The Sound of Music is an American musical legend and is definitely considered a cult classic. With five Academy Awards and two Golden Globes, The Sound of Music has certainly earned its place among one of the greatest films of all time. Despite how popular the film was, there is a lot that went on behind the scenes that may shock those who hold the film close to their heart. Read on to find out where the actors of the von Trapp family are today and the secrets they held while filming!
The Real Maria Wasn’t in Love with Anybody
The character of the saintly Maria was actually a real-life person, along with the entire Von Trapp family. There were, however, a few glitches in her character; one of them being she wasn’t in love with anyone at all. In the film version of The Sound of Music, it appears the nun-in-training Maria is SUPER in love with Captain von Trapp the moment that she first lays eyes on him.
This wasn’t necessarily the case. Maria actually stated in her 1948 memoir, “I liked him, but I didn’t love him. However, I loved the children, and so in a way I really married the children.” Now that doesn’t sound like love at first sight at all.
No One Fell in Love with a Bad Guy
In the film version of The Sound of Music, the oldest daughter Liesl falls in love with a Nazi soldier who tries to rat out her family. This love story was the invention of the writers and didn’t actually happen in real life. The writers believed the love story would add more drama to the already mundane plot.
The eldest von Trapp child was really a boy named Rupert, not a girl named Liesl. When the movie was released nationwide, Rupert was already a 54-year-old physician living in Vermont. The doctor used to tell people that he was actually the inspiration for Liesl.
The Actors Really Didn’t Like Each Other
Many times, the actors who play lovers or partners, can’t stand to be around each other or look at each other. This was just the case when it came to Christopher Plummer and Julie Andrews.
Even though Julie Andrews was said to be an angel on set, Christopher Plummer couldn’t handle how nice and gentle the actress was. Christopher Plummer confessed to the media that working with Julie Andrews was like, “getting hit over the head with a Valentine card.” Plummer was very vocal about how much he disliked the “sweet” nature of the film as well. He often referred to the film as “The Sound of Mucus,” and “S&M.” Those are some harsh words.
Charmian Carr Wasn’t a Great Dancer
Charmian Carr was the actress behind the character of Liesl. Even though she was beautiful and appeared graceful, her dancing skills were not up to snuff. The actress allegedly almost broke her ankle during the dancing scene of “16 Going on 17.”
In the original cut of the film, viewers can clearly see a bandage wrapped around the actress’s ankle during the scene, but was removed from the film for the 2005 remastered version. During commentary for the film, Carr states that many people cannot believe she was injured during a simple dancing routine. It’s a tough break there, Liesl!
They Were Refugees
In today’s political society, many people have varying opinions on refugees. People are either torn between allowing refugees into the country, or people will consider them a threat. But, it might surprise people the entire von Trapp family were Austrian refugees. The family fled to the United States during the beginning of World War II by leaving their house and hopping onto a train to Switzerland.
The movie wrongly portrays their escape and shows the family leaving Austria by climbing over the Alps. Their escape in real life wasn’t as outdoorsy as the one depicted in the movie. The family was also welcomed into the United States with open arms and they made their livings as a traveling singing company.
The Real Maria Wasn’t Invited to the Film
The real life Maria was actually snubbed by producers of the film! In one of Maria’s many memoirs detailing her life, she stated that when she asked to go to the premier of the film, the producers simply told her no. The producers said there were no seats left for the inspiration of the film.
The worst part about all of this is the real life Maria was not even invited in the first place to attend the premier of the film, which was based on her own trials and tribulations. Producers did not want to waste time and money on someone who wasn’t a celebrity and who wasn’t recognizable by the paparazzi. They filled most of the seats with other celebrities.
Maria von Trapp Held the Whip
In the film version of The Sound of Music, the character of Maria is portrayed as an angelic creature who is saving the children from living a military life. The film also features the character of the stern Captain von Trapp, who forces his children to line up at attention and to do endless amounts of chores.
But, in real life, it was actually the opposite way around. The real Maria was said to manage the finances and the direct the group, while the Captain was there for moral support. He also wasn’t really a performer, and would only make an appearance on stage towards the end of each performance.
