The Sound of Music film celebrates fifty years

Filed on March 21, 2015
The Sound of Music film celebrates fifty years

The movie that popularised whiskers on kittens and warm woollen mittens isnít holding back on its golden anniversary: There are events, DVDs, books, soundtracks and screenings.

The Sound of Music film celebrates fifty years (/assets/oldimages/soundofmusic_0320.jpg)

Julie Andrews who played Maria in The Sound of Music says the film stuck on in people’s minds because it was very well made with beautiful music.  -  AP 

The hills are alive with the sound of a big, lucrative anniversary.

The 1965 Oscar-winning film adaptation of the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical The Sound of Music is celebrating its 50th birthday this year and its star Julie Andrews can’t quite believe it.

“This is a lovely moment to mark. I’ve been saying all along it’s like a very bad joke because surely it was only 30 years ago — not 50,” she said. “I feel I lost 20 somewhere along the way. A little thing called life got in the way.”

The movie that popularised whiskers on kittens and warm woollen mittens isn’t holding back on its golden anniversary: There are events, DVDs, books, soundtracks and screenings.

Other American movie musicals may be revered — Cabaret and West Side Story, for example — but few are as beloved as The Sound of Music. Andrews, 79, thinks she knows why.

“This one stuck because it was very well made with beautiful music and a lot of glorious assets like scenery and mountains and children and an adventure story and a love story and all of that,” she said.

To honour the milestone, 20th Century Fox is releasing a five-disc Blue-ray/DVD collection, the soundtrack is being re-released, and the film will be screened at the TCM Classic Film Festival in Hollywood later this month and over 500 movie theaters in April.

The musical and movie are a fictionalised account of the life of Maria von Trapp and tell the story of a 1930s governess who teaches her charges to sing and falls in love with her employer, naval captain Georg von Trapp, and the family’s flight before World War II.

Angela Cartwright, who played Brigitta von Trapp, said cast members have gone through ups and downs and births and deaths during the past 50 years but “when we all get together, we pick up where we left off.”

“It was an honour to be a part of such a great movie,” she said. “When we were filming it, we had no idea that it was going to last and be so successful. It was such a charmed part of my life.”

Not everyone is revelling in the film anniversary with the same fervency, especially her 85-year-old co-star Christopher Plummer, who played Captain von Trapp and has in the past derisively called the film ‘The Sound of Mucus’.

“I’ve never really knocked the movie; I just knocked the experience of playing a part which I didn’t think was very exciting, that’s all,” he said. “I thought I was the cat’s meow and this was very much inferior stuff.”

Andrews doesn’t begrudge Plummer his view and the two have remained buddies. In fact, Plummer’s less-than-earnest performance may have helped the movie.

“He gave it an astringency the film needed because it is a slightly saccharine story,” said Andrews. “He was so great in it and we stayed good, good friends.”

Even before this year, The Sound of Music was never far from the popular consciousness. Kelly Clarkson and Mary J. Blige both recently covered My Favourite Things and NBC cast Carrie Underwood as Maria in its live version in 2013.

Andrews, who called Underwood’s performance as Maria “wonderful,” is not precious about holding onto the role. She wants more people to play it and try their hand at putting on a musical she calls a “gift.”

“After 50 years, one should be allowed to interpret it anyway you hope to do it. Do it with puppetry. Do it with live actors. Do it any way. Because it’s a classic,” she said. “It is a gift, in a way, to all of us.”

This year, we’ve had an extended Sound of Music medley by Lady Gaga at the Oscars and a brief nod to the film in Jason Robert Brown’s movie musical The Last Five Years. A national tour of the musical led by Tony Award-winning director Jack O’Brien will launch in September in Los Angeles.

It’s not a bad legacy for an $8 million film that originated as a Tony Award-winning Broadway show but was critically panned. (One prominent critic called it a “sugar-coated lie.”) The film won five Oscars and stands as the No. 3 domestic box office champion of all time, adjusted for inflation, following Gone With the Wind and Star Wars.

