1. The Real Von Trapp Family
After the von Trapps fled Austria in 1938, their home was taken over by Heinrich Himmler, one of the key players of the Nazi party. Adolf Hitler personally visited Himmler there several times.
After fleeing Austria, the family bought a farm amid the mountains of Stowe, Vermont in 1942. By 1950 they had opened the Trapp Family Lodge, a 27-room structure. It was gutted by fire in 1980 but replaced with a 96-room resort. Today it’s overseen by Maria and Georg’s tenth and youngest child, Johannes, now 74 and his son Sam, 41.
The big-screen version of The Sound of Music, starring Julie Andrews, was based on the real-life Maria’s 1949 book, The Story of the Trapp Family Singers, but there were a few alterations and omissions.
2. Facts To Impress Your Friends
1. Maria came to the von Trapp family in 1926 as a tutor for one of the children who was recovering from scarlet fever, not as governess to all the kids.
2. Maria and Georg married in 1927, 11 years before the family left Austria, not right before the Nazi takeover of Austria.
3. Maria and Georg von Trapp’s love story wasn’t quite as romantic as portrayed on the big screen. In her autobiography, she admitted that it was the children she fell in love with at first sight. “I really and truly was not in love. I liked him but didn’t love him. However, I loved the children, so in a way I really married the children… . [B]y and by I learned to love him more than I have ever loved before or after.”
4. There were 10, not 7 von Trapp children.
5. The names, ages, and sexes of the children were changed.
6. The family was already musically inclined before Maria arrived, but she did teach them to sing madrigals.
7. Georg wasn’t as harsh and cold-blooded as he’s portrayed in the film. He was described as being a gentle, warmhearted parent who enjoyed musical activities with his family.
8. The family did not secretly escape over the Alps in Switzerland, carrying their suitcases and musical instruments. “We did tell people that we were going to America to sing. And we did not climb over mountains with all our heavy suitcases and instruments. We left by train, pretending nothing,” daughter Maria said in a 2003 interview with Opera News.
9. The family left Austria for Italy (not Switzerland) in June 1938. That fall, they arrived in New York under six month visitors’ visas and began a concert tour in Pennsylvania. In 1944, several of the von Trapps applied for U.S. citizenship at the U.S. District Court in Burlington, Vermont.
10. Maria died in 1987 and is buried in the family cemetery at the Trapp Family Lodge. Her husband Georg, who died lung cancer in 1947, is also buried in the family cemetery.
3. The Two Maria’s On Their Wedding Day
In the film Maria’s wedding train was 14 feet long!
When setting up for filming the Captain and Maria’s wedding scene, there was nobody at the altar to wed them when they reached the top of the stairs. Someone had forgotten to summon the actor playing the bishop. According to Julie Andrews, the real bishop of Salzburg is seen in the movie.
4. Maria Von Trapp and her daughter Rosmarie can be seen in the background of this shot from the film
The movie is based on Maria Von Trapp’s 1949 memoir, “The Story of the Von Trapp Family Singers”. She also published another book, “Maria”, in 1972 and said that while she was able to attend the opening of the musical on Broadway, she did not have the same luck with the film premiere in 1965. She was able to convince 20th Century Fox to let her see a preview of the movie and expected an invitation to the premiere but “when I didn’t hear anything about it and no invitation arrived, I really humbled myself to go and ask the producer whether I would be allowed to come. He said he was very sorry, indeed, but there were no seats left” (p. 216).
5. Maria von Trapp yodelling with Julie Andrews
6. We first meet Maria (Julie Andrews) at the beginning of the film.
During the filming of the opening shot of Julie Andrews taken from a helicopter, Julie Andrews relates that although she tried digging her heels into the ground and bracing herself, on every take she was knocked over by the powerful helicopter downdraft. After more than a dozen takes, she attempted to hand-signal to Robert Wise to have the helicopter make a wider pass, but the response she got was a thumbs-up – he was finally satisfied with the shot.
7. She had previously played another famous nanny, Mary Poppins
In 1963, Andrews began her work in the title role of Disney’s musical film Mary Poppins. Walt Disney had seen a performance of Camelot and thought Andrews would be perfect for the role of the British nanny who is “practically perfect in every way!” Andrews initially declined because of pregnancy, but Disney politely insisted, saying, “We’ll wait for you.”
Julie Andrews nearly turned down the role of Maria Von Trapp, fearing the character was too similar to her role in Mary Poppins (1964).
