The Sound of Music is a musical that takes place in Salzburg, Austria in the year 1938.
The movie musical was reflective of an era of turmoil as the Nazi Third Reich rose under the reign of Adolf Hitler and began to seize territories and expand across Europe. Accordingly, with respect to the work’s title, this musical reveals the role of music in society and the untapped potential of its impact. Throughout the film, Maria, a free-spirited Austrian woman training to become a nun at the Nonnberg Abbey, is followed as she navigates through her eventful life journey. During the opening scene, the viewer learns that Maria struggles to follow the Abbey’s strict rules and is constantly drawing the attention of established nuns. Maria is often drawn to the mountains where she can sing without consequence and let her imagination tear amongst the landscape. Consequently, the Mother Abbess believes that Maria will be happier outside the Abbey and sends her to the villa of retired naval officer Captain Georg von Trapp to act as governess to his seven children. Captain von Trapp has been responsible for caring for all of his children since the death of his wife, and treats them as if they are in the military even stating that “the first rule of this household is discipline”. Recently, the Captain has frequently retreated to Vienna where he is having a romance with the wealthy and cultivated Baroness.
Maria disagrees with this style of upbringing and soon encourages the children to partake in a “traditional” childhood, especially by introducing them to the world of music and singing. Over time, and after some resistance, song and music draw the von Trapp family closer together and even establishes a growing affection between Georg and Maria. Frightened by this unfamiliar development, Maria returns to the Abbey where the Mother Abbess convinces her to face, rather than run from, this situation in order to fulfill the life she was destined to live.
Upon Maria’s return, Georg confesses his love to the Baroness thereby ending their relationship, and soon after Georg and Maria are wed. As the Nazi regime spreads throughout Austria, Captain von Trapp is summoned to serve in its navy but is reluctant to join for the sake of his family’s safety and decides to flee the country. The last scene the viewer is left with is the von Trapp family climbing the mountains bound for Switzerland, in pursuit of a new life.The original The Sound of Music story was based is based on Maria von Trapp’s memoir, The Story of the Trapp Family Singers, published in 1949 in an effort to promote her family’s music following the death of her husband Georg. In 1956, a German producer bought the film rights and hired writes to create a screenplay accompanied by traditional Austrian folk songs. The film, The Trapp Family, was released in Germany on October 9, 1956, and immediately became a major success.
Shortly thereafter The Trapp Family in America, a sequel film, was produced and the two films became the most popular films in West Germany during the post-war era. Subsequently, in 1956, Paramount Pictures purchased the United States film rights and proposed to transform the story into a stage musical. The producers furthermore elected Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II to compose an entirely new score of musical numbers for the new production. The Sound of Music stage musical initially opened on November 16, 1959, in New York City and was active on Broadway for 1,443 performances winning numerous awards, including Best Musical.
Within the next year, Twentieth Century Fox purchased the film adaptation rights for the stage musical with hopes of acquiring a new cast and filming in the original setting of Austria. Robert Wise was selected for directing the film in Salzburg, Austria which proved to be a difficult and expensive endeavor. Wise had planned to spend just six weeks shooting on location due to the fact that the production was responsible for covering the flights and housing for over 250 crew members. As Salzburg is famous for its rainy weather, the six-week allotted schedule soon turning into eleven. As the crew fell well behind schedule and the production’s budget exploded, many scenes including “Sixteen Going on Seventeen” and “Something Good” were rebuilt in studios. Furthermore, other complications included filming the desolate mountain scenery with the utilization of helicopters, the growth, and inconsistency of the von Trapp child actors, and acquiring enough extras as well as the correct shots for the Salzburg Music Festival scene.