But for Andrews, the 50th anniversary, for which she has endured hours of questions from journalists with her typical uncommon dignity and good humour, may mark the last celebration.

“I think this is probably it, I would imagine. People have been joking with me all along, saying ‘You’ll be back for the 100th,’” she said, laughing. “The mind boggles.”



Where are they now?

Checking in with the von Trapp kids from The Sound of Music

Seven young actors became part of cinematic history when they were cast as the von Trapp children in Rogers & Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music — and they also became lifelong friends. Known as ‘The SoM 7’, they formed their own sort of family over the months of making the musical. Their parents befriended one another as the young performers travelled to Austria for filming, and the actors themselves have remained close for decades.

The Sound of Music film celebrates fifty years (/assets/oldimages/cast_0320.jpg)

Charmian Carr, Heather Menzies, Julie Andrews, and Nicholas Hammond in a scene from the film The Sound of Music 

“We’re beyond friends. We’re second family,” said Kym Karath, who played the youngest von Trapp, Gretl. “As adults, we were deeply bonded, so our lives have really interwoven with each other.”

As The Sound of Music celebrates its 50th anniversary, here’s a look at what the ‘SoM 7’ are doing now:


The Sound of Music film celebrates fifty years (/assets/oldimages/LIESL.JPG)LIESL: Now 72, Charmian Carr played the eldest von Trapp daughter and has published two books about her experience making the film: Forever Liesl and Letters to Liesl. She maintains a website (charmiancarr.com) where she sells the custom furniture she designs, as well as autographed photos from her Sound of Music days. She lives in Southern California and regularly sees her Sound of Music sisters.


The Sound of Music film celebrates fifty years (/assets/oldimages/friedrich.jpg)FRIEDRICH: For Nicholas Hammond, who portrayed the eldest von Trapp son, The Sound of Music came early in a still-thriving entertainment career. Hammond continued to collect film and TV credits as he pursued an English literature degree at Princeton. Now 64, he lives in Australia and works as an actor, writer and director.


The Sound of Music film celebrates fifty years (/assets/oldimages/kurt.jpg)KURT: Duane Chase, who played little brother Kurt von Trapp, continued acting until his teens, including an appearance in the 1966 Kurt Russell film, Follow Me, Boys! Chase switched gears in college, earning a bachelor’s and master’s degree in geology and working as a software engineer. Now 64, he recently went on sabbatical and is considering retirement.


The Sound of Music film celebrates fifty years (/assets/oldimages/gretl.jpg)GRETL: Kym Karath was only five when she played Gretl von Trapp. She quit acting for high school and college at USC, and focused on parenting rather than performing to care for her disabled son. Karath helped establish the Aurelia Foundation, which provides services for special-needs individuals. Now 56, Karath is returning to her entertainment career as an actress and writer.


The Sound of Music film celebrates fifty years (/assets/oldimages/louisa.jpg)LOUISA: The Sound of Music was Heather Menzies-Urich’s first movie. She continued acting after she wed actor Robert Urich, but stopped when their children were born. Now 65, she runs the nonprofit organisation she established after her husband died from cancer. The Robert Urich Foundation provides funding for research and to help families relocate for specialised treatment.


The Sound of Music film celebrates fifty years (/assets/oldimages/marta.jpg)MARTA: Debbie Turner was as much an athlete as an actress as a child, and she opted for sports after playing Marta von Trapp. (A lifetime of skiing earned the 58-year-old a knee replacement.) Turner owns a floral-design business in Minnesota. She recently was called on to provide flowers for a wedding in Salzburg, Austria, at a palace that inspired the sets of The Sound of Music.


The Sound of Music film celebrates fifty years (/assets/oldimages/brigitta.jpg)BRIGITTA: Angela Cartwright went on to star in the TV series Lost in Space and Make Room for Granddaddy after playing Brigitta. She traded acting for other artistic pursuits after having children. Now 62, Cartwright works as a photographer, painter and writer in Los Angeles. Her most recent book was Styling the Stars: Lost Treasures from the Twentieth Century Fox Archive. AP


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