Mary Poppins became the biggest box-office draw in Disney history. Andrews won the 1964 Academy Award for Best Actress and the 1964 Golden Globe Award for Best Actress- Motion Picture Musical or Comedy for her performance. As a measure of “sweet revenge,” as Poppins songwriter Richard M. Sherman put it, Andrews closed her acceptance speech at the Golden Globes by saying, “And, finally, my thanks to a man who made a wonderful movie and who made all this possible in the first place, Mr. Jack Warner”. Her thanks was due to her not being asked to play Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady, with the role going to Audrey Hepburn instead. Julie Andrews didn’t care because Hepburn was one of the actresses she beat to get her Academy Award.
8. The Film Von Trapp Family
9. Maria (Julie Andrews)
The Sound Of Music:
– In 1962, Julie Andrews and Carol Burnett appeared in a special, Julie and Carol at Carnegie Hall (1962), and at the time, “The Sound of Music” was still running on Broadway. Ironically, in a sketch on this TV special, Julie and Carol did a spoof of the “The Sound of Music” in much the same way Burnett later spoofed movies on her own variety show The Carol Burnett Show (1967). At the time, Julie Andrews had no idea she would later star in the film version.
– The on-set chemistry between Julie and Christopher was sizzling, and both actors admit that there was a mutual admiration. “I was in awe of this gentleman,” Julie says.
– Marni Nixon, who played Sister Sophia, dubbed Audrey Hepburn’s vocals in My Fair Lady, a role made famous by Julie Andrews. The producers were wary of how Andrews would react but when she first met her she exclaimed, “Marni, I’m a fan of you!” which led to much relief!
Born: October 1, 1935 in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, England
– She has been an author of children’s books, and in 2008 published an autobiography, Home: A Memoir of My Early Years
– She has won an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, a BAFTA, an Emmy Award and has been nominated for a Tony Award.
– After starring in The Sound of Music, Julie spent the next three decades on stage and screen, bringing many memorable roles to life. By the ’90s, however, a lifetime of singing had taken a toll on her vocal chords. In 1997, Julie had throat surgery, which left her famous voice permanently damaged…but her career was far from over.
Mary Poppins (1964)
Victor Victoria (1982)
The Princess Diaries (2001)
Shrek 2 (2004)
Tooth Fairy (2010)
Despicable Me (2010)
The Julie Andrews Hour (1972-1973)
10. Julie Andrews Mistake
When Maria is running through the courtyard to the Von Trapp house in “I Have Confidence”, she trips. This was an accident; however, director Robert Wise liked this so much that he kept it in the movie. He felt it added to the nervousness of the song and of the character.
11. The Sound of Guitar
Julie Andrews had to learn how to play the guitar especially for the film.
12. Captain Von Trapp (Christopher Plummer)
The Sound Of Music:
– Christopher Plummer intensely disliked working on the film. He’s been known to refer to it as “The Sound of Mucus” or “S&M” and likened working with Julie Andrews to “being hit over the head with a big Valentine’s Day card, every day.” Nontheless, he and Andrews have remained close friends ever since.
– Very little was known or available to Christopher Plummer about the real Captain von Trapp so the actor took to the Salzburg mountains with an interpreter. There, they met with Georg’s nephew and asked him what the real man was like. The nephew told them that he was the most boring man he’d ever met.
– Christopher Plummer admitted that he ate and drank heavily during filming to drown out his unhappiness with making the picture, and found plenty of opportunities to do both in Austria. His costume eventually had to be refitted for his extra weight.
Born: December 13, 1929 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada
– Multiple Tony®- and Emmy®-winning actor Christopher Plummer has been called one of the greatest actors of all time.
– Christopher wrote candidly about his colorful life in the 2008 memoir In Spite of Myself.
– His daughter Amanda Plummer is in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire film.
Nicholas Nickleby (2002)
Cold Creek Manor (2003)
National Treasure (2004)
Must Love Dogs (2005)
Inside Man (2006)
The Lake House (2006)
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009)
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011)
Christopher Plummer admits on the DVD commentary that he was drunk during the shooting of the music festival sequence.
14. Andrews Was One Of Plummer’s Favourite Things
– Christopher says he fell in love with Julie while she was performing My Fair Lady on Broadway. “I had a crush for forever,” he says. “I had to stay arm’s length-what am I talking about?-full length away from her. … It was a bit like an awful tease.”