Plummer Was a Drunkard
Christopher Plummer is one of the best actors of the 20th century, but he also carried some significant vices. Even though he was mainly filming with children, Plummer admitted on the DVD commentary he was drunk throughout filming. Specifically, the actor stated during the commentary that he was smashed during the filming of the musical festival scene.
Charmian Carr also stated in an interview Christopher Plummer was always down to drink with her, and he was the one person who truly taught her how to drink. The two of them were said to drink many times off camera, leading to the assumption they were an item.
“Edelweiss” Isn’t an Austrian Song
The song “Edelweiss” is one of the more dramatic numbers and tunes in the original movie version of The Sound of Music. The song is sung by the Captain to show his emotion for his country, but his hatred for the Nazi party. Even though the song represents the Captain’s love for Austria, it is not an Austrian song.
The song was written for the musical by Rogers and Hammerstein specifically for the Captain to sing. In 1984, Ronald Reagan played the song to honor Austrian president Rudolf Kirchschläger and his wife. The real life Maria was a guest during this mistake and was humored by the president’s misunderstanding.
It Was Almost Richard Dreyfuss
Richard Dreyfuss is known for his appearance in the cult horror classic Jaws, not for anything to do with The Sound of Music. But, the actor admitted in an interview that he was once considered and even auditioned for one of the von Trapp children.
He was considered in particular for the role of Friedrich. The actor stated he almost got the role because of his amazing acting techniques, but was cut because he was a terrible dancer. Even though we love Richard Dreyfuss, we can’t imagine him as one of the adorable von Trapp children!
Doris Day Would Have Been an Awful Maria
Doris Day is known for being a wholesome actress during the 1950s and was at the height of her box office peak when the casting for The Sound of Music was taking place. Other actresses who were considered were Leslie Caron, Audrey Hepburn, Shirley Jones, and Anne Bancroft. Yul Bynner was considered for the role of the captain, but the most widely considered actor for the part was actually 007 himself, Sean Connery.
The studio was set on casting Connery and Day, but chose to cast Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer because they fit the roles perfectly. Doris Day’s singing chops were nothing compared to the angelic voice of Julie Andrews.
It’s Not a Big Hit in Austria
Even though The Sound of Music is a cult classic in the United States and other countries around the world, there was one place where it wasn’t a huge success. The movie was only shown for three weeks in 1965 when it was released and wasn’t shown on television until 2000. The problem Austrians had with The Sound of Music was its Americanized and culturally insensitive portrayal of Austrian culture.
Another reason critics believe the movie wasn’t a hit there is because of its portrayal of Austrian Nazi sympathizers. Austrians look back at Nazi occupation with absolute disdain and do not want to be reminded of such a terrible part of their own history.
It Got a Writer Fired
The fandom for The Sound of Music is intense! After the film was released, writer Pauline Kael of McCall’s magazine stated that the movie was too much of a popcorn flick.
The writer said the film was, “a sugar coated lie that people seem to want to eat…Wasn’t there perhaps one little von Trapp who didn’t want to sing his head off…or who got nervous and threw up if he had to get on a stage?” The magazine review was hated so much Kael was actually fired for it. Kael soon joined the New Yorker, where she could be as cynical as she wanted.
The real Maria actually has an interesting backstory. Maria was born on a train but unfortunately lost her parents by the age of ten. The young orphan was then sent to an uncle who was very violent, leading Maria to escape from him.
Naturally, she was drawn to the Catholic church, which is how she became a part of a convent. Although her foster parents were raising her as an atheist, there was still something within that compelled her to want to join the church. Lucky that she did, otherwise she would have never met her fortunate fate with the von Trapps!
In For More Than She Expected
Maria didn’t know that she would end up taking care of more than one child. When she was called upon, she was only supposed to be governess to one of the children who at the time was suffering from scarlet fever.
But after taking on the role, her duties and care extended to the other von Trapp children in the house (and there were actually ten of them, not seven). But it’s not like Maria didn’t mind taking on such a huge responsibility of caring for all the children because she soon came to adore each and every one of them.
The Love Wasn’t Really There
While the film depicts a sudden romance between Maria and Georg, it was actually quite the opposite in real life. Maria was indifferent towards the von Trapp patriarch, as she really only cared about his children. She loved the children at first sight, but her love for Georg wouldn’t come until later.
