Thursday, November 22, 2012

Behind the Scenes of America's Favorite Musical

(in other words, "Seventeen Facts You Probably Didn't Know About The Sound of Music")
{a guest post by Miss Dashwood}

The real Maria von Trapp chats with Julie Andrews and Mrs. Robert Wise

 The Sound of Music may very well be the most popular musical of all time.  In fact, I'm willing to guarantee that each and every person reading this post has seen it, perhaps even multiple times.  Maybe you're even like me and have seen it more times than you can count (thereby enabling you to recite, oh, pretty much the whole screenplay).

But as with any movie, there are dozens of fun behind-the-scenes facts that many people don't know.  Hopefully, by the end of this post, you won't be one of those people.  Ready? Drumroll, please.  Let The Sound of Music trivia begin!  (Please hold all questions until the end of the tour.)

~The suspenseful scene in which Sister Berthe (Portia Nelson) comes to open the abbey gate for the storm troopers was filmed in two very different locations.  The interior of the abbey (where the von Trapp family is huddled with the Mother Abbess) was actually a studio set, while the abbey gate is a real gate at the ______ Abbey in Salzburg.  Portia Nelson later joked that she walked all the way from California to Austria to answer that bell!

~Robert Wise, the director, was worried that the film's famous aerial opening might be seen as a copy of the opening from a previous film of his, West Side Story.  However, he was persuaded to keep it in the film.  Ironically enough, SofM's opening scene in the Austrian mountains has become far more iconic than the sky-view of New York from West Side Story!

"[Dandelions]! Georg, you never told me how enchanting your children are!"

~Debbie Turner, who played the role of Marta von Trapp, lost several teeth during filming.  The makeup crew, not wanting her to have gaps in her mouth, created false teeth for her.  Unfortunately, this caused her a rather pronounced lisp, which can be heard in several scenes, particularly the one in which she tells Maria that she'll be seven on Tuesday and would like a pink parasol.

~Christopher Plummer, who played Captain von Trapp, made his acting debut as Fitzwilliam Darcy in his high school's production of Pride and Prejudice.  (Had to stick that in there for all you Janeites.  :D)

~The von Trapp's house in the film is not the actual Villa Trapp. Two different houses were used for the front and back views of the film's house--the lake at Leopoldskron Castle was used for the rear, and the Schloss Frohnburg was used for the front entrance and back view of the house.  In the scene where Maria returns to the von Trapps after being at the abbey, Julie Andrews (Maria) and Christopher Plummer (the Captain) were in two separate locations.  Maria's shots were filmed facing toward the lake at Leopoldskron, while the Captain's shots were filmed on a completely different day, facing toward the rear of Frohnburg.  The shots were then seamlessly edited together to produce the illusion of one extensive estate.

Getting soused with water after the dunk in the lake

~The real Maria von Trapp, an elderly woman by the time the film was made, actually appears in a brief scene.  She can be spotted under the stone archway with two of her daughters as the fictional Maria walks through Salzburg singing "I Have Confidence."

~Nicholas Hammond (Friedrich) grew several inches during filming, and since Robert Wise (the director) was insistent that the children's heights should match their ages (i.e., older ones taller than the younger ones), Charmian Carr (Liesl) wore lifts in her shoes and even stood on an apple box in a few scenes so she would appear taller.

Nicholas Hammond and Duane Chase skateboard off-set (still in their party clothes...)

~Yul Brynner, famous for playing King Mongkut in The King and I and Rameses in The Ten Commandments, was one of the first actors considered for the part of the Captain.  You're welcome for THAT mental image.

~Before filming of "Sixteen Going on Seventeen," the wardrobe department forgot to put nonskid soles on Liesl's (Charmian Carr's) dancing shoes.  As a result, Liesl danced up onto a bench in the gazebo and ended up sliding right through a pane of glass.  She went on to film the rest of the sequence that very same day, with a tightly wrapped (and desperately camouflaged) Ace bandage around her left ankle, which was sprained and cut when she went through the window.

Filming the reprise of "My Favorite Things"

~Christopher Plummer (Captain von Trapp) desperately wanted to do his own singing in the movie--even going so far as to take intense vocal training--but in the end his singing was dubbed.

~Rolf and Liesl really did get married... well, in a way.  Daniel Truhitte (Rolf Gruber) met and fell in love with  a German girl named Gabriele during filming.  Gabriele was the stand-in for Charmian Carr (Liesl) during the wedding scene, and after a whirlwind courtship in Salzburg and a two-year relationship by mail following the movie, they were married.