– During the scene with Maria and the Captain at the gazebo, Julie Andrews couldn’t stop laughing due to a lighting device that was making, in her words, a “raspberry” every time she leaned in to kiss Plummer. After more than 20 takes, the scene was altered to silhouette the two and to hide Andrews’ giggles.
15. Liesl (Charmian Carr)
The Sound Of Music:
– She learned years after The Sound of Music that Patti Duke, Mia Farrow, Sharon Tate and Geraldine Chaplin had all auditioned for her role.
– Charmian Carr was 21 at the time and wrote in her autobiography that she was attracted to the 35 year old Christopher Plummer, who played her father. Plummer admitted that the feeling was mutual, but insists that it didn’t get beyond mere flirtation.
Born: December 27th, 1942 in Chicago, Illinois, USA
– While touring to promote The Sound of Music, Charmian met Jay Brent. They married and had two daughters. She continued acting for a while but ended her career in show business after deciding to stay home and raise her children. In 1991, Charmian and Jay divorced.
– Once her daughters grew up, Charmian started an interior design company and wrote two books about her experience playing Liesl: Forever Liesl and Letters to Liesl.
– She owns and operates an interior design firm, Charmian Carr Designs, in Encino, California. Her clients included Ernest Lehman, screenwriter for The Sound of Music; Michael Jackson, who hired her because he was a fan of the film; and other cast members from the film.
Evening Primrose (1966)
16. The Gazebo Scene
– Charmian Carr sang “16 Going On Seventeen” for the movie when she was nearly 22. Moreover, although Liesl and Rolf sing about how she is 16 and he is 17, Daniel Truhitte, who played Rolf, is ten months younger than ‘Charmian Carr’.
– The gazebo used for the “Sixteen Going on Seventeen” and “Something Good” scenes can still be visited in the Salzburg area, on “Sound of Music” tours. However, the public had to be excluded from the interior because film fans who were considerably older than “sixteen going on seventeen” were injuring themselves while trying to dance along the seats.
17. Friedrich (Nicholas Hammond)
The Sound Of Music:
– He decided to become an actor at the age of 9, after watching Julie Andrews perform in My Fair Lady. Approximately four years later he would be working with her in The Sound of Music.
– Growth spurts, especially among the boys, were a challenge on the set. Nicholas Hammond, the actor who played Friedrich, grew 6 inches in six months.
– The last scene the actors shot-when the children are singing “The Sound of Music” for the baroness-was one of the most emotional. “We knew that, when they said cut, the movie was over for us,” Nicholas says.
Born: May 15th, 1950 in Washington D.C., Maryland, USA
– He has a degree in English Literature from Princeton.
– After The Sound of Music, Nicholas Hammond landed the starring role in the first TV version of Spider-Man. From there, he acted in several daytime TV and movie roles.
– In the mid 1980s, Nicholas visited to Australia and fell in love with the country. He now lives in Sydney, where he spends his time as an actor, screenwriter and director.
Lord of the Flies (1963)
The Amazing Spider-Man (TV Series) (1977-1979)
Mirror, Mirror (TV Series) (1995)
Julie Andrews sang “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” to the children in the cast to entertain them between shooting. Since Mary Poppins (1964) hadn’t yet been released, they just thought she’d made up the song for them. In the storm scene she taught the children how to sing it backwards which they can still do to this day.
19. Louisa (Heather Menzies)
The Sound Of Music:
– At the beginning of filming, Heather Menzies-Urich (Louisa) was about three inches taller than Nicholas Hammond (Friedrich). He had to wear heel lifts to make him look taller. By the end of the shoot, Nicolas Hammond had grown six inches (5’3” to 5’9”). He often filmed in no shoes and Charmian Carr had to stand on a box to make her taller. All of the Von Trapp children grew a lot during filming, so heel lifts and various camera tricks were used to keep their heights steady.
Born: December 3rd, 1949 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada
– She met her late husband, actor Robert Urich, doing a Libby’s Corned Beef Hash commercial. Laughs Menzies, “We always joked that if our relationship didn’t work out we could say that Libby’s made hash out of our lives.”
– They went on to raise three children and star in television shows and in plays together. Robert passed away in 2002, and today, Heather dedicates her time to the Robert Urich Foundation for Cancer Research and Patient Care.
– Since playing Louisa, Heather Menzies-Urich has starred in big film and stage roles like Hawaii and the Broadway play We Have Always Lived in the Castle. She also guest-starred in a number of television shows in the ’70s and ’80s, including Logan’s Run. In 1973, she tried to shake her squeaky-clean image by posing nude in Playboy magazine.