The musical soundtrack of The Sound of Music was composed by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, an innovative and influential writing team. Prior to their partnership, both Rodgers and Hammerstein were successful in their respective musical theatre careers. Rogers had previously collaborated with Lorenz Hart to produce Broadway hits such as A Connecticut Yankee, Babes in Arms, The Boys from Syracuse, Pal Joey, and By Jupiter. On the other hand, Hammerstein had written pieces for the operettas Rose-Marie, The Desert Song, and The New Moon and later worked with Jerome Kern to create Sunny, Sweet Adeline, and Very Warm for May. In the 1940s and 1950s, Rogers and Hammerstein united to produce an extremely popular collection of Broadway musicals which initiated what is known as the “golden age” of musical theatre. Of their collaborative creations five musicals; Oklahoma, Carousel, South Pacific, The King and I, and The Sound of Music as well as the only work written for television, Cinderella, were exceptional successes. Conversely, even the less popular Broadway productions were graciously accepted and celebrated among musical communities. The team’s musicals, specifically Oklahoma, set a landmark in twentieth-century theatre history that other performances were commonly measured against.
Furthermore, Rogers and Hammerstein created musicals that inspired following efforts to incorporate thought-provoking plots with developed themes through song and dance. Moreover, the two composers established the “formula musical” that refers to the consistent casting requirements for each piece’s characters. Typically, this team would cast a strong baritone lead, a delicate soprano lead, a supporting lead tenor, and a supporting lead alto. As a result of this party’s success, Rodgers and Hammerstein received The Hundred Year Association of New York’s Gold Medal Award and accumulated thirty-four Tony Awards, fifteen Academy Awards, the Pulitzer Prize, and two Grammy Awards. The Sound of Music move musical demonstrated success with respect to both quantitative and qualitative aspects. Quantitatively, this musical was one of the most commercially successful films of all time.
For instance, just four weeks after its release, The Sound of Music became the number one box office movie in the United States. The film further exhibited its achievements as it retained its number position for thirty of the next forty-three weeks and eventually became the highest-grossing film of 1965. This work not only exuded success in the United States, as The Sound of Music broke box-office records in twenty-nine countries overseas. Additionally, by November 1966, the film had surpassed Gone with the Wind capturing the title of highest-grossing film of all time.
After its initial theatrical release in 1965 and multiple re-releases (1973 and 1990), the film had amassed a total domestic gross of $163,214,076, and a total worldwide gross of $286,214,076. Furthermore, this particular movie musical received a number of awards and accolades yielding seventeen wins and 13 nominations. Among the Academy Awards, The Sound of Music won Best Picture, Best Sound, and Best Music.
The film also won the Top Ten Films award from the National Board of Review and the Best Written American Musical from the Writers Guild of America in 1966. Qualitatively, The Sound of Music is equally successful as it portrays a number of meaningful themes and symbols. For example, the film continually establishes the theme of family throughout the course of its plot. The viewer never learns what happened to Maria’s family, but they are left to assume that she was orphaned. Even though Maria strives to grow closer to God and the von Trapp children seek an intimate relationship with their father they are searching for the same thing; a loving family. After music successfully unites Maria, Georg, and his children all parties are elated with their new family structure.
Furthermore, one paramount symbol in The Sound of Music film is the song “Edelweiss”, which is performed twice and represents solidarity. Edelweiss is a small white flower that inhabits the Austrian mountains and is so prevalent that it is considered the national flower. “Edelweiss” first appears when Georg sings to his children marking a transition in their relationship as he connects with them emotionally, an element that has been previously missing within their family.
The song is then performed by the von Trapp family at the Salzburg Music Festival which inspires the entire crowd to sing along demonstrating a unified resistance to the German occupation and assertion of Austrian nationalism. In summary, this film is in part successful due to these vivid aspects that contribute immense significance and sentiment during its viewing. In conclusion, The Sound of Music is about the journey of an aspiring nun and the reuniting of a family, but far more can be taken away from its story.
Additionally, this movie musical was one of the most successful films of all time with a soundtrack composed by arguably the best songwriting duo. The Sound of Music offers an intellectual plot, charming characters, and captivating songs that will meander throughout any viewer’s mind for eternity.