5 Things You Didn't Know About 'The Sound of Music'

The Sound of Music cast, Julie Andrews
Julie Andrews (as Maria von Trapp) and Christopher Plummer (as Capt. Georg von Trapp) and their seven children sing "So Long, Farewell" in this still from "The Sound of Music." Bettmann/Getty Images

The hills will always be alive with the sound of this most-beloved movie musical. Originally released in 1965, the film is the third-highest grossing movie of all time, taking in more than $1 billion (adjusted for inflation). Here are five things you may not know about this classic.

1. The Critics Originally Hated It


From the get-go, moviegoers loved it. Film critics? Not so much. Apparently, a story about a young nun who acts a governess to seven adorable children and wins the heart of their stern widowed father set critics' teeth on edge. The  New York Times called it "painfully mawkish"  while Time magazine said it "contains too much sugar, too little spice." Eminent critic Pauline Kael called it "the single most repressive influence on artistic freedom in movies." The harsh review allegedly cost her her job at McCall's magazine — though she bounced back at The New Yorker.

2. The Real Maria Was Not so Sweet

Perhaps the critics would have liked it more if the movie had stuck closer to the facts. The real Maria was not as cheery and chipper as the one portrayed by Julie Andrews. In a 2003 interview, one of the real-life von Trapp children said 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 also threw things and slammed doors when upset.

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The real Baroness Maria von Trapp and three of her children, (L-R) Eleonore, Agatha and Johannes, sing from a piece of sheet music in London, circa 1950
George Konig/Keystone Features/Getty Images

3. The Movie Strayed From the Original Story in Many Other Ways

The portrayal of Maria von Trapp was just one of the many liberties the screenwriters took. To name just a few: The family was already musical before she came to stay; the father was far from the rigid martinet he was portrayed to be; and Maria did not love him when they married. In her autobiography, she wrote, "I liked him but didn't love him. However, I loved the children, so in a way I really married the children ... [B]y and by I learned to love him more than I have ever loved before or after."

The family also never trekked over the Alps to Switzerland to escape the Nazis. Instead, less picturesquely, they hopped a train to Italy and from there, traveled to America for a singing engagement and stayed for good.

4. The Cast Was Living Large at This Shoot

Speaking of escape, remember the scene at the end of the movie with the family on foot, making their way to Switzerland, with little Gretl riding on her father's back? That wasn't actually Gretl. The 5-year-old who played her, Kym Karath, had been living on bread since the shoot began (apparently she hated all the foreign food) and had gained quite a bit of weight. She was so heavy that Christopher Plummer (who portrayed Capt. von Trapp) insisted on a lighter body double for the piggyback scene.

Not that he was one to talk: He'd gained a lot of weight himself. "I drank so much and ate all those wonderful Austrian pastries. When I got to shooting, [director] Robert Wise said, 'My God, you look like Orson Welles.' We had to re-do the costume," Plummer told Vanity Fair.

5. The Movie Was a Flop in Austria

Possibly the only country where "The Sound of Music" was not a hit was in the country where it was shot: Austria. In fact, most Austrians have not seen it, according to the BBC. Austrian Georg Steinitz who was an assistant director on the movie, thinks it might have been "too American" for local tastes. "People don't feel it has much to do with Austria, except for the landscape," he told the BBC. "We, the Austrian and German members of the crew, thought it would be a flop ... We were very doubtful. But we were wrong."

Although Austrians have not embraced the film, they've recognized the financial opportunity. Several companies in Salzburg offer tours where visitors can take in the beautiful locations where the movie was filmed.