Last week, I noticed this movie was playing at a local theater and wondered why, particularly since I’d recently seen a review in the Onion, too. It turns out that it’s the fiftieth anniversary of “The Sound of Music,” a movie, which along with such cinematic gems as ‘Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” “Mommie Dearest,” “International Velvet,” “and “I Know My First Name is Steven,” seemed to be on weekend TV on a permanent loop when I was a kid. Since I already had nightmares about being kidnapped, I found musicals like “The Sound of Music,” much more appealing then. A world where people dealt with their issues by bursting into song, rather than screaming at each other or denying there was a problem in the first place seemed an attractive alternative to my own.
Anyway… Julie Andrews plays Maria, a nun who is having doubts about her faith and likes to sneak away to the hills and sing (she also plays guitar). Even as a kid, this did not seem to strike me as behavior that really needed correction, but this is apparently not so. Early on, the Mother Superior decides that she needs a harsh dose of reality and assigns her the job of being the governess to seven spoiled rich kids, whose father, Christopher Plummer has turned bitter following his wife’s death and deals with this by treating the kids like soldiers and using a whistle to summon them, as well as hiring an assortment of unpleasant governesses. The children, who range in age from sixteen to four-ish, have responded to this by acting out, and if you ask me, a better solution would be letting them go to school, but for reasons I never figured out, this is not an option.
Although all her predecessors have departed with nervous breakdowns, Julie quickly manages to win the kids over, mostly by letting them snuggle in bed with her when there is a thunderstorm, and in the oldest girl’s, Liesl’s case (Charmian Carr) not tattling to her father when she sneaks back into the house after rendezvousing with the telegram boy, Rolf (Daniel Truhitte) in the gazebo. Charmian is clearly head over heels in love with Daniel, which is probably also a by-product of being cooped up with only her siblings for company. As a kid, I got that, “Seeennnnd me a telegraammm,” was an euphemism, but exactly how far their relationship extended I couldn’t tell. Did they actually, well, Rolf? If the Captain (Christopher) found them, would he kill Rolf, make them marry or just send Liesl to boarding school? But that is not the direction the movie ultimately takes.
No, after the storm and the sing-along that occurs, Julie decides to make the kids the world’s most hideous play clothes, made from draperies that were hung in her room. Even as a kid, I thought that accepting that she manages to do all this in a relatively short time period and doesn’t get any lip from the kids about wearing them in public was implausible, but this is a musical. So the children and Julie have a blast until their father returns with “The Baroness” (Eleanor Parker), to whom he is engaged. But Christopher starts to have feelings for Julie, and oddly enough, the Baroness doesn’t seem too upset about the whole thing. So Maria and Christopher wind up married, while Christopher’s brother decides to pressure him to let the kids perform in public.
Also, World War II is looming, and Rolf has joined the Nazi party. This means that he is having doubts about his relationship with Charmian, as her father doesn’t seem to properly understand how great being a Nazi is. The result is that the family decides to flee, using the excuse that they are going to a talent contest as a guise. However, they are intercepted by the Nazis and forced to perform as originally intended. This brings me to another plot hole – why didn’t the Nazis post some basic security outside the contest venue so no one could escape? Since obviously they were attempting to flee in the first place? But they don’t, so the family ultimately escapes. I did, however, wonder what happened to Rolf, since in a weak moment, when he’s helping the Nazis tail the family, he lets them get away. But it wasn’t his story.