I’ll Sing Once More
May 4, 2021
When this film was released in the spring of 1965, I wonder if its creators ever dreamed of the incredible impact it would have on the world.
The Sound of Music was the number one film of that year and spent 29 of 52 weeks at the top of the box office lists; its popularity continued into 1966. In all, it was in the premier slot for a total of 40 weeks and became the highest grossing film of all time – a distinction it held for five years.
Frankly, one would have to have lived in a technology devoid place for their entire life to never have heard of the film.
It began life as a Broadway Musical in 1959 before it was adapted for the silver screen. The story was based on an autobiographical book by Maria Von Trapp who, along with her family, escaped Austria just as WWII was about to begin. The Infallible Wikipedia tells us:
“Based on the 1949 memoir The Story of the Trapp Family Singers by Maria von Trapp, the film is about a young Austrian postulant in Salzburg, Austria, in 1938 who is sent to the villa of a retired naval officer and widower to be governess to his seven children. After bringing love and music into the lives of the family, she marries the officer and, together with the children, finds a way to survive the loss of their homeland to the Nazis.”
What sets the movie apart is a combination of elements. The story line has so many great themes: two different love stories. Maria and the Captain, of course, but also 16 year old Lisle and the confused Nazi youth, Rolf. There are gut-wrenching decisions to be made as the Von Trapp’s plot their escape from their beloved Austria, forced to give up everything rather than sacrifice their values. But most of all it’s the Rogers and Hammerstein score which has resonated through the years.
The opening scene alone, with the larger than life song Sound of Music being belted out by the heroine Maria on the Austrian mountaintop, pulls the audience in. From there, the music truly tells the story. Maria is a problem to be solved; one must ‘Climb Every Mountain,’ and face life’s difficulties in ‘I Have Confidence.’
The toe tapping tunes continue on: My Favorite Things, Do-Re-Mi, and Sixteen Going on Seventeen. And so many more.
The movie won multiple awards. Also from the Infallible Wikipedia:
“The Sound of Music received five Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director, Wise’s second pair of both awards, the first being from the 1961 film West Side Story. The film also received two Golden Globe Awards, for Best Motion Picture and Best Actress, the Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement, and the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Written American Musical. In 1998, the American Film Institute (AFI) listed The Sound of Music as the fifty-fifth greatest American movie of all time, and the fourth greatest movie musical. In 2001, the United States Library of Congress selected the film for preservation in the National Film Registry, finding it “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.
For Americans in 1965, life was quite different than today. Most of the families I knew rarely went out to eat in a restaurant or to the movies. Going to see The Sound of Music at the Capitol Theatre in Yakima was such a treat and likely only the third film I’d ever seen in a theatre; the first two being Mary Poppins and My Fair Lady from the year before.
In the mid-sixties, women and girls still wore dresses everywhere. Such was the case for when I saw the Sound of Music. I have a distinct memory of wearing a pink dress and, likely my saddle shoes. I was hooked from the first moment.
Soon after seeing the movie, the album arrived in our house and was played over and over – to the point, no doubt, where it developed skips and that crackling sound that comes from a worn out record.
My sister and I acted out the Sound of Music in our bedroom or in the backyard with the neighbor kids. We took on the various roles. I always wanted to be Lisle but the character of Brigitta, her nose always in a book, was more accurate.
The year I was 10 I learned that the local Warehouse theatre group was going to produce the stage version of the Sound of Music. I got a wild hair that I needed to try out and get the role of Brigitta. But when I asked my Mom, it was a resounding ‘you don’t want to do that.’ Which when translated meant that SHE didn’t want me to do that.
I was crushed that I wasn’t going to be able to live out my dream of being on stage in the Sound of Music. A girl I knew from school got the role of Brigitta. I don’t believe we ever went to the production.
But even that disappointment did not deter me from my love of the Sound of Music. When they first started broadcasting the film on commercial TV I made sure to watch it every year. This was followed with owning the VHS version and, ultimately, on DVD.
Up until the Covid-19 Pandemic shut down large gatherings, the Lincoln Theatre in Mount Vernon would host an annual Sound of Music viewing and singalong, encouraging attendees to dress as characters from the movie.
I haven’t yet made that event, but it’s on my bucket list. For the record, I no longer identify with Brigitta or Lisle, but to join all the other wannabe Maria’s out there would be the best.
A couple of links: