What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions
This movie is on my list of essential films.
NOTE: This installment of Movies Everybody Loves That I Hate is being done as part of something called The 4th Broadway Blog-a-thon being hosted by Taking Up Room. Let me just cut to the chase here; there’s several reasons why this movie makes my brain swell, and this is my chance to explain why.
You can see all the contributors to this blog-a-thon here:
1) The McSound of McMusic
How does a movie I can’t stand end up on my list of essential films? Because that list isn’t titled “favorites” or “best.” The Sound of Music is second only to Gone with the Wind in terms of the most-viewed movie on Earth. In fact, there was a time when it actually surpassed Gone With the Wind as the highest grossing film of all time. Adjusted for inflation, as of this writing The Sound of Music still stands as the third-highest-grossing movie ever in terms of domestic box office. In other words, this movie is so fucking popular, you almost can’t call yourself a fan of “classic” film without having suffered through it.
It’s like this…”popular” does not equal “good.” McDonald’s is the definition of popular; as of February 2021, there were 13,683 sets of “Golden Arches” in the United States alone. But if you’ve eaten at one lately, you know “good” left the equation a while ago.
2) Even by “Musical” standards, the music is awful
To continue the theme, the music in this movie sucks because most of it is as formulaic and predictable as a Big Mac. Also like a McBarfBurger, they are short on meat and long on cheap filler. Take “Edelweiss” for example.
Arguably, “Edelweiss” is the “flagship” song of this film, and the way it’s sold, many people think it is a storied Austrian folk song. Worse yet, there are people who actually believe Edelweiß is the national anthem of Austria. It is neither of those things. As a matter of fact, this shit-pile of a song was composed by Oscar Hammerstein strictly for this film.
But that’s not all, gang. Misinterpretation is one thing; misrepresentation is another. This film completely twists the Salzburg Festival; purporting it to be some sort of amateur folk music competition. This is done strictly for the purposes of injecting more awful music. In fact, Salzburg Festival is one of the most distinguished festivals of classical and orchestral music, opera, and drama…it would have nothing to do with the sort of caterwauling shown in this movie.
3) Speaking of misrepresentation…
What this movie does to the Salzburg Festival is just the tip of the lie-berg. Another bit of deception comes from the so-called “Ländler” folk dance that Maria and Kapitän von Trapp perform in the movie. While it is a real thing, it isn’t what is shown in the movie. The dance shown in the movie is virtually unknown in Austria.
“Stuff which isn’t what it seems” is the theme here. Sure, I get that’s a big part of what movies are all about, but there’s a line that simply cannot be crossed. It’s almost as if the city of Salzburg and The Sound of Music conspired to rip-off unsuspecting film buffs-cum-tourists. The Sound of Music sets the stage offering an overly romanticized, if not completely distorted view of Austria. Then, the city of Salzburg slams home the deception by pretending it is a giant open-air museum of all things “Sound of Music.” The best example is the local tour guides fill their successfully trapped tourists with tales of the cemetery featured in the “Nazi”scenes being that of St Peter′s Abbey. It’s a nice story despite being completely false as those scenes were all filmed at Universal Studios in California.
By the way, what they never tell you is the Salzburg region of Austria is best known as the birthplace of Adolf Hitler.
This stone marks the exact where Hitler was born in 1889 in a village named Braunau am Inn which is just up the road from Salzburg. As best as my high-school German recollects, the wording on the stone translates as “For peace, freedom, and democracy, never again fascism, a million dead reminders.” That’s a nice sentiment, but it also dramatically under-represents the actual number of deaths directly attributable to that evil little Austrian chap with the Charlie Chaplin mustache.
4) Speaking of Nazis…
The Von Trapps made me root for the Nazis. Seriously, by the end of this movie and the general nonsense of this whole family, I really wanted to see them all in a boxcar rattling down the rails toward a richly-deserved imprisonment.
There’s a host of reasons for that which I will discuss shortly. But there’s another important point I need to address first; one which sets the table for all of them.
5) Even by “Musical” standards, this movie has a stupid plot
The Sound of Music contains three main points. First, there’s the demi-Nazi Kapitän von Trapp and his odd infatuation with raising his children with the nurturing nature of a Central American guerrilla troop. Seriously, am I the only one who gets creeped out watching him order his kids around with a whistle like they are a pack of schnauzers?
While we are on the subject of the von Trapp kids, did you notice how much of this movie centers on der Kapitän belly-aching over the fact his children have been forced to wear clothing made from the curtains of his palatial estate? We all know he knows why that is, yet he’s such self-centered piece of shit he can’t grasp the “big picture” in this picture’s plot.
Let’s all say it together…the fucking Nazis are coming!!! So that we are all clear, it’s 1938, and the dogs of war are barking all around the world; they are literally at von Trapp’s door. Despite that, he’s more worried about dog-whistling his pack of bratwurst-eating brats and the fact their clothes might have come off curtain rods. Of course, this movie gives all those plot points the same weight…which somehow made perfect sense to somebody.
In any event, it’s obvious whether it’s The Sound of Music or Gone With the Wind, the key to a top-grossing movie is clothing made from curtains.
6) The typecasting of Heather Menzies
A recurring feature in this series is noting a phenomenon I call “reverse typecasting.” This happens when when you see an actor who played a role in something which became part of this country’s cultural fabric, and even when you see them in something made before their face became associated with an iconic character, that’s all you can see.
