March 1, 2015


The truth about the Sound of Music family (Louise Hidalgo, 3/01/15, BBC World Service)

Johannes was born in 1939 - by then his mother and father had been married for 12 years and had already had two children together, to add to the seven that the widowed Captain von Trapp had from his first marriage.

In the film the couple marry in 1938 and as Johannes says: "It was quite tough enough with seven kids for the movie company."

The von Trapp children also already played music before Maria came to their home as a governess. "My mother was the energy and the instigator that took them to almost concert quality," says Johannes.

But it was another important figure in their life, the priest, Father Franz Fausner, who was instrumental in their musical success, touring with them in Europe and America. He was left out of both the film and the Broadway musical.

Another more hurtful change was the portrayal of Georg von Trapp. Far from being the distant rather domineering father of the Sound of Music, Johannes says he was "a very charming man, generous, open, and not the martinet he was made out to be both in the stage play and in the film. My mother did try to alter that portrayal for the film, but she was not successful."

It was Maria von Trapp's book, The Story of Trapp Family Singers, which was published in 1949 that inspired first the musical and then the film.

The family had lost all their money when the Austrian bank that held it failed in the 1930s - they managed to keep their villa outside Salzburg.

But after the Nazi annexation of Austria in March 1938, life became increasingly untenable and later that year they left.

They didn't cross the mountains as shown in the film though - they went by train to go on a concert tour from which they never returned. They finally travelled by boat to New York and when they arrived had only a few dollars to their name.

They continued giving performances and later bought a farm in Vermont where the family still runs a hotel, the Trapp Family Lodge. But when Georg died in 1947 Maria was left with 10 children to support.

That's when she wrote the book which became a best-seller. A German-language film and the musical followed.

Maria later recalled, in a BBC interview, that she only learned Hollywood was making a film when she read about it in a newspaper.

"I felt very alarmed," she said. "I didn't know what they are going to do with us... Hollywood being Hollywood, [I thought] they will have me three times divorced and five times married or whatever. And then it turned out so nice - especially the beginning with the mountains and me coming up over the meadow."

She had some reservations about how her character, played by Julie Andrews, was portrayed though: "My long drawn out misery is, I can't get these diverse Marias to be as wild and untamed as I was at that age - they are all very ladylike you see and I was not."

Maria was a "force of nature" says Johannes. "It wasn't easy to disagree with her but she kept everything together... She was an extraordinarily strong person and that was both wonderful and sometimes difficult.

"She did everything quickly. She walked very fast, with a rolling gait developed from hiking in the Austrian mountains and it was hard to keep up with her. She ate fast, she drove too fast. My wife borrowed her car once to go the village, and was astonished that everyone in front gave way when they saw my mother's car coming."

Posted by at March 1, 2015 7:06 AM

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