This can be considered the third time we visit the world of 1960s musicals in our unintentional mini-series focused largely around Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke. We’re inhabiting Salzburg at the precipice of World War II, fighting Nazi sentiment and galavanting around a glass gazebo. Let’s not delay. Brooke, what are your thoughts on this film and why do you think I made you watch it?
B: I mean, I think the main reason is that The Sound of Music is a flat-out iconic picture — one that you’ve seen and I haven’t. However, I also know you have a certain fondness for a musical with a high production value, and you want me to break the anti-Julie Andrews trend in my family. Well, guess what? Mission accomplished.
After we watched Mary Poppins I said I was into what Miss Andrews was throwing down, and I still dug her in this movie. I find it curious that she should have such a niche as the plucky childcare provider … but she does it really, really well.
I will say that The Sound of Music surprised me in a couple of ways. First, I expected the Nazis to factor in rather more. Like, why didn’t the Hitler Youth try to bring Fredrick or Louisa around to their views? Yes, there was Rolfe, but I knew that the second I saw the kid. It would bring the pervasiveness and paranoia of the time to bear more fully if someone tried to corrupt the Von Trapp children. I’m sure we’ll get deeper into all of this later though, so I’ll press on with the second thing that surprised me. Maria. Just everything about her. I knew a ton of these songs, but for some reason, I didn’t expect her to be a boisterous problem-child of a nun. I guess I thought she would be practically perfect in every way. I find that I quite liked her rebellious streak and her innocence. But, I totally do not understand why she covered up for those kids on the whole pinecone bit. Not even a clever joke.
On the whole, I quite enjoyed The Sound of Music, though if I had my druthers, I would bump the stakes and suspense up a few clicks. Still, the clothes were much snappier than I imagined and the story was quite good. Oh, and that house. Man, I want an Austrian mansion filled with strudel.
Tell me, AM, what’s your take on this movie? I know it’s not in your top 25, but is it one you hold in high regard? Would you rather hang out with Mary or Maria? And of course, which look would you most want to rock?
A: Ahh yes, how do you solve a problem like Maria? (Side note: I love this nun-centric exposition song if nothing else than it uses the word “flibbertijibbet.”) Maria is definitely not Mary Poppins. She doesn’t have the first clue how to be a governess, never mind a governess to seven strong-willed children. Your qualm with the pinecone/frog pranks is also one I had as a child. I distinctly remember asking my mom why all the girls start crying at dinner as Maria is showering them with unearned praise. We’re supposed to understand that they feel awful for the way they’ve treated her thus far, but I still don’t get that even after seeing this movie a bunch. I think it was Maria’s way of telling the children that she understood why they felt the need to test her and that it was ok. She wasn’t going to rat them out, she wasn’t going to quit and she was going to charm the hell out of them.
The best part is that I honestly hadn’t made the connection that Julie Andrews plays a governess in both of these iconic roles. I mean, I knew that both Mary Poppins and Maria are childcare professionals, but they really are very different. Mary is complete confidence and Maria has to fake it through sheer will power. Whereas Mary is an enigma (seriously, what IS she?), Maria is all gumption and spark. She has the power through cheer to bring song and dance and happiness back into a broken home, and that’s why you love her. So I’d much rather hang with Maria, if only because she’s clearly mastered the goat puppet show and that thing looked like it would be a blast. Plus: boating on the lake, picnics up in the mountains (can we talk about that Austrian scenery?), galavanting in trees — all in last year’s drapes.
Speaking of fashion, I love the dirndls worn by several of the girls, and I also have a special place in my heart for the Baroness’ delectable gold lamé spaghetti strap party gown complete with white chiffon bow. She’s a cool contrast and worthy rival to Maria for the heart of the Captain. And in that dress? It’s probably a good thing she convinced Maria to return to the abbey, albeit temporarily.
Rolfe is the worst. He’s the Aryan ideal but he’s also is a massive jerk about 98.7% of the time he’s on-screen, Nazi Youth thing aside. Even before he’s got the German uniform and his inclinations are confirmed, we all know that Liesl can do so so much better. He’s a pretty perfect first boyfriend though (again, Nazi Youth thing aside), as he’s chaste and teaches her what not to look for in a man. More on the Nazis later.
Brooke, same question back to you: Maria or Mary? Would you rather the Baroness gift you a fountain pen, a trip around the world or a small yacht? Favorite items of clothing? And, favorite Von Trapp child.
B: Oh, AM, I love that I could bring a new level of connection to these pictures for you. Maria or Mary is a tough call. I love that Mary is just this stone cold badass, but I also admire Maria’s pluck. In the end, I think I would have to go with Mary. I am already well equipped on the whole “fake it ’til you make it” front, but I think I could learn a thing or two from someone who is “practically perfect in every way.” I am going through some real mourning for all of the strudel I won’t get to eat though. Fortunately, Mary can sing me a song and I can bury my sadness in several billion Victoria Sandwiches.
I’ll definitely take the trip around the world from the Baroness, I’d even let her come along with me if she could tell me about all the best restaurants and get people to treat me like a VIP. I actually rather liked Maria’s dress that all of the children deemed “ugly.” But the best looks came when Maria started getting her stitch on and putting Liesl in some timeless looks. Before I reveal my favorite Von Trapp child, I will reveal my least favorite: Louisa. Seriously, what was her damage? On the other hand, my favorite was Kurt, obviously. That kid knew how to rock some weird outfits and he had some killer facial expressions. Runner up goes to Brigitta for rolling up to the weird child roll-call with a book in hand and no fucks at all given. I mean, I guess she handed it over to her pops knowing he was going to be displeased, but still, she chose the words over the hustle. RUH-SPECT.