In this case, it’s more like “reverse reverse type-casting” (Is that like a “double-negative?”) because I saw Heather Menzies (a.k.a. Louisa von Trapp) all over television long before I ever saw The Sound of Music. She’s everywhere on American television in the 1970s, so much so she ended up married to Robert “Jim Street/Dan Tanna/Spenser For Hire” Urich. But I remember her most from my obsession of all things Jack Webb, where she also played a pain-in-the-ass teenage girl spanning the range from future “acid-head” to “wanna-be narc”on the iconic 1960s cop drama Dragnet.
7) What is the deal with Maria?
What many people don’t know is that the story in this movie is based on real people. There really was a “von Trapp family,” and their really was a “Maria.” But as is par for the course for this film, they aren’t who they are shown as in the film. For example, the movie sells the story that Maria was a nun. Other than our common Catholic roots, she was as much of a nun as I am.
Despite the fact that she came from a convent, the “real” Maria was only there on the same basis as a kid in military basic training. Even though they shaved your head and made you do eleventy-bajilion push-ups, you aren’t “officially” in until you graduate the training, which Maria never did.
In fact, the “real” background on the “real” Maria is up for debate. Most accounts have her as being raised by parents who were active in socialist and/or communist politics, which could have possibly run them afoul of any number of pre-war governments, if not the Nazis themselves. But there’s nothing which nails this any of this down. For all we know, the “real” Maria could have been a Tarantino-esque “hired gun.”
After all, nothing breeds a market for hired assassins like political instability, which 1930’s Europe defined. Combine that with Maria’s mysterious background, and anything is possible.
Say “Edelweiss” one more time…
8) The ending is total bullshit
While is indeed true the von Trapps had to flee Austria in the face of Nazi persecution, the movie fudges this to an unacceptable level. In the real story, der Kapitän married Maria in 1927, and they lived happily ever after in Salzburg until the Nazi Anschluss of Austria 1938. When they finally decided to leave, they gave the Germans a “head fake” by feigning a hiking trip while they actually embarked on a train ride to Italy.
In the movie, it’s the hiking trip which is supposedly the route of escape. It’s makes for a dramatic climax…but there’s one problem. The route to Switzerland taken by the von Trapps shown in the movie is over Mount Untersberg, While this is technically possible, it’s exceptionally unlikely since Mount Untersberg is over 150 miles (300 kilometers) from Salzburg.
While I understand taking a long walk to get away from the Nazis, I’m also pretty sure somebody would have spotted them in the time it would take to hike nearly twice the distance between New York and Philadelphia.
9) The critics hated this movie
Don’t take my word for it…take theirs…
“…the sugar-coated lie that people seem to want to eat.”
“We have been turned into emotional and aesthetic imbeciles when we hear ourselves humming the sickly, goody-goody songs.”~ Pauline Kael, movie critic McCall’s and The New Yorker
“…except for Julie Andrews…the cast is generally stiff or mawkish. In the case of Christopher Plummer, it is both.”
“Saccharine pudding…a virtual paraphrase of the musical-comedy book.”
“[The direction]…staged…so as to wring every drop of sentiment.”
“It all is sterile. As musical-film, it is not fresh. It is not sound.”~ Bosley Crowther, New York Times
“…the film was designed for ‘the five to seven set and all their mommies.’”~ Judith Crist, New York Herald Tribune
“Not only too sweet for words but almost too sweet for music.”~ Walter Kerr, New York Herald Tribune
10) Even Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer, and Robert Wise hated this movie
The critics weren’t the only ones to use the term “saccharine” to describe “The Sound of Music.” That’s the exact term director Robert Wise used when he originally turned down this film.
Wise wasn’t the only one to reject this movie. At first, Julie Andrews wanted noting to do with it because she feared that the “Maria” character was too much like the “Mary Poppins” role she played the previous year. Let’s be honest, had she stuck to her guns, this movie would likely have been relegated to the trash heap of being the only thing not trying to sell you something at 3 a.m. (for those of us who still have cable).
Even critics like Crowther credited Andrews for saving the movie.
“Despite the hopeless pretense of reality with which she and the others have to contend, especially in the last phase, when the Von Trapps are supposed to be fleeing from the Nazis and their homeland, Miss Andrews treats the whole thing with the same air of serenely controlled self-confidence that she has when we first come upon her trilling the title song on a mountain top.”
“Miss Andrews is nothing daunted. She plays a more saccharine nanny than Mary Poppins, but it doesn’t get her goat.”~ Bosley Crowther, New York Times
There’s that pesky “saccharine” term again.
Then there’s the matter of der Kapitän.
Despite the fact this movie put him on the map, Christopher Plummer hated making this movie, and he never changed his opinion until the day he died. He never called it by it’s proper title, referring to it as “The Sound of Mucus,” “the movie,” or “S&M,” and he allegedly had to be liquored up before going on set.
The main problem was Plummer’s contempt for the Kapitän von Trapp character. In his own words…
“I was a bit bored with the character. Although we worked hard enough to make him interesting, it was a bit like flogging a dead horse. And the subject matter is not mine. I mean, it can’t appeal to every person in the world. It’s not my cup of tea.”~ Christopher Plummer as told to The Boston Globe, 2010
He doubled down on that the following when at an actors’ round table hosted by The Hollywood Reporter, he called the movie “so awful and sentimental and gooey,” and recalled that he “had to work terribly hard to try and infuse some minuscule bit of humor into it.”
The director hated this movie. The stars hated this movie. But Americans love it…all except for me. I honestly could keep going, but I’m sure by now you get the point. Nobody needs 16 going on 17 reasons why I hate this movie.
You can see all the movies I hate here.