Jan's Blog Flower



Now reading . . .

"Other Colors"
by Orhan Pamuk

by Nathaniel Philbrick

"A Family on Wheels"
by Maria Augusta Trapp with Ruth T. Murdock

September 14, 2009

The Sound of Music?

Last weekend I watched the movie, “The Sound of Music for the umpteenth time. I like that movie. Julie Andrews had the most amazing voice, she is so pretty and the story was romantic. Watching that movie always drives me to the bookshelf to get the slim volume written by Maria Augusta von Trapp entitled, “ The Story of the Trapp Family Singers”. As my youngest sister always says, however, all biography is fiction and especially all autobiography is fiction. There are quite a few things that were fictionalized in the movie and I am sure in the book as well.

Years ago, Mark and I attended an event at Fullerton Junior college where Maria von Trapp was speaking. It was very interesting, of course, but the real Baroness von Trapp looked nothing like Julie Andrews. When we were in Salzburg, Austria, years later we took the “Sound of Music” tour and discovered that the exteriors were filmed in one place and the interiors in another and “The Hills are Alive” scenes were done in yet another place. We were startled to hear the bus driver place music and encourage us to sing along. Apparently die hard fans do that. I am sure that none of you could imagine Mark singing along.

Warning!! – some of the things in the following paragraphs will perhaps spoil the movie for you. Here are some of the things that were different in real life: www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/.../von-trapps.html

• Maria came to the von Trapp family in 1926 as a tutor for one of the children, Maria, who was recovering from scarlet fever, not as governess to all the children.
• The von Trapp family home was not their ancestral home. They moved to Salzburg after the death of the Baron’s first wife, the mother of the older children.
• Maria and Georg married in 1927, 11 years before the family left Austria, not right before the Nazi takeover of Austria.
• There were 10, not 7 von Trapp children.
• The names, ages, and sexes of the children were changed.
• The family was musically inclined before Maria arrived, but she did teach them to sing madrigals.
• Georg, far from being the detached, cold-blooded patriarch of the family who disapproved of music, as portrayed in the first half of The Sound of Music, was actually a gentle, warmhearted parent who enjoyed musical activities with his family. While this change in his character might have made for a better story in emphasizing Maria's healing effect on the von Trapps, it distressed his family greatly.
• The family did not secretly escape over the Alps to freedom in Switzerland, carrying their suitcases and musical instruments.
• The von Trapps traveled to Italy, not Switzerland by train. Georg was born in Zadar (now in Croatia), which at that time was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Zadar became part of Italy in 1920, and Georg was thus an Italian citizen, and his wife and children as well.
• Instead of the fictional Max Detweiler, pushy music promoter, the von Trapps' priest, the Reverend Franz Wasner, acted as their musical director for over 20 years.
• Though she was a caring and loving person, Maria wasn't always as sweet as the fictional Maria. She tended to erupt in angry outbursts consisting of yelling, throwing things, and slamming doors. Her feelings would immediately be relieved and good humor restored, while other family members, particularly her husband, found it less easy to recover. In her 2003 interview, the younger Maria confirmed that her stepmother "had a terrible temper. . . . And from one moment to the next, you didn't know what hit her. We were not used to this. But we took it like a thunderstorm that would pass, because the next minute she could be very nice."

I would guess that much of the time, the person we present to the public is not the real us either. I still enjoy the movie although sometimes it is better to keep your illusions.

previous ~ home ~ next