Classic Movie Review: The Sound of Music (1965)

Posted: May 20, 2015 in Comedy, Drama, Music
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The Sound of Music

Maria (Julie Andrews) is a nun who is told to leave the Abbey, because the other sisters can’t reign in her unbridled enthusiasm.  Maria is sent to be a nanny to Captain Von Trapp (Christopher Plummer) and his seven rambunctious children.  The Captain is a widower, and has put into place a strict regimen that his kids must follow, the kids rebel, because they crave their father’s attention, and drive numerous nannies out of the house.  Maria bonds with the kids, by overlooking their pranks and teaching them songs and encouraging them to have fun, and take pleasure in the beauty around them. Maria is also starting to fall in love with the Captain, but he plans to marry the Baroness (Eleanor Parker) a rich, attractive aristocrat.  When Maria hears of their imminent marriage, she leaves the Von Trapp house and goes back to the Abbey.

The Nazis are also marching across Europe and setting their sights on Austria, the Captain is a fierce Austrian nationalist and despises any talk about a German takeover of Austria.  Does the Von Trapp family escape the Nazi takeover of Austria?  Does the Captain marry the Baroness, or realize that he too is falling in love with Maria?

This is a fantastic movie, it’s actually three movies in one, it’s a musical, it’s a romance, and it’s a World War II movie.  The romance is a little formulaic, a stern father with obstinate children, meet a loving wife/mother figure, and of course there’s a love triangle and a romantic rival in the form of the Baroness, who’s rich, cultured, and self-centered, everything that Maria is not.  Movies use formulaic storylines because sometimes the formula works, and it works very well here.  The message is simple, love can overcome any obstacle, and that message is delivered with sincerity, clarity, and good humor.  The movie version is greatly fictionalized, but did you really think that anyone could be as sweet, as Julie Andrews plays Maria?

The acting is superb, Julie Andrews is so good as the fresh-faced, loving, joyous, naïve nanny, that for many years, she got typecast in those goody two-shoes roles,  in Mary Poppins, Thoroughly Modern Millie, and Cinderella on tv. She tried breaking that image many times, most notably in 10, and Victor Victoria, but her image stays pure to this day. Christopher Plummer is a little stiff, but that’s on purpose, when Bill Lee (who dubbed the voice for Plummer) sang Edelweiss, all the sternness of the character melts away and he’s in love, and the viewer believes it. Eleanor Parker is also very good as the cool, sophisticated Baroness .The viewer never knows what her motivations are, and that’s good.  Charmian Carr is also very good as Liesl, the Captain’s oldest daughter, the transition from an adversarial to friendly relationship between her and Andrews is natural.

Director Robert Wise is on familiar territory here, he also directed another classic musical,  West Side Story.  This movie is well paced, the songs are well staged. The film is visually colorful and bright  it has to be and suitably dark where it has to be.  Wise gets great performances from everyone in the film, especially the kids, it is not always easy coaxing good performances from kids.

The songs, by Rogers and Hammerstein are classics in themselves.  “The Sound of Music”, “How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?” Edelweiss”, “Climb Every Mountain” all are unforgettable songs.  Not only are they wonderful songs, but they help with the exposition of the story, and moving the story along.

The Sound of Music:  Music to a movie lover’s ear.

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