Everything’s coming up Maria! The Sound of Music appears to be taking over 2015. Not only is it the opening night film at the upcoming TCM Classic Film Festival – with stars Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer in attendance – but it’s set for a restored DVD and Blu-ray from 20th Century-Fox and a new book by author Tom Santopietro. The Sound of Music Story perfectly blends movie-making featurette, historical biography, and backstage pass into a sweeping tribute to the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical.
Santopietro gives audiences a foray into nearly every element of the creation of the musical that became a cinematic juggernaut and has achieved celluloid immortality. The book’s all-encompassing nature won’t please those looking for strictly biographical information on the von Trapps, nor those looking for a historical representation of the time period and what the film represents. Santopietro gives readers a buffet of facts, all with an eye towards examining the film’s and its universal appeal. If you’re a fan of the film itself, this is the perfect book for you.
We start with a bit of history on the von Trapps themselves, particularly with regards to the changes made from real-life to screen. Most know that not all seven children translated to the screen exactly, and there’s some fun gobbets discussing the changes – such as eldest child Rupert being over 20 and a doctor when Maria met Captain von Trapp. Santopietro also discusses Maria herself, and how the happy singing nun’s perfection and obsessive need to perform end up creating emotionally stunted children. Because the book’s focus is on the movie there’s little commentary outside of a few characters quotes. However, it is great being provided the context for the original story, as well as how the real people feel about the movie. Many of the real von Trapps, several who led very convoluted lives in the shadow of the film, mention their mutual love and distaste for the sanitized version of their life story (there’s also a running discussion about how the movie turned Georg von Trapp into the villain which the children had a problem with).
The core focus of The Sound of Music Story is the product we all know and love. Santopietro breaks the filmmaking into its smallest parts, from the hiring of cast, director, even editor. Leading up to this is a focus on the story’s transition to the stage, but the author jumps over that quickly to get to the meat and potatoes. He touches on a few alternative casting suggestions for some of the larger characters, as well as the various filmmaking locations, and fun anecdotes from filming – including some gentle ribbing of young von Trapp, Kym Karath, who loved eating sweets.
Ultimately, it’s The Sound of Music’s cultural significance that’s kept it alive all these years, and Santopietro shows up proof of that. He examines how the Austrians weren’t quick to embrace acknowledgement of their Nazi past, ultimately embracing the movie as their own. Other non-English speaking countries can recite the movie by heart. And let’s not forget the discussion surrounding the retread of The Sound of Music on television; no matter what you thought, you couldn’t refrain from watching it.
Part social commentary, part biography and backstage history, The Sound of Music Story will please fans of the movie more than anyone. Every facet of this enduring classic you wished to know about is contained within the book’s pages. If you’re planning to celebrate 50 years with The Sound of Music, pick up a copy.
The Sound of Music Story hits bookshelves February 17th
A freelance film critic whose work fuels the Rotten Tomatoes meter. I've been published on The Hollywood Reporter, Remezcla, and The Daily Beast. I've been featured in the L.A. Times. I currently run two podcasts, Citizen Dame and Ticklish Business.