the film family’s dramatic escape and journey through the Alps to Switzerland was, in fact, a walk to the local train station and journey by rail to Italy (before travelling on to London and, finally, the United States)
- the pivotal role of Max Detweiler (the von Trapp’s musical director) in the movie was fiction… the family priest had been their musical director for over twenty years and actually accompanied them when they left Austria
Of course, as much as the story, people were captivated by the music of the show. I was a young piano student who was on the cusp (but not quite there) of being submerged in the popular music of the 60’s. My parents were no fans of rock’n’roll… so the S of M soundtrack seemed a safe substitute for something more disagreeable. And, armed with a simplified piano folio of the songs, I had opportunity to indulge in music not directly from my Royal Conservatory books (classical) or hymnal (largely Victorian era gospel).
Even as an adult (a teacher-type adult looking for material for elementary students) I would regularly revisit those songs with my classes because of the accessibility and charm of the repertoire. And what better way to introduce the solfège system of music reading?
No more to say… except
A seasonal postscript…
Wishing you all a happy spring… especially those of you in the Maritimes.