Friday, April 24

The Sound of 50 Years

I had the happiest experience two days ago in a movie theater that I have had in years and years.  I again saw The Sound of Music on the big screen.  Unless you've been away from the planet, you know this is the 50th anniversary of one of the finest films ever made, musical or not. 

Turner Classic Movies, 20th Century Fox and the AMC theater chain have combined to bring the great film back into the theaters so those of us who flipped out over it all these years ago can do so again.  And we did.  It was a matinee showing on a weekday so of course we're not talking a full theater, but it was full enough and obvious that we all were so excited. 

While we waited there were questions and answers on the screen to test our knowledge.  I'm sure we diehard fans could answer them all correctly.  When the lights were lowered, I had butterflies in my stomach, as though I was taking to the stage to sing something from the film. 

TCM's beloved host, Robert Osborne, came on the screen to tell us some historical facts about the film and he would also do the same when the 174-minute film concluded. When those opening shots of the Austrian countryside appeared, my mind went back 50 years ago and I remembered the thrill of seeing that opening the first time.  When it was over, I was in an unbelievably great mood.  Such is the magic of The Sound of Music for me.

As we were walking out, I spoke to a woman who said it was her favorite film of all time and despite the $12.50 price tag, she was thinking of coming back again for the 7 p.m. showing.  She commented that she was surprised there's been so much press coverage of it, not withstanding the 50th anniversary.  I sort of feel the same way.  We also commented on how wonderful it was, after 50 years, that we still get misty-eyed in the same scenes that we first did so long ago.  We also agreed that our wettest times were when the Captain watches his children singing The Sound of Music in the parlor and again when the Captain sings Edelweiss in the parlor.

I recall seeing an Oprah show where the cast gathered... Andrews, Plummer and the kids.  Over the years Andrews and the kids, together and separately, have spoken often about the experience of making it.  Charmian Carr (Leisl) wrote a delightful book about it.  But I don't ever recall seeing Plummer do anything on its behalf and in fact he always made fun of it.  But there he was on Oprah saying, more or less, than he had changed his mind.  He has realized what a good film it is.  And he has to know with all the work he has done, films and stage, when it comes time to write his obituary, it will be... Christopher Plummer of The Sound of Music fame.

When Eleanor Parker (Baroness Schrader) died in 2013, the obit read... Eleanor Parker of The Sound of Music.  Of the scores of wonderful films she had made, most in the leading female role, she is more recognized as a costar of The Sound of Music.  Apparently that irked her for years and may have played a part in why she never once played any part in the numerous tributes over the years, nor was her name usually mentioned.  At her passing, her son said that she had finally made her peace with the film a few years earlier and had come to realize it was very special.

Richard Haydn and Eleanor Parker

In addition to Parker receiving little coverage for her role, I felt the same about character actor, Richard Haydn, who contributed mightily as Uncle Max.  Both of them provided many of the film's funniest lines.

Then, of course, there was the lovely Diane Sawyer tribute some weeks back on ABC.  It's been on at least twice and there is no way that any true TSOM fan missed it.  I recorded it for posterity and have since watched it twice.  It was beyond wonderful going on Sawyer's journey, often accompanied by Andrews, to the various locations in the film.  How I would love to do that in person.

I learned a few things, as well.  One was that Andrews was fairly unhappy during the filming because she was separated from her then-husband, Tony Walton.  The second was that for that opening title song, the music and words were blaring from speakers hidden in the trees... no, not the white birches, but taller, fuller trees nearby.  I also now realize that Andrews and Plummer are good friends to this day and see one another socially when they can. 

Andrews said that she had two favorite scenes.  One was on the stairwell after Maria and the Captain have argued and he tells her to pack her things and leave.  He has changed his mind after he hears the children singing The Sound of Music to the baroness and Uncle Max.  The Captain sees Maria watching from the hall and then she makes a beeline for the stairs.  He catches up to her and tells her he wants her to stay, then asks her to stay.  I agree that it is a very touching scene, always did think so, and I was delighted to find out she thought so too.

Her second favorite was when she and the Captain do an Austrian folk dance, the Ländler, on the patio as the party is in full swing inside.  Again, it was a lovely scene, especially since it represented the first real romantic attention the characters paid to one another.

Andrews and the grown children

I recently read somewhere (Vanity Fair?) a very funny story.  A reporter had been interviewing Andrews and Plummer and they all ended up going to dinner together.  Once at the restaurant, the reporter asked the two actors if they knew there was a worldwide phenomenon created by the film whereby they have showings of it that invites a singalong.  The lyrics are printed on the screen.

He added that during these showings audience members attend in costumes, representing various characters.  At one such showing, a man showed up covered entirely in gold.  (I'm thinking Shirley Eaton in Goldfinger.)  When the ticket-taker stopped him and asked if he knew he was supposed to dress as a character from the film, the man replied that he done just that.  Well, then, who do you think you are, the ticket-taker inquired.  I am Re, a drop of golden sun, the man replied.

All in all, it's been a delightful year and the many tributes to one of my favorite films of all time is one reason why.  I won't be around for the 100th anniversary but I will be there in spirit.

Favorite 60s Film


  1. I saw it many , many moons ago because I do love musical, When I realized the first song was dubbed in Italian I almost had a heart attack, In spite of that delusion I enjoied every single scen of this magnificent movie and when I left the theatre I went to a disc shop to by the record with the original voices. Then, later one, TV showed it with songs in English and finally VHS came to make me happy. Wonderful. I think I'll watch it again as soon as I go back home. Ciao.

  2. Great film, one of my favorites! How wonderful you got to see it on the big screen once again. Back before the VHS tape, it used to come around to the theaters almost every year.

    Thank you for giving Haydn and Parker their props--they give the film some of its funniest moments. My favorite: "Why didn't you tell me," Elsa purrs to max, "to bring along my harmonica?"

  3. Yes, C, I agree with you... their great line. And wasn't it said in the picture I used of the two of them?