When Georg asked her to marry him, she did so because of the way he asked: he asked her to marry him so that someone would care for the children. Torn between her religious obligations and Georg’s offer, even the nuns at the convent encouraged her to go through with the marriage.
Her Story Must Be Heard
Wanting to prove that she had no writing skills, Maria unwittingly ended up writing a best-seller. The Sound of Music was originally based off of Maria’s memoir, The Story of the Trapp Family Singers, which was published by J.B. Lippincott Company out of Pennsylvania in 1949.
After the book gained success, Maria sold the film rights to German producers, unknowingly signing away her own rights to her own story. It is for this reason that neither Maria or any of the von Trapps received any profits from the musical or the film that made their story famous.
While the film depicts Maria teaching the children to deal with their issues through music, in real life the von Trapp children were already talented singers and musicians. It is Maria, however, that encouraged the family to take their talents to the public.
Eleonore von Trapp told the Washington Post in 1978 that her father was reluctant to have his children performing, “but accepted it as God’s will that they sing for others. It almost hurt him to have his family onstage, not from a snobbish view, but more from a protective one.” It did end up working out, because they did actually win first place in the Salzburg Music Festival in 1936.
Another thing that the movie altered about the von Trapp story was the personalities and roles of Maria and Georg. While the film depicts Georg as a stern and cold father, he was actually very gentle and warm-hearted towards his children. He even played a huge part in participating in activities with his children.
Maria, on the other hand, was a force of nature. Daughter Maria said in a 2003 interview that her stepmother “had a terrible temper… And from one moment to the next, you didn’t know what hit her. We were not used to this. But we took it like a thunderstorm that would pass, because the next minute she could be very nice.”
Maria Took Control
When Maria entered the picture, she changed a lot about how the von Trapp household was run. In addition to her outbursts of angry yelling and slamming doors, she took control of the family’s finances as well. She got rid of their servants and even took in boarders to supplement the household income.
We suppose they really had no other choice since, in the 1930s, the von Trapp family bank went under during the worldwide depression at the time. This happened just as the von Trapps began making plans to turn their singing hobby into an actual profession. They ended up singing all over Europe after winning first place in their first festival.
The Nazi Takeover
The Nazis annexed Austria in 1938. The von Trapp family was so popular at the time that they were asked to sing at Hitler’s birthday party, but because they abhorred the Nazi regime, they refused. Georg von Trapp wouldn’t even fly the Nazi flag on their property, which put the von Trapps on thin ice.
Paranoia increased as the von Trapps became aware that those around them could have been acting as spies and that the Nazis anti-religious propaganda was brainwashing children against their parents. The Nazi policies that took over their homeland became something that they had a tough time grappling with.
Say No To Nazis
In an effort to get the von Trapps to stay in Austria and to have more people under their reign, the Nazis promised the family more fame as a singing group and offered to reinstate Georg’s naval career. They even offered one of the von Trapp children a career as a medical doctor.
But leaving behind the life that they knew was something they could not do, so the von Trapps decided to leave Austria. The escape wasn’t as sneaky as the movie made it out to be and the von Trapps didn’t actually have to cross the Alps with all their stuff in tow. So how did they get away with it?
The Great Escape
Daughter Maria told Opera News in 2003, “We did tell people that we were going to America to sing. And we did not climb over mountains with all our heavy suitcases and instruments. We left by train, pretending nothing.”
With their musical conductor and secretary in tow, they entire von Trapp family traveled by train to Italy, where they requested fare to go to America. From Italy, they traveled to London and soon they were on a ship to New York. They were scheduled to tour in Pennsylvania when they got there. So what was life like for the von Traps once they got to America?
They originally came to America on six-month visitors’ visas and when those expired, they briefly traveled back to Europe for a Scandinavian tour. Upon returning to America, they were held up at Ellis Island in New York over a brief misunderstanding.
When asked by U.S. officials how long they intended to stay the second time around, instead of saying “six months” like she should have, Maria said, “Oh, I am so glad to be here—I never want to leave again!” Of course, the issue was worked out and the family was released, but this time, they actually did intend to stay longer than six months.
By this time it was the 1940s and the von Trapps had taken up residence in Vermont, where they owned a farm and ran a music camp while not on tour. IN 1944, Maria and all of the von Trapp daughters filed declarations of intention in an effort to apply for U.S. citizenship, achieving it by 1948.
