1965

Film #222: The Sound of Music (1965)

More Julie Andrews now as she once again plays a nanny to a bunch of unruly children. However this time, instead of having to contend with the smog of Edwardian London, she has to avoid detection from members of the Nazi Party.


The film I’m alluding to is The Sound of Music which, unlike Mary Poppins, isn’t a film that I grew up watching. While some view at as an absolute classic, I’ve only seen in it bits usually when it’s on the T.V. over Christmas. But even I know the basic outline in which Andrews plays Maria, an unruly novice nun who is let out of the convent by her Mother Superior in order to become a governess to the seven unruly Von Trapp children. Maria is initially unsure of what to do with the children, especially when they try to trick her, and is befuddled by the fact that their widower father is trying to turn them into some sort of mini-army. However, just like in Mary Poppins, Andrews’ character wins over the kids by conversing to them in the form of song. In fact Maria goes further still and turns the family into a choir whilst at the same time the rather dour Captain Von Trapp starts to fall for her. Unfortunately their romance is cut short when the Von Trapps become the target of the Nazi Party and are forced to flee Austria. Luckily songs save the day as the family put on a concert as a front to escape into the neutral country of Switzerland.
I was interested to learn that The Sound of Music garnered a mixed reception from critics when it was first released and I can sort of see both points of view. On the negative side, I found the film over long and not all of the songs felt that necessary. I certainly didn’t think the story warranted a three hour film and think that screenwriter Ernest Lehman could’ve cut certain elements out. However, it did seem that Lehman worked hard to get the best he could from the film after being very passionate about adapting the stage play to the screen. Indeed, it’s clear to see his vibrant vision in some of the musical sequences especially those featuring Maria and the children. Lehman also had a hand in recruiting director Robert Wise, with the two having previously worked on another Oscar winning film that I’ll tackle in the next film. Lehman’s first choice for Maria had always been Julie Andrews and after seeing a preview copy of Mary Poppins he and the producers realised that they had to snap her up quickly. Andrews earned her second Best Actress Oscar nomination for her role in the film with Peggy Wood also being nominated for her role as the Mother Superior. I personally enjoyed the stoic turn given by veteran stage actor Christopher Plummer who Wise and Lehman worked hard to get in the film. The film itself became the highest-grossing film ever upon its release and it held that record for five years. It also garnered five Oscar wins including Best Picture and Best Director. I personally feel that the best elements of The Sound of Music are the songs and the fantastic cinematography which takes full advantage of the wonderful Austrian scenery. At the same time I feel that I’ve seen better musical films that didn’t win Best Picture and in fact I’ve seen better musicals in which Julie Andrews plays a nanny. But I won’t begrudge The Sound of Music its win here as its win appears to be one

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