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The Sound of Music

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: The Sound of Music

Starring: Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer
Director: Robert Wise
Rated: G
RunTime: 174 Minutes
Release Date: March 1965
Genres: Classic, Drama, Music, Romance

*Also starring: Eleanor Parker, Richard Haydn, Peggy Wood, Anna Lee, Portia Nelson, Norma Varden, Marni Nixon, Charmian Carr

Review by Steve Rhodes
3½ stars out of 4

THE SOUND OF MUSIC (1965) was one of the most popular films of the 1960s. Although a bit corny, it is a joyous musical odyssey suitable for the entire family. Today, too often what goes for musicals, see for example EVITA, is little more that a show with a single decent song. In THE SOUND OF MUSIC every song is tuneful and most are memorable and moving.

Some shows are meant to be seen in a movie theater on a large screen with an impressive sound system to match. THE SOUND OF MUSIC is one of them. Nevertheless, our family enjoyed it at home. We have a high quality home theater setup, but the full effect can only be experienced in a real theater. I have not seen the film that way in thirty years. This review is from the home viewing rather than my memory.

The Academy Award for best picture for 1965 went to THE SOUND OF MUSIC as did that for director Robert Wise. (You can read my recent review of his quite different film from 1951, THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL.) The film also garnered the award for music and editing plus many nominations. Only the supporting actress nomination to Peggy Wood as Mother Abbess did not make sense to me. Wood had a somewhat insignificant role and did not impress me with her acting in it. Nicely done, but nothing outstanding.

In the film version of the Broadway musical, which is itself based on a true story, Julie Andrews has the leading role as the postulate with an attitude, Maria. On Broadway, Mary Martin had the part. Although I never saw Mary Martin as Maria, it is hard for me to believe she could have had the infectious joy and energy that Andrews brought to the role. Just looking as Andrews's Maria when she breaks into song, it is easy to remember all the blessings we have in this life.

In an incredible opening sequence, Maria is shown singing in the Austrian Alps. This is hard to describe other than to say it is a blend of a travelogue, a nature documentary, a musical, and a cinematographic tour de force wrapped into one. Ted D. McCord's cinematography for THE SOUND OF MUSIC was beaten out by Freddie Young's DOCTOR ZHIVAGO for the Oscar that year. All I can say is that it would have been a hard choice to choose between them. McCord's most lovely scene occurs in the conservatory at night. He films it in a hazy pale blue with a white that sparkles. When the two teenagers in the room make eyes at each other in the romantic environment, you will feel like an adolescent all over again. It is a truly magical scene.

The sisters at the convent try to figure out what to do with Maria. She says she wants to be a nun, but she is happiest when out singing and is quite outspoken as well. Sister Margaretta (Anna Lee) tries to put a good spin on it by telling the other sisters, "After all, the wool from the black sheep is just as warm."

As a compromise, the Mother Abbess sends Maria to care for the seven Von Trapp children -- Charmian Carr as Liesl, Heather Menzies as Louisa, Nicholas Hammond as Friedrich, Duane Chase as Kurt, Angela Cartwright as Brigitta, Debbie Turner as Marta and Kym Karathas as Gretl.

There is a slight problem in that the supposedly incorrigible children have run off a long list of governesses with the record being the last one who stayed only two hours. Their strict father, Captain Von Trapp, played with precision by Christopher Plummer, makes all of his children toe the line by calling them with individualized whistle sounds. He lectures Maria that, "The first rule of this household is discipline." Or as the housekeeper, Frau Schmidt (Norma Varden), explains it, "Von Trapp children don't play; they march."

The movie is filled with songs, and there are even some simple dance numbers. When Liesl dances in the conservatory at night with Rolfe (Daniel Truhitte), she ends up giving him a single kiss. This sends him into total rapture. I can remember a time when I was a teenager like him and one kiss from a girl, especially a beautiful one, could evoke a response as strong as Rolfe's. Times change and teenagers are regretfully much more sexually sophisticated now. Still, the lone kiss in that scene remains powerful.

In a show that is so upbeat it has been criticized as being sappy, there is the tension of the looming war. The Captain's friend Max Detweiler (Richard Haydn) is apolitical and ignores the coming Anschluss. "What's going to happen is going to happen," he advises the Captain. "Just make sure it doesn't happen to you." Although this war reality is ever-present and although the film is based on a true story, the movie feels like a lovely and enduring fairy tale.

This is a movie filled with exuberance, memorable songs, and great beauty. A joy to be savored and seen by each generation.

THE SOUND OF MUSIC runs 2:55. A bit long for a musical, but it is a lot of fun. The movie is not rated but would be a G. There is no sex, nudity, violence, or profanity. My son Jeffrey, age 7 1/2, gave it a thumb almost totally up. His only complaint was that he thought the ending should have told us more about what happens to them later. He recommends it to his friends ages 4 and up. I agree and recommend it strongly to your family.

Copyright 1997 Steve Rhodes

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