Right alongside whiskers on kittens and warm woolen mittens, The Sound of Music is one of my favorite things, and arguably the best musical of all time. What’s not to love? You have Julie Andrews in her prime, Christopher Plummer at his most smoldering, children singing and dancing while wearing curtains, epic Austrian landscapes, automobile-sabotaging nuns, and so on. These are just a few of the reasons why the 1965 classic lives on almost 50 years after its release and why a live performance based on the Broadway version starring Carrie Underwood is premiering on NBC tonight. The only good thing I can say about the re-staging is that it will hopefully direct a whole new generation to the original. Because the universe is kind, there just so happens to be a sing-along of The Sound of Music happening right now through December 8th at the Castro Theatre! I go every year and it never gets old. There’s a costume contest (grown ups dressed as paper packages tied up with string, girls in blue satin sashes, etc.), confetti poppers, and hilarious shouted comments from the audience. You should definitely go (hell, you should be there right now!). To get ready for your reunion with the musical gem, here are some little known facts about The Sound of Music!
In the famous opening sequence that features Julie Andrews spinning in the hills, you can tell that there’s a considerable downdraft from the helicopter. So considerable that it kept knocking Julie Andrews over. After over a dozen takes, she finally signaled to the director, Robert Wise, who was overseeing in a nearby tree. He signaled back a thumbs up. They had finally gotten the shot!
Christopher Plummer was not thrilled about being in the movie, referring to it as “The Sound of Mucus” and comparing working with Julie Andrews to “to being hit over the head with a big Valentine’s Day card every day ” (don’t worry; they’re still friends). He resorted to eating and drinking a lot during the shoot to drown his sorrows. This led to his costume needing to be refitted and him being drunk while shooting the “Edelweiss” music festival scene.
When approaching the von Trapp mansion and singing “I Have Confidence,” Julie Andrews accidentally tripped. The director decided that it added an endearing, nervous quality to the song and put it in the movie.
Charmian Carr, who played telegram-obsessed eldest daughter Liesl, injured her ankle during the “16 Going on 17” sequence. Despite the best efforts of a makeup artist, the bandage could be seen in early versions of the movie. The bandage was digitally removed when the film was remastered for DVD. Another tidbit about Carr is that she was 21 when shooting the movie and had a huge crush on Christopher Plummer, who has said that he felt the same attraction but didn’t act on it. He did however “teach her to drink.”
There was a lot of interest in The Sound of Music from young actors. Some actresses who auditioned or tested for the role of Liesl are Liza Minnelli, Mia Farrow, and Sharon Tate. Doris Day and Audrey Hepburn were considered for the role of Maria, Grace Kelly for the role of the Baroness, and Fred Astaire as Uncle Max. And Julie Andrews almost didn’t do the movie because she didn’t want to be typecast as a nanny, in light of her work on Mary Poppins. Thankfully, she snapped out of it.
In between takes, Julie Andrews sang “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” to the children. Mary Poppins hadn’t been released yet, so they assumed she had just made it up.
Kym Karath, the actress playing Gretl, couldn’t swim so Julie Andrews was tasked with reaching her as quickly as possible after all the actors were supposed to fall out of a rowboat. One take went swimmingly (har har), but Andrews and the child fell on different sides of the boat the second time around. Thankfully, Heather Menzies-Urich, the actress who played Louisa, came to the rescue and got vomited on by Karath as a reward.
At the end of the movie when the von Trapps are hiking over the Alps to safety (the real von Trapps just took a train to Italy), the child hanging on Christopher Plummer is not the actress who played Gretl. She had gained a bit of weight during filming and Plummer requested a stunt double.
That’s all, folks! The von Trapp kids thank you for your time! So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye!