The Sound of Music (1965)
A review of this film, 40 years after its release!
Capitalizing on two "hot" properties of the early sixties, director Robert Wise (West Side Story (1961)) and the infinitely talented Julie Andrews (Mary Poppins (1964)), this film delivers some pure cinematic magic like none before it nor since, especially the sequences which feature the songs "Do Re Mi" (#88 on AFI's 100 Top Movie Songs of All Time) through the streets of Salzburg & "The Lonely Goatherd", performed with puppets. These, among others, helped it capture the Best Picture Oscar that year over David Lean's Doctor Zhivago (1965), Stanley Kramer's Ship of Fools (1965), A Thousand Clowns (1965), and Darling (1965), which (like Doctor Zhivago (1965), also) features Julie Christie, in her Oscar winning Best Actress performance. Wise, who would later receive the Irving G. Thalberg Award from the Academy, picked up his second Best Director Oscar for this film; Andrews her second consecutive Best Actress nomination (she'd won for her film debut in Mary Poppins (1964)).
Written by Howard Lindsay & Russel Crouse (and Maria von Trapp's novel), Ernest Lehman's screenplay tells the story of the Austrian von Trapp family who, after their first public performance as a singing group, fled when Hitler annexed their country (the Anschluss) in March, 1938. The real von Trapp family had performed all over Europe because Maria, with the help of a local priest (fashioned as Max Detweiler, played by Richard Haydn, in the film), had turned the family's hobby into a profession when an Austrian bank crash caused Georg to lose his fortune.
Though this musical is almost three hours in length, the plot interspersed with magnificent Rodgers & Hammerstein songs (helping the film to win the Oscar for Best Music, Scoring of Music, Adaptation or Treatment) keep it from feeling overlong. In fact, it's the kind of film, like The Wizard of Oz (1939), that one can watch every year and never tire of it. The title song is #10 on AFI's 100 Top Movie Songs of All Time; "My Favorite Things" is #64. And no one can forget (how do you solve a problem like) "Maria", sung in part by Marni Nixon (known for dubbing Deborah Kerr, Natalie Wood, and Audrey Hepburn in The King and I (1956), West Side Story (1961), and My Fair Lady (1964), respectively) in one of her only on-screen appearances as Sister Sophia ... or "Climb Ev'ry Mountain", "Edelweiss" and "So Long, Farewell", especially little Kym Karath's "goodbye" in the reprise, as the seven year old Gretl. Each of these tunes, and their just right lyrics, move the story along such that one never has cause to look at one's watch to wonder "when will it end?". The film's Sound and Editing, as evidenced in the aforementioned "Do Re Mi" and "The Lonely Goatherd" numbers, also won Academy Awards.
Christopher Plummer (whose singing voice was dubbed by Bill Lee) is terrific as the stern aristocrat widower who marries his governess after she, and his children, had helped the Captain to rediscover song, love, and what it means to be a father. The cast of kids is marvelous, the most recognizable of which is Angela Cartwright as Brigitta, who would go on to star in the TV series Lost in Space that same year. Nicholas Hammond, Friedrich, also had a television career which included playing roles in several series, most notably as Spiderman. Heather Menzies's (Louisa) TV career was shorter. Charmian Carr gives a strong performance as the eldest child Liesl who's "Sixteen going on Seventeen". Peggy Wood's head Mother Abbess (whose singing voice was dubbed by Margery McKay) earned her a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination. Her best line "Him?!", after which she immediately excuses Sister Margaretta (Anna Lee), when Maria is telling her why she's returned to the abbey. I also especially like the "dueling" Sisters, Margaretta and Berthe (Portia Nelson) who, despite their disparate feelings towards Maria's suitability as a nun, work together to foil the Nazis in the end. Ben Wright plays a credible Herr Zeller. The recognizable Norma Varden is Frau Schmidt, the von Trapp’s housekeeper. And to have the great Eleanor Parker (Interrupted Melody (1955)) in a supporting role as the Baroness, who presumably doesn't sing or perform (she that forgot her harmonica), such ironic & fortunate casting! Also, Maria von Trapp herself appears briefly, uncredited, during the "I Have Confidence" number.
The film's Color Art Direction-Set Decoration, Cinematography, Costume Design also received Oscar nominations. Plus, besides being added to the National Film Registry in 2001, the film is #55 on AFI's 100 Greatest Movies list and #27 on AFI's 100 Greatest Love Stories list. #41 on AFI's 100 Most Inspiring Movies list. #4 on AFI's 25 Greatest Movie Musicals list.
One of the best family movie night film's ever made, make it an annual tradition in yours!