Dragnet 1967 (1967-1969)
Logan’s Run (1977-1978)
20. The Boat Scene
Kym Karath, the actress who played little Gretl, will never forget the day they filmed the rowboat scene. When the children toppled into the water with their governess, Kym was the only cast member who couldn’t swim. “I was scared to death,” she says.
Originally, director Robert Wise considered a stunt double, but Kym says he changed his mind. “Robert Wise liked things to be extremely authentic, so they asked if I would be a trooper, and I said yes,” she says.
Julie was assigned to catch Kym as she fell out of the boat, but that was easier said than done.
“I went over the back of the boat,” Julie says. “I’ve never done the breast stroke or the crawl or whatever it was so fast in my life.”
Kym went under for a moment and swallowed a lot of water, which she says she then vomited all over Heather Menzies (Louisa).
21. Kurt (Duane Chase)
The Sound Of Music:
– The costume that Duane Chase (Kurt) wears at the party is called a Tracht, an authentic Austrian costume. The jacket he wears is called a Loden.
– Duane Chase’s (Kurt) high note in the “So Long, Farewell” number was actually sung by Darleen Carr (younger sister of Charmian Carr), as that note was beyond Chase’s range.
Born: December 12th, 1950 in Los Angeles, California, USA
– After The Sound of Music, he took up mountain climbing and snagged a few geology degrees.
– Duane Chase took on small parts after playing Kurt in The Sound of Music, but after graduating from high school, he decided to quit show business. He went on to earn a masters degree in geology and now designs computer software for geologists. He lives in Seattle with his wife, Petra.
The Big Valley (1966)
22. Max Detweiler
He is entirely fictional. The Von Trapps’ priest, the Reverend Franz Wasner, acted as their musical director for over 20 years and accompanied them when they left Austria.
23. Brigitta (Angela Cartwright)
The Sound Of Music:
– During the filming of The Sound of Music, she was obsessed with The Beatles and, along with Heather Menzies (Louisa), would drive the crew crazy singing Beatles songs. Cartwright will become a first-time grandmother early next year.
– Angela Cartwright was initially asked to wear a blonde wig to read for the role of Louisa. Ultimately, she was cast as a brown-haired Brigitta.
Born: September 9th, 1952 in Altrincham, Cheshire, England
– From 1965 to 1968, Angela Cartwright played Penny Robinson in the science-fiction TV hit Lost in Space. After leaving the show, Angela continued acting in television, commercials and feature films. During that time, she married and had two children.
– Angela also has become an accomplished writer. Her books include My Book: A Child’s First Journal, Mixed Emulsions: Altered Art for Photographic Imagery, In This House: A Collection of Altered Art Imagery and Collage Technique and In This Garden: Explorations in Mixed-Media Narrative. She’s passionate about photography, jewelry and clothing design.
Make Room For Daddy (1957-1964)
Lost In Space (1965-1968)
Make Room For Granddaddy (1970-1971)
The song “Edelweiss” was written for the musical and is little known in Austria. The song was the last that Oscar Hammerstein II wrote before his passing in 1960.
Christopher Plummer was not fond of the song “Edelweiss,” which he considered trite, and wrote a letter to screenwriter Ernest Lehman suggesting a new song should be written to replace it, but he was rebuffed.
25. Maria (Debbie Turner)
The Sound Of Music:
– When Debbie Turner was 6 years, she tried out for the role of Gretl but ended up being cast as Marta.
– Growth spurts weren’t the only problem. Turner and Kym both lost their front teeth during filming.
Born: September 5th, 1956 in Pasadena, California, USA
– Debbie also studied interior design, and started her own floral design and event company, Debbie Turner Originals, near her home in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
– After making her moment in the spotlight, Debbie finished high school and became a professional skier. She met her husband, Rick Larson, at a ski resort and the two married in 1980. They have four daughters.
North Dallas Forty (1979)
26. Climb Every Mountain
In the closing shot, when the family is climbing over the hills to safety, it is not really Kym Karath as Gretl on the shoulders of Captain von Trapp. In the DVD version, it is revealed that while in Austria, Kym Karath gained a lot of weight. This was one of the last shots filmed and so she was evidently a bit too heavy to be carried on Christopher Plummer’s back. Plummer requested a stunt double and that is who’s seen being carried on his back.
27. Gretl (Kym Karath)
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