The first musical number in the film, The Sound of Music, was the final sequence shot in Europe before the cast and crew returned to Los Angeles. It was filmed in late June and early July of 1964. Despite the warm and sunny appearance, Julie Andrews notes that she was freezing running up that mountain over and over again. Director Robert Wise has said that he had to climb one of the trees nearby to be able to overview the helicopter shoot without getting in the picture.
During the filming of the opening shot of Julie Andrews taken from a helicopter, Julie Andrews relates that although she tried digging her heels into the ground and bracing herself, on every take she was knocked over by the powerful helicopter downdraft. After more than a dozen takes, she attempted to hand-signal to Robert Wise to have the helicopter make a wider pass, but the response she got was a thumbs-up - he was finally satisfied with the shot.
"Sixteen Going On Seventeen" was shot in the gazebo, one of the last to be done. On the first take, Charmian Carr (Liesl) slipped while leaping across a bench, and fell through a pane of glass. Although she was not badly injured, her ankle was hurt and the scene was later shot with her leg wrapped and makeup covering the bandages.
The gazebo used for the "Sixteen Going on Seventeen" and "Something Good" scenes can still be visited in the Salzburg area, on "Sound of Music" tours. However, the public had to be excluded from the interior because film fans who were considerably older than "sixteen going on seventeen" were injuring themselves while trying to dance along the seats. The gazebo in Austria was only used for exterior shots. The actual dance by Charmian Carr and Daniel Truhitte was, in fact, filmed on a replica of the gazebo's interior on a sound stage at 20th Century-Fox in Los Angeles, as were the shots of Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer.
In the closing shot, when the family is climbing over the hills to safety, it is not really Kym Karath as Gretl on the shoulders of Captain von Trapp. In the DVD version, it is revealed that while in Austria, Kym Karath gained a lot of weight. This was one of the last shots filmed and so she was evidently a bit too heavy to be carried on Christopher Plummer's back. Plummer requested a stunt double and that is who's seen being carried on his back.
Mary Martin was the wife of Richard Halliday, producer of the original Broadway show. Martin, who originated the role of Maria on Broadway, would eventually see nearly $8,000,000 from the film. In contrast, Julie Andrews earned just $225,000 for her performance.
Two years before the musical made its Broadway debut, Paramount bought the rights to the Von Trapp Singers story, intending to cast Audrey Hepburn as Maria. When Hepburn declined, Paramount dropped plans for a film.
The librettists, Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse, originally intended to use songs that the real von Trapp family had sung. However, Mary Martin, who was to be in the play, asked Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II to write a song for her character. Due to concerns that their original song would not mix well with the folk music, Rodgers and Hammerstein suggested writing a whole new score, the music we know today.
During the scene with Maria and the Captain at the gazebo, Julie Andrews couldn't stop laughing due to a lighting device that was making, in her words, a "raspberry" every time she leaned in to kiss Plummer. After more than 20 takes, the scene was altered to silhouette the two and to hide Andrews' giggles.
Right after her talk with Maria, the Baroness is at the party talking to Max. The song the orchestra is playing is a song from the play version that was not used in the movie called "How Can Love Survive". This song was sung by the Baroness and Max. However, the tempo and rhythm of the song were altered quite dramatically, when played as a piece of orchestral music at the party in the film, hence the melody isn't immediately recognisable. The melody was stripped of the dramatic intensity and urgency that characterised it in the stage version, and was made to sound like a schmaltzy waltz.
Kym Karath (Gretl) couldn't swim, so the original idea was to get Julie Andrews to catch her when the boat tips up and they all fall in the water. However, during the second take the boat toppled over so that Andrews fell to one side and Karath fell to the other. Heather Menzies-Urich (Louisa) had to save her instead. Andrews stated later she felt guilty about this for years.
Twentieth Century-Fox bought the film rights to the musical in 1960, along with the rights to two German films about the family. The project was jeopardized by the poor box-office showing of a compilation of the German films, as well as Fox's financial difficulties resulting from Cleopatra.
