Academy Awards 50 years ago — Best Picture in 1965
By: Jimmy Lee King, entertainment writer
In 1965 “The Sound of Music” was released by 20th Century Fox. Directed and produced by Robert Wise, the film’s starring roles featured Julie Andrews as “Maria” and Christopher Plummer as “Captain Georg von Trapp.” The movie was adapted from the Broadway musical “The Sound of Music” with songs by Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein II.
“The Sound of Music” was shot in 70mm format at locations in Salzburg (Austria), Bavaria (Germany), and at 20th Century Fox studios in California. Among the ten Academy Award nominations it received, the film won in five categories, including Best Picture, beating out “Gone With The Wind.” The movie soundtrack was nominated for a Grammy that year for album of the year.
In 2001, the United States Library of Congress selected the film for preservation in the National Film Registry as it was deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”
“The Sound of Music” continues to thrive even 50 years after its release and is appreciated by older generations as well as younger ones. In 2015 musicals do not have the “cool” factor they once did—in order to understand that this particular musical is a kind of cinematic tradition, one must not be affected by more recent trends in popular culture.
Even if musicals aren’t your cup of tea, it’s hard to deny how beautiful this movie looks and feels—it has the kind of beauty that allows one to see something new each time it is watched, regardless of how many times it has already been seen. The scale and grandeur are breathtaking and inspiring, which can lead viewers to suspect that the cast and crew of this movie didn’t mind spending time in the picturesque German countryside.
(Plot & Summary.) In 1938, while living as a young postulant at Nonnberg Abbey in Salzburg, Austria, Maria is constantly getting into mischief to the consternation of the nuns and the Mother Abbess. After receiving a request from a widowed Austrian naval captain for a governess for his seven children, Mother Abbess asks Maria to accept the position, and Maria reluctantly agrees. When she arrives at the von Trapp estate, Maria discovers that Captain Georg von Trapp keeps it in strict, shipshape order. He uses a whistle to summon his children, issues orders, and dresses his children in sailor-suit uniforms. Although initially hostile, the children quickly warm to (Maria) thanks to her kind nature and she teaches them how to sing and allows them to play.
The Captain takes an extended visit to a lady friend, Baroness Elsa Schraeder, a wealthy socialite from Vienna, who accompanies him upon his return. While taking a boat ride on the lake, the children become excited at their father’s return and cause the boat to capsize, precipitating an argument between the Captain and Maria. The Captain is displeased with the activities she has arranged for the children and furiously orders her to return to the abbey. However, the Captain later relents when he hears the children singing for the Baroness, and apologizes to Maria and asks her to stay. Max Detweiler—a mutual friend of the Captain and the Baroness—who is searching for a novel musical act to enter into the upcoming Salzburg Festival, is impressed by the children’s singing, but the Captain forbids their participation.
At a banquet which the Captain has organized in honor of Baroness Schraeder, eleven-year-old Kurt watches the guests dancing the Ländler and he asks Maria to teach him the steps. When the Captain sees Maria dancing in the moonlight, he cuts in and partners her in a graceful performance, culminating in a close embrace; Maria breaks away and blushes, confused about her feelings. At the end of the evening, the Baroness, noticing the Captain’s attraction to Maria, convinces her to return to the abbey. Back at the abbey, Maria keeps herself in seclusion until Mother Abbess persuades her to return to the von Trapp family. When she discovers that the Captain is now engaged to the Baroness, she agrees to stay until they find a replacement governess. Realizing that he is in love with Maria, the Captain breaks off the engagement, and they subsequently declare their love for each other; soon after, they are married in an elaborate ceremony.
While the Captain and Maria are on their honeymoon in Paris, Max enters the children in the Salzburg Music Festival against their father’s wishes. Austria is annexed into the Third Reich in the Anschluss, and upon the newlyweds’ return the Captain is informed by telegram that he must report as soon as possible to the German Naval Headquarters in Bremerhaven to accept a commission in the German navy. Strongly opposed to Nazism, the Captain tells his family they must leave Austria. As the von Trapp family attempts to leave during the night, they are stopped by Nazi guards outside their estate. They lie to the guards, claiming they are performing in the Salzburg Festival, so Hans Zeller, the recently-appointed Nazi Gauleiter, agrees to accompany the family to the hall, but insists that the Captain depart for Germany immediately after the performance. The family takes part in the contest and slip away during their final number, seeking shelter from the patrolling guards at the abbey cemetery. They are discovered hiding by Rolfe (a former messenger boy enamoured of the Captain’s sixteen-year-old daughter, Liesl, but now a proud Nazi) who threatens to shoot the Captain. The Captain is able to disarm the boy and tries to persuade him to escape with them, but Rolfe calls for assistance. After the family escapes in a waiting car, the Nazis try to pursue but their cars fail to start, having been sabotaged by the nuns. The von Trapp family hikes over the Alps into Switzerland and to freedom. – “IMDB”
Julie Andrews, as “Maria,” the carefree and often mischievous postulant, carries this movie squarely on her shoulders—when she isn’t on the screen, she is missed. Christopher Plummer gives a great performance as “Captain Georg von Trapp,” the veteran Navy captain whose strict style is perhaps best displayed by his use of a whistle to summon his children. All of the children are great in the movie as well, and each presents a different challenge to Maria in her new task as their governess. Andrews, clearly the star of this show, won a Golden Globe for her performance, but lost to Julie Christie (of the film “Darling”) for the Academy Award for best actress.
“The Sound of Music” is a standout feature film from 50 years ago. It is far and away the most commercially-successful movie from 1965, and will likely be watched and enjoyed by many for generations to come. I encourage you to see this movie if you haven’t already. Sit down with your family and enjoy the magic of a story that is presented by talented actors and strengthened by brilliant movie-making from beginning to end. Yes, it’s a musical and yes, it’s amazing.
Please remember to turn your phones off when attending a movie theater.