I’m going to have to argue that Rolfe was a terrible first boyfriend, he resists even kissing the girl and he’s a full 17-years-old and still doing the “I’m a year older, so I’m the boss” bit? For real, bro? Didn’t most people outgrow that logic around the age of 7? Seriously, dude. She doesn’t need you to start mansplaining things just because you’re on the path to supporting a genocidal maniac. Poor, poor choice Liesl. Cut him loose and find yourself a crusading GI to smooch.
Okay, let’s get into the important stuff. What’s your take on the Captain? I expected that Maria would fall in love with him, but I don’t really see him much as a romantic figure. I fully get why he would fall for her, at least as written, but the love connection didn’t fully come together for me. Which brings me to another question, this is based on a true story, so was the real Captain this afraid of feelings? I think I heard the real Maria was less fun. Fill me in.
AM: Maybe it’s the Captain’s character, but I think it’s more the characterization by Christopher Plummer that makes it a bit difficult to see the warmth between Maria and the Captain. Plummer has a certain regal-ness and coldness to his nature that makes it easy to see how he’d be a strict disciplinarian to his children, yet there is enough charisma to see how his children would crave his attention and genuinely love him. I do love that Maria is sassy to him from the beginning, and that’s probably why he falls for her. I think her attraction comes from the love his children have for him. She’s not stupid and she can see how he commands respect but is clearly overdoing it on the rigidity of his childrearing. That’s probably equal parts his military background and the loss of his wife. Kurt is also my favorite, but I have a special place in my heart for Liesl. When I was younger, I thought being 16 just like Liesl would be the height of awesomeness. She’s warm and caring, but she also has a craving for adventure that I related to.
All of that is purely based upon the fictionalization of the Von Trapps. I have heard as well that the real Maria Von Trapp was the stricter of the two, which doesn’t really make sense given that the children weren’t hers to begin with, but she was a nun-in-training. There’s a world of discipline that I can’t even imagine, so maybe it does make sense that in real life, she was the taskmaster. I don’t know much more about the real life of the Von Trapps, other that they did indeed escape Austria at the brink of WWII and made their way to the United States where they became a famous singing troupe. Max was probably pretty upset that he didn’t get to capitalize on that fame and fortune, but you know, major world war and all.
I have to assume that once the family made it to the U.S. that Liesl did find a GI to smooch with. It’s only fair. I can also only assume that Rolfe used this experience in order to climb the ranks of the Nazis and probably did awful things because we’ve seen that he’s pretty ruthless. Let’s explore that a bit more. You were unsure which of the Von Trapp family was a Nazi sympathizer and thought perhaps the Captain and/or Max were supporters of the Third Reich. What do you think the true intentions of the key players were, now that you’ve seen the conclusion?
B: I did have a very early, fleeting fear that the Captain would be revealed as a Nazi or a Nazi sympathizer after we were made to fall in love with his children and his pretty home and his sassy governess. Happily, he soon revealed himself to be on the up-and-up, so I didn’t have to fret about that. It also occurs to me that such a plot would be a much more modern device designed to torture us, not a happy post-war musical about the triumph of good over evil. Now Max, I’m still not positive on. When he showed up I declared him a Nazi sympathizer at best (as I did almost everyone for a period, there were so many fewer of them than I expected). I believe your statement was along the lines of “he’s a business man and he’s just trying not to get killed.” I think the truth about Max is somewhere in the middle of those two perspectives.
Why? Well, one of our favorite lines in the picture reveals this. “I like rich people. I like the way they live. I like the way I live when I’m with them.” In many ways, this statement is a sympathetic one, but it also suggests that Max cares less about the Von Trapps than the benefits of kicking it with the Von Trapps. And thus, I think he was easily swayed to be cool with the Reich when all was going well for them in Austria. Max is ultimately self-serving, so he’s going to kick it with those best positioned to give him a glamorous life full of parties and third helpings of strudel and money. So, while at the beginning he may have been nothing more than curious about what the Nazis were up to, I believe that he was fully prepared to go along with them by the end of the movie. And I’m not prepared to cut him slack on a grey area here — he might not be murdering innocents himself, but he’s seems to intend to enjoy the fruits of a flourishing Reich. I think the Captain would agree that such an attitude puts him firmly on the wrong side of the matter. He’s not a scared citizen trying not to get killed. He’s a calculating hanger-on trying to get a cushy situation. So I guess I am kind of positive that he’s pretty shady.
Okay, what else do we need to cover here? I think I’m relatively fresh out of questions, but I will observe that your beach twirl impression of Maria in the hills was pretty spot on. Kudos.
A: Here’s the thing about Max. I think he’s hilarious but I think you’re absolutely right. He’s sort of a shade of Oskar Schindler in a lot of ways, perhaps, in it for the money but also not interested in saving lives unless he can find a financial incentive? He’s certainly not murdering, but yes, he’s going to try to survive the impending war in as much luxury as possible. More pink lemonade, Max?
The hills twirl is classic and I can only pay homage to a famous scene by reenacting it every chance I get. To cap us off, because we are going Full Ravenclaw into the fake lives of the Von Trapps via The Sound of Music, I offer everyone interested a link to what looks like an official history of the family so everyone can compare and contrast. I’m probably less interested in any inaccuracies that the musical and the film inject for the sake of the story, but it is fascinating that this family really did exist, Rolfe is still the worst and we can all agree that strudel is the best.
B: This is apropos of nothing, but I really quite like it, so …
Next time on Required Viewing we’ll visit San Francisco in the 1970s — as David Fincher unpacks one of the most infamous serial killer tales around.