Priceless face, eh what?

~The scene where Maria and the children stand up in the boat to greet the Captain and promptly fall overboard had to be shot twice.  In the first take, Julie Andrews (Maria) was supposed to catch Kym Karath (Gretl), who did not know how to swim.  But when the scene was filmed, Andrews and Karath fell on opposite sides of the boat, and Alan Callow (the Brownshirt who runs into the festival shouting "They're gone!") jumped into the lake and just barely managed to rescue Karath before she went under for good.  The scene was re-shot with Heather Menzies (Louisa) being responsible for Karath, and she managed to do so, but by this point Karath had swallowed so much lake water that she threw up on Mensies before they got out of the lake.  That snippet was, fortunately, cut from the final version of the scene (which is a combination of both takes).

(counterclockwise) Julie Andrews freshens her makeup,
Eleanor Parker waits for a sound check and Christopher Plummer
contemplates who should get whacked on the head with his guitar

~The famous opening scene where Maria spins on the mountaintop was filmed on a cloudy day after numerous failed takes.  It was windy and cold, and the helicopter used for the aerial shot kept blowing Julie Andrews (Maria) off her feet whenever it would zoom in for a close-up.  The scene was finally filmed on the very last day in Germany (yep, it was done in Germany, not Austria) when the movie was 25 days behind schedule and $740,000 over budget.

~During filming of "Something Good" in the gazebo, Julie Andrews (Maria) and Christopher Plummer (Captain von Trapp) had had a long, stressful day and were ready to giggle at anything.  The opportunity came when the floodlights used to create "moonlight" began making groaning, raspberry-like noises as they heated up.  Andrews and Plummer dissolved into laughter repeatedly, and finally Robert Wise (the director) gave up and shot the scene in silhouette to hide the actors' giggles.

Everybody loves Julie Andrews.  Always.
~In the final scene when the family are climbing the mountains into Switzerland, Christopher Plummer (Captain von Trapp) is carrying a stunt double on his back and not Kym Karath (Gretl von Trapp).  After multiple takes of that scene, Plummer complained that Karath was "built like a tank" and refused to carry her one more step, so a lighter child was substituted.

~Though all the von Trapp children do their own singing on the soundtrack, four extra young singers were brought in to enhance the actors' voices during choruses and group singing.

Gretl brushes Liesl's hair between takes

~The scene where Liesl sneaks into Maria's bedroom before the thunderstorm was the first scene filmed.  The scene where the Captain, the Baroness and Max Detweiler drive to the von Trapp villa was the last scene filmed.

For more fun trivia about The Sound of Music, I recommend Forever Liesl by Charmian Carr and The Making of America's Favorite Movie by Julia Antopol Hirsch. 

It's hard to properly end a post that was made up entirely of random facts, so instead of an ending sentence, I give you a picture of the Baroness and Uncle Max making fish faces.  The End.

Miss Amy Dashwood is a daughter of the King of Kings, a seventeen-going-on-eighteen-year-old homeschooler and a lover of period dramas, chocolate, long bike rides, babies, teacups, historical costumes and fiddle music.  Books are her passion, whether she's reading them or writing them.  She is the author ofOnly a Novel, which is available on Amazon, and you can find her at either of her two blogs, Yet Another Period Drama Blog and The Quest for Stories.   


Melody said...

Trying to picture Christopher Plummer as Mr. Darcy...
Nope. Can't be done.


Fun post!

Julia said...

*cough* Yeah, well, I can't picture Yul Brynner as the Captain! LOL!!!!! :D

This was such a fun post to read. I knew a few of the trivia facts but most of them were new to me. :D The pictures were all great! Thanks for sharing!


Charity U said...

Delightful, Miss Amy! What fun pictures too. :) Thanks so much for posting!

larkin said...

I thoroughly enjoyed this post! It's hard to believe that things did go wrong on the set of such an iconic movie/musical, but apparently everyone messes up. Great photos and fascinating facts!

Holly said...

That was really interesting...I didn know quite a few of those facts as I was told about them while going on The Sound of Music Tour in Salzburg two years ago!
Gosh, I just love that movie.
Oh, and by the way, I can so picture Christopher Plummer playing Mr Darcy when he was younger! :)

Hamlette said...

This was the only movie my family owned for many years, and I still have it memorized. Thanks for all these awesome trivia facts and behind-the-scenes pictures! I absolutely love the fish faces :-+