…with The Sound of Music
Why this one has become a Christmas film, I don’t know. But I suspect it’s because of the theme of family, in this case, the Trapp Family Singers.
“Based on the memoir The Story of the Trapp Family Singers by Maria von Trapp, the film is about a young Austrian woman studying to become a nun in Salzburg in 1938 who is sent to the villa of a retired naval officer and widower to be governess to his seven children. After bringing and teaching love and music into the lives of the family through kindness and patience, she marries the officer and together with the children they find a way to survive the loss of their homeland through courage and faith.” (Wikipedia)
With Songs They Have Sung
Wikipedia goes on to discuss the accuracy of the story, as told in the film:
The Sound of Music film, like the stage musical, presents a history of the von Trapp family that is not completely accurate. The filmmakers used artistic license to convey the essence and meaning of their story. Georg Ludwig von Trapp was indeed an anti-Nazi opposed to the Anschluss, and lived with his family in a villa in a district of Salzburg called Aigen. Their lifestyle depicted in the film, however, greatly exaggerated their standard of living. The actual family villa, located at Traunstraße 34, Aigen 5026, was large and comfortable but not nearly as grand as the mansion depicted in the film. The house was also not their ancestral home, as depicted in the film. The family had previously lived in homes in Zell Am See and Klosterneuburg after being forced to abandon their actual ancestral home in Pola following World War I. Georg moved the family to the Salzburg villa shortly after the death of his first wife in 1922. In the film, Georg is referred to as “Baron”, but his actual family title was “Ritter” (German for “knight”), a hereditary knighthood the equivalent of which in the United Kingdom is a baronetcy. Austrian nobility, moreover, was legally abolished in 1919 and the nobiliary particle von was proscribed after World War I, so he was legally “Georg Trapp”. Both the title and the prepositional nobiliary particle von, however, continued to be widely used unofficially as a matter of courtesy.
Georg was offered a position in the Kriegsmarine, but this occurred before the Anschluss. He was heavily recruited by the Nazis because he had extensive experience with submarines, and Germany was looking to expand its fleet of U-boats. With his family in desperate financial straits, and having no other marketable skills other than his training as a naval officer, he seriously considered the offer before deciding he could not serve a Nazi regime. Rather than threaten arrest, the Nazis actually continued to woo him. In the film, Georg is depicted initially as a humorless, emotionally distant father. In reality, third child Maria von Trapp (called “Louisa” in the film) described her father as a doting parent who made handmade gifts for the children in his woodshop and who would often lead family musicales on his violin. She has a different recollection of her stepmother, whom she described as moody and prone to outbursts of rage. In a 2003 interview, Maria remembered, “[She] 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 Augusta Kutschera had indeed been a novice at Nonnberg Abbey in Salzburg and had been hired by the von Trapp family. However, she was hired only to be a tutor to young Maria Franziska (“Louisa” in the movie), who had come down with scarlet fever and needed her lessons at home, not to be a governess for all of the children. Maria and Georg married for practical reasons, rather than love and affection for each other. Georg needed a mother for his children, and Maria needed the security of a husband and family once she decided to leave the abbey. “I really and truly was not in love,” Maria wrote in her memoir, “I liked him but didn’t love him. However, I loved the children, so in a way I really married the children.” They were married in 1927, not in 1938 as depicted in the film, and the couple had been married for over a decade by the time of the Anschluss and had two of their three children together by that time. Maria later acknowledged that she grew to love Georg over time and enjoyed a happy marriage.
The von Trapp family lost most of its wealth during the worldwide depression of the early 1930s, when the Austrian national bank folded. In order to survive, the family dismissed the servants and began taking in boarders. They also started singing onstage to earn money—a fact that caused the proud Georg much embarrassment. In the film, the von Trapp family hike over the Alps from Austria to Switzerland to escape the Nazis, which would not have been possible; Salzburg is over two hundred miles from Switzerland. The von Trapp villa, however, was only a few kilometers from the Austria–Germany border, and the final scene shows the family hiking on the Obersalzberg near the German town of Berchtesgaden, within sight of Adolf Hitler’s Kehlsteinhaus Eagle’s Nest retreat. In reality, the family simply walked to the local train station and boarded a train to Italy. Although Georg was an ethnic German-Austrian, he was also an Italian citizen, having been born in the Dalmatian city of Zadar, which at that time was under the governance of Austria which was one the two States that comprised the Dual Monarchy of Austria-Hungary. The city of Zadar and a small area around it was handed over to Italy after World War I. From Italy, they traveled to London and ultimately the United States.
For a Thousand Years
This has echoes of the Third Reich.
But in more practical terms, I wonder if this will be how long this film will stay popular. We are already past the 50 year mark, and there seems no sign of it disappearing anytime soon.
Compare and contrast the previous two photos with the ones that follow.
Our own memories of this movie will stay with us for a long, long time.
I only hope that the message of Family will survive, too.