The Sound of Music (1965). Film review of the WWII-set musical starring Julie Andrews

The Sound of Music (1965)
Standard

Musical

image four star rating very good lots to enjoy

Film review, by Jason Day, of The Sound of Music, the WWII-set musical starring Julie Andrews as novice nun Maria who becomes governess to the many children of Captain von Trapp (Christopher Plummer). Directed by Robert Wise.

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Synopsis

Novice nun Maria (Julie Andrews) causes consternation and admiration in equal measure at her Austrian abbey for her unconventional appearance and behaviour. Keenly aware of the disquiet she causes, the Mother Superior (Peggy Wood) packs her off to the von Trapp mansion to assume a new role as governess to the Captain’s (Christopher Plummer) seven unruly children.

Despite initial difficulties settling in, Maria wins the hearts of her charges and the Captain, as Nazi forces increasingly gather power around their Austrian idyll.

Review, by @Reelreviewer

“Lately, I’ve taken to kissing the floor when I see her coming just to save time.”

Maria (Julie Andrews) explains how she prepares for being told off by the other nuns.

It might seem incredible for a 42 year old film critic who has spent more than 20 years of his life reviewing hundreds of movies, but until only two weeks ago (early Feb, 2021) I had never seen the immortal, blockbuster musical The Sound of Music.

Well, by seen I refer to sitting down through the entire thing in one go, not in chunks or blocks, but from the opening to the closing credits.

Musicals – as I have written countless times before – are really not my favourite type of film, unless they have more dramatic than musical sections.

I generally steer clear of them, hence my trepidation at approaching this nearly three hours long, ‘tunes and trilling’ epic with everyone’s sweetest sweetheart Julie A. But, it was my weekly ‘challenge’ as part of my Monday Movies slot with BBC Radio Northampton’s Drivetime host Helen Blaby, a challenge I begrudgingly accepted.

NB: If Helen is reading this, I did originally offer us up to watch Sounder starring Cicely Tyson who, like Music‘s Chris Plummer had also recently passed away. In the end, we encouraged each other to go down the musical path, Helen to reminisce about something she loves and me for…movie masochism, I guess!

With much respect to Ms Tyson, a great artist who will be much missed, I’m happy to report a…happy report about The Sound of Music.

I made a promise on Twitter to watch the whole thing without pause, break or interruption. Unfortunately, other matters meant I was unable to fully meet that request. After 20 minutes I was distracted by/had to attend to:

  • A lack of booze: I couldn’t watch this sober, so had to nip out for some vino.
  • Toilet: It must have been psychosomatic that I needed to go every few minutes.
  • Nail disaster: one of my nails split 15 mins into the film! This required some emergency, cuticle-repair intervention.
  • Social media: I Tweeted/FB’d about this screening which resulted in many responses…including from Helen!

Of the plusses in this movie, first off it’s hats off to cameraman Ted McCord for capturing the crisp, lush, alpine landscape of Austria so wonderfully. He opens all of our eyes wide and then wider with that stunning, opening helicopter shot across mountains, green hills and finally resting on Andrews for a thrilling opening number.

Andrews was hot property in Hollywood at this time. She had just bagged the title role as Mary Poppins (1964) which, only days after Music was released, would win her a Best Actress Oscar.

The best thing about her performance in Music – indeed, with all of the cast – is that, when Ernest Lehman’s script allows a little humour (such as with the quote at the top of this review), she jumps at it.

She practically bites the scribe’s hands off. She manages to make an irritatingly twee and chaste character into an entertaining performance.

Of the script, one other point. A small one, but writer Lehman appears to have nicked some dialogue from Garbo’s Mata Hari (1931). The Captain says to one of his younger daughters one of Ramon Novarro’s plummy lines: “What’s the matter, Marta?”

Plummer is up there with her as the sarcastic, romantic Captain von Trap who uses a whistle to summon his rambunctious progeny. A serious theatrical actor steeped in Shakespeare, he always looked disdainfully at the perkiness and preposterousness of this production, publicly distancing himself from it by nicknaming it The Sound of Mucus.

Parker (as the chilly Baroness) aside, there is no Germanic feel to this movie, although this is typical of Hollywood epics at this time. Still, I felt a noticeable twinge when Liesel, in a broad yankee accent, says “We’re awwwl Awe-strian!”

I still hold with my original view about the uncomfortable mix of ‘nuns, Nazis and nippers’. For some this is the perfect, goodly, singalong production and I get that. I see how millions of people have been charmed by the positivism of it.

Perhaps I am too cynical, but all in all it was too much for me to fully enjoy. Too nicey nicey, too lah-de-dah (or doh-ray-me as the case may be), too much prancing and not enough dancing as Montgomery Burns once said of ballet in The Simpsons.

Some of the songs are illogical (Maria is chastised for having curlers in her hair under her wimple in the whiny and underwhelming “How Do You Solve a Problem”. She has straight hair that isn’t long enough to put a hair pin in, let along curlers) or just poor quality (sorry Helen, but “16 Going on 17” set my teeth on edge).

Guilty admission though: Doh a Deer is an infectious, boisterous delight! I could listen to that all day long.

Cast & credits

Director: Robert Wise. Robert Wise Productions/Argyle Enterprises/20th Century Fox. 2hr 52 mins/172 mins. (U).

Producer: Robert Wise.
Writer: Ernest Lehman.
Camera: Ted D. McCord.
Music: Oscar Hammerstein II, Richard Rodgers.
Sets: Boris Leven.

Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer, Eleanor Parker, Richard Haydn, Peggy Wood, Charmian Carr, Heather Menzies-Urich, Nicholas Hammond, Duane Chase, Angela Cartwright, Debbie Turner, Kym Karath, Anna Lee, Portia Nelson.

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