According to director Robert Wise the grass on the hill of the opening song was supposed to be much longer than it was. The filmmakers had made an arrangement with the farmer who owned the land to leave the grass long, but when they arrived for filming it had been cut. Wise commented that the scene turned out very well after all.
When Maria is running through the courtyard to the Von Trapp house in "I Have Confidence", she trips. This was an accident; however, director Robert Wise liked this so much that he kept it in the movie. He felt it added to the nervousness of the song and of the character.
When the film was released in South Korea, it did so much business that some theaters were showing it four and five times a day. One theater owner in Seoul tried to figure out a way to be able to show it even more often, in order to bring in more customers. So he cut out all the musical numbers.
The songs "I Have Confidence" and "Something Good" were written especially for the film, by Richard Rodgers, the latter song replacing "An Ordinary Couple" from the stage version. The two numbers became so popular and so integrated into the musical, that most subsequent stage productions, including the 1998 Broadway revival, have felt the need to add them on (and delete "An Ordinary Couple" in the process).
Four other children were brought in to augment the singing of the seven von Trapp children - to produce a better, fuller, more polished sound. Among the four "extra singers" was the younger sister of Charmian Carr (Liesl), Darleen Carr.
Charmian Carr sang "16 Going On Seventeen" for the movie when she was nearly 22. Moreover, although Liesl and Rolf sing about how she is 16 and he is 17, 'Daniel Truhitte', who played Rolf, is ten months younger than 'Charmian Carr'.
Titles of the film in foreign countries translate to English as Smiles and Tears (Spain), The Melody of Happiness (France), "The Rebellious Novice" (Argentina and Brazil). In Croatia the movie is known under the same title as in Austria and Germany- "My Song - My Dream" ("Moje pjesme, moji snovi").
When setting up for filming the Captain and Maria's wedding scene, there was nobody at the altar to wed them when they reached the top of the stairs. Someone had forgotten to summon the actor playing the bishop. According to Julie Andrews, the real bishop of Salzburg is seen in the movie.
The gazebo changes size (becomes larger) when we go inside it. This is intentional. There was a real gazebo on the property where they filmed the scenes at the back of the house, but it was too small for the dance numbers, so they built an interior for the gazebo in Hollywood that was significantly larger.
Christopher Plummer intensely disliked working on the film. He's been known to refer to it as "The Sound of Mucus" or "S&M" and likened working with Julie Andrews to "being hit over the head with a big Valentine's Day card, every day." Nontheless, he and Andrews have remained close friends ever since.
According to the British tabloid The Sun, the movie was selected by BBC executives as one to be broadcast after a nuclear strike, to improve the morale of survivors. The BBC did not confirm or deny the story, saying, "This is a security issue so we cannot comment".
While the von Trapp family hiked over the Alps to Switzerland in the movie, in reality they walked to the local train station and boarded the next train to Italy. From Italy, they fled to London and ultimately the USA. Salzburg is in fact only a few miles away from the Austrian-German border, and is much too far from either the Swiss or Italian borders for a family to escape by walking. Had the von Trapps hiked over the mountains, they would have ended up in Germany, near Adolf Hitler's mountain retreat.
The Reverend Mother's line, "I will lift mine eyes to the hills from whence cometh my help!" is the first line of the Psalm 121, since the family was heading right into the hills, in hopes that God would send help from those hills to protect the von Trapp family.
The movie drops three songs from the original show: "How Can Love Survive" and "No Way to Stop It", which screenwriter Ernest Lehman felt were unnecessary, and "An Ordinary Couple," which was replaced by "Something Good". Ernest Lehman was of the notion that audiences would find the Baroness sympathetic if she sang, and hence her songs ("How Can Love Survive" and "No Way to Stop It") were cut, even though the songs don't necessarily evoke sympathy. "How Can Love Survive" is a duet between Elsa and Max, where the two characters reflect on how wealthy both the Baroness and the Captain are, and how difficult it is to keep romance alive amidst opulence. "No Way to Stop It" is a trio, where Elsa and Max try to convince the Captain not to oppose the Nazis, but to carry on living life as usual.
In Austria the film is know as "Meine Lieder - meine Träume" ("My Songs - my dreams"). It's not very well known there though, and the ending of the film was cut when it hit Austrian cinemas in the 60s.
Charmian Carr (Liesl) slipped and injured her ankle while filming "Sixteen Going On Seventeen". In early editions of the film, the bandage covering that ankle is visible. When the film was remastered for DVD, the images of this bandage were digitally removed. On the movie commentary of the 40th Anniversary edition in 2005, Charmian said that because of this, some people do not believe her when she says she danced on an injured ankle.
At the beginning of filming, Heather Menzies-Urich (Louisa) was about three inches taller than Nicholas Hammond (Friedrich). He had to wear heel lifts to make him look taller. By the end of the shoot, Nicolas Hammond had grown six inches (5'3" to 5'9"). He often filmed in no shoes and Charmian Carr had to stand on a box to make her taller. All of the Von Trapp children grew a lot during filming, so heel lifts and various camera tricks were used to keep their heights steady.
The first scene filmed was the scene in Maria's bedroom where Frau Schmidt brings the dress material, and later Liesl sneaks in through the window. One of the last scenes filmed was the "You are Sixteen" number, which appears in the film right before the scene in Maria's room. The two scenes were shot about 4 months apart.
Though the film is virtually unknown in Austria, due to the international popularity you can visit the places were the filming took place with a special tour. Furthermore in many hotels in Salzburg the movie is played non-stop on TV for the tourists.
The original Broadway production of "The Sound of Music" opened at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre on November 16, 1959, ran for 1443 performances and won (in a tie) the 1960 Tony Award for the Best Musical.
Jeanette MacDonald was originally considered for the role of the Mother Abbess, and she was interested, but, in the end, her increasingly worsening health precluded her taking the part. She died a month before the film was released. Had she been able to accept, it would have been her first film in sixteen years.
In real life, Georg Von Trapp was not stern. The Von Trapp children were upset and disturbed by the portrayal of their father in the film. 'Maria Von Trapp' requested that director Robert Wise soften the character of her husband, but Wise refused.
The soundtrack album of the film (RCA Victor: 1965) is one of the best-selling soundtracks of all-time (some 11 million copies sold worldwide) and has never been out of print. A Grammy nominee for Album of the Year which remained at number one on the Billboard Charts for some five weeks, the very earliest issues of the album came with an illustrated booklet discussing the making of the film and the lives and careers of composers Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II.
One of only 4 productions to win both the Best Musical (or Best Play, as applicable) Tony (1960) and the Best Picture Oscar (1965). The other 3 are My Fair Lady (1957/1964), A Man For All Seasons (1962/1966) and Amadeus (1981/1984).
Christopher Plummer was not fond of the song "Edelweiss," which he considered trite, and wrote a letter to screenwriter Ernest Lehman suggesting a new song should be written to replace it, but he was rebuffed.
When negotiations over his film The Sand Pebbles kept breaking down, Robert Wise started looking around for another project to do while he waited for things to get sorted. The Sound of Music basically fell into his lap after William Wyler dropped out of the project. Wyler wanted the film to be more serious and make more of the Nazis in the story. 20th Century Fox didn't care for his approach.
Christopher Plummer admitted that he ate and drank heavily during filming to drown out his unhappiness with making the picture, and found plenty of opportunities to do both in Austria. His costume eventually had to be refitted for his extra weight.
Charmian Carr who played Liesel and was 21 at the time, wrote in her autobiography that she was attracted to the 35 year old Christopher Plummer, who played her father. Plummer admitted that the feeling was mutual, but insists that it didn't get beyond mere flirtation.