Two of the von Trapp boys, Rupert and Werner, served in the U.S. armed forces during WWII and as a result, became naturalized U.S. citizens. Two of the younger von Trapps, Rosmarie and Eleonore were born to Maria after she married Georg, derived their citizenship through their mother, while the youngest von Trapp was born in the United States. Georg von Trapp apparently never applied to become a citizen.
Christopher Plummer as Georg von Trapp
Christopher Plummer played the role of Captain Georg von Trapp in the film, The Sound of Music. Plummer is originally from Canada and is known for being one of the biggest names in the Canadian Repertory Company, which is located in Ottawa, Ontario.
His big break came when the actor made his transition to Broadway playing many roles including, Othello, King Lear, and Henry Drummond. His biggest movie role in life is his performance as the captain in The Sound of Music, and his role in Beginners, for which he won an Academy Award. Plummer is also known for his narration of the cult classic children’s show Madeline.
Julie Andrews as Maria
Julie Andrews is one of the biggest names in Hollywood and is one actress who is truly aging gracefully. Andrews made her name in the business by appearing in classic Broadways hits like My Fair Lady, Camelot, and Cinderella.
In more recent years, Julie Andrews has made fans for her portrayal of the Queen of Genovia in the Disney films The Princess Diaries and The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement. In 2000, Julie Andrews was named a Dame by the Queen of England and listed as one of the 100 Greatest Britons. She is also the recipient of the Screen Actors Guild Lifetime Achievement Award for her body of film work.
Nicholas Hammond as Friedrich von Trapp
Nicholas Hammond played the character of Friedrich for the film version of The Sound of Music. Even though his personality fit the part perfectly, his physical attributes were rather lacking for the character. Hammond was forced to wear heel lifts so he would taller than the other actors, specifically the actress who played Louisa.
But, puberty kicked in for this actor in the end! By the time the movie had wrapped up filming, Hammond had grown several inches and other actors had to stand on a box for their heights to appear consistent throughout the film.
Heather Menzies as Louisa von Trapp
A young actress named Heather Menzies was chosen to play the role of the third eldest von Trapp child for The Sound of Music. Born in Canada, Louisa von Trapp is probably Heather’s most notable acting role, in addition to playing Jessica 6 on the television series Logan’s Run.
In 1973 at the age of 24, she was featured in Playboy in a pictorial titled “Tender Trapp.” No longer acting, she is the widow of actor Robert Urich of the show S.W.A.T. As of 2014, she has been living in Park City, Utah and is the loving grandmother to two grandchildren.
Duane Chase as Kurt von Trapp
Duane Dudley Chase was only 14 to 15 years old when he played Kurt, the second boy of the von Trapp family. Instead of furthering his acting career, he joined the United States Forest Service in Santa Barbara, California shortly after The Sound of Music came out and after he graduated high school.
By 1976, he graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Geology from the University of California, Santa Barbara and subsequently went to University of Alabama to get his master’s degree. In 1987, he married a nurse named Petra Maria from Germany and today he lives in Seattle, where he designs computer software for geologists and geophysicists.
Angela Cartwright as Brigitta von Trapp
English-born American actress Angela Cartwright is one former von Trapp who went on to have a prolific acting career beyond The Sound of Music. Aside from playing the role of Brigitta, she was on The Danny Thomas Show as stepdaughter Linda Williams in the ’50s, which ended when the series was canceled after her television stepfather passed away due to a heart attack.
A seasoned photographer of 30 years, Cartwright has her fine art displayed at her own studio in Studio City, Los Angeles. In addition to her acting credits, Cartwright has a number of published books and a bi-annual art zine that she produces with fellow artist Sarah Fishburn.
Debbie Turner as Marta von Trapp
As a child, Debbie Turner had acted in television and commercials with her siblings before she landed the role of Marta von Trapp in The Sound of Music. After the film came out, she left acting to continue to her education.
As an adult, she pursued interior design and ended up starting a floral and event design company called “Debbie Turner Originals,” which was awarded the “Preferred Florist” title for the 2008 Republican National Convention in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Although she has separated from acting, she keeps in touch with her Sound of Music co-stars and has returned for television appearances.
Kym Karath as Gretl von Trapp
Actress Kym Karath played the youngest and seventh child of the von Trapp family, Gretl, which is probably what she is most remembered for. She began acting at the age of three having been in Spencer’s Mountain, The Thrill of It All, and Good Neighbor Sam.
In an interview with Ellen DeGeneres, Julie Andrews said of Karath: “[The children] were all lovely. However, the youngest one was probably the most difficult for me, because she was just a tad heavy in those days. Today, she is this amazing gorgeous looking Monroe-esque young lady.” That’s quite a compliment!
Charmian Carr as Liesl von Trapp
It seemed Charmian Carr was set for success after her captivating portrayal of Liesl in the movie musical The Sound of Music. Even though she was gorgeous, this actress was doomed to be a one-hit wonder. The actress played minor roles after Liesl, including roles in Take Her, She’s Mine, and Evening Primrose, which was a television musical written by the great Steven Sondheim.
Carr soon gave up acting and started up her own interior design firm in Encino, California. She still loved the role of Liesl and used her experiences as the character to write two novels, Forever Liesl and Letters to Liesl. The actress sadly passed away in 2016 from complications of dementia at the age of 76.
Eleanor Parker as the Baroness Von Schrader
Eleanor Parker was an Oscar-nominated actress who played the icy yet elegant Baroness Von Schrader, the scheming fiance to Captain Von Trapp. Parker was nominated for an Oscar for her roles in films like Detective Story and Interrupted Melody but it’s her role in the Sound of Music that generations of fans remember her for.
Sadly, Parker passed away at the age of 91 due to complications from pneumonia in 2013, just four days before NBC aired it’s live version of the musical. After her passing, Christopher Plummer who played Captain Von Trapp said “I hardly believe the sad news for I was sure she was enchanted and would live forever.”
While the family found success together as a traveling singing group, they would stop doing this by 1955. As the children grew older, they wanted to pursue their own endeavors. Four of the von Trapp daughters traveled to New Guinea in 1956 to do missionary work, with daughter Maria taking on the effort for the following 30 years.
Rupert von Trapp became a doctor, while Agathe von Trapp became a kindergarten teacher in Maryland. Werner von Trapp became a farmer, while Hedwig von Trapp taught music. The rest of the children married and settled with children in their later years.
Thoughts On Their Family’s Fame
Now that we know the true story of the von Trapps, it may lead you to wonder what they thought of the musical and film that made their story famous. While Maria was grateful her story wasn’t changed too much and that she was depicted the way she was in the fictional versions, she wasn’t too pleased with the way Georg’s character was changed. As for the children, they didn’t appreciate the fact that their story was simplified and that they were represented as people that performed “lightweight” music.
Johannes von Trapp told The New York Times in 1998, “It’s not what my family was about… [We were] about good taste, culture, all these wonderful upper-class standards that people make fun of in movies like ‘Titanic.’ We’re about environmental sensitivity, artistic sensitivity. ‘Sound of Music’ simplifies everything. I think perhaps reality is at the same time less glamorous but more interesting that the myth.”
The New Cast
The Sound of Music Live is a television special which was aired on NBC starring the amazing Carrie Underwood as Maria. The show was performed in front of a studio audience and was filmed live in the town of Bethpage, New York. Even though this version of the musical was met with mixed reviews, critics stated Carrie Underwood was a great singer, but was an immature actor.
Even the real-life von Trapp family stated Underwood lacked experience as an actor and that her performance as Maria, seemed lifeless. The live performance of the musical brought in 18.62 million viewers and prompted NBC to create more live adaptations of musicals.
Carrie Underwood is now known as one of the biggest American country music stars in the world, but she definitely had her humble beginnings. Underwood is from Muskogee, Oklahoma and was born to a school teacher and a mill worker. The singer won season four of American Idol and went on to become one of the highest selling winners of the show.
According to Forbes, Underwood is now worth a total of $120 million dollars, while $83 million of that was made in the last year. Underwood was recently honored with a nomination for Artist of the Year by the American Music Awards, but lost to Ariana Grande. They couldn’t have found a more talented and wealthy woman to play Maria in the live action version of The Sound of Music!