Julie Andrews sang "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" to the children in the cast to entertain them between shooting. Since Mary Poppins hadn't yet been released, they just thought she'd made up the song for them.
The movie is based on Maria Von Trapp's 1949 memoir, "The Story of the Von Trapp Family Singers". She also published another book, "Maria", in 1972 and said that while she was able to attend the opening of the musical on Broadway, she did not have the same luck with the film premiere in 1965. She was able to convince 20th Century Fox to let her see a preview of the movie and expected an invitation to the premiere but "when I didn't hear anything about it and no invitation arrived, I really humbled myself to go and ask the producer whether I would be allowed to come. He said he was very sorry, indeed, but there were no seats left" (p. 216).
Peggy Wood (Mother Abbess) not only had a hard time vocally with her "Climb Every Mountain" vocal (which had to be dubbed), but she had an even harder time being able to lip-sync to the prerecorded track. The intro is lengthy and when the vocal comes in, Peggy couldn't get the lip synchronization perfect. Once into the song she did fine, but perfectly catching that first word was difficult and it kept getting flubbed. After a number of takes and seeing how it was distressing Ms. Wood with every try, Wise had her face away from the camera so you couldn't see her face/mouth. Her vocal started while she was turned away so she would synchronize her lip movement. Then when she turned toward the camera, she was in perfect sync. In fact, the over-all affect of her looking through the window as if communing with a higher spirit worked even better than the original blocking and it added to the mystical emotion of the song and scene.
After multiple directors had turned down the film, William Wyler finally agreed to take it on. Wyler at the time was suffering from a loss of hearing and was highly sceptical about making a film about music, thinking he was the wrong man for the job. He was slightly appeased in his decision after seeing the Broadway production.
As part of his research for the film, William Wyler met with the real Maria von Trapp and the mayor of Salzburg. Wyler was concerned that the local residents would be alarmed at seeing their buildings draped with Nazi flags and seeing stormtroopers in the streets only 25 years after the real thing had taken place. The mayor assured him that the residents had managed to live through the Anschluss the first time and would survive it again. Other city officials were much more resistant to the idea of decorating Salzburg with Nazi colors. They soon changed their mind when the film-makers said they would use newsreel footage instead. This footage was actually highly incriminating as it showed the Salzburgers openly welcoming the Nazis, something that the proposed scenes for the film would not do.
During pre-production, it was clear to many that William Wyler's heart was not really in it. He was approached midway through pre-production by producers Jud Kinberg and John Kohn who had purchased the film rights to the John Fowles novel 'The Collector' before it had been published. They already had a commitment from Terence Stamp and a first draft screenplay by Stanley Mann. Wyler fell overboard for the script, feeling a much greater affinity with the material than he did with The Sound of Music. Consequently, he asked Darryl F. Zanuck and Richard D. Zanuck to release him from his contract. They agreed. Fortunately, Robert Wise had been experiencing delays with the production of The Sand Pebbles and was now at liberty to make the film.
The film was heavily censored in Germany with virtually all of the Nazi overtones excised. Eventually, this material was restored to the German release but the film never really scored any traction with audiences there. Consequently the film is largely unknown in Germany and Austria where the films The Trapp Family and The Trapp Family in America were much more successful.
Every year the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles hosts an annual Sound of Music sing-a-long where the song lyrics are shown underneath the screen. The actors who played the Von Trapp children and indeed the real Von Trapp children themselves often make appearances at what has consistently been a sold-out event.
The idea for the hugely successful Sing-A-Long-Sound-of-Music first came about when one of the organizers of the 1988 London Gay and Lesbian Film Festival heard that staff at a retirement home in the Scottish town of Inverness were handing out lyric sheets to their residents during video showings of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers so that they could sing along.
Much of the movie was filmed at Leopoldskron, an estate outside Salzburg that was once owned by theatrical impresario, Max Reinhardt. Like the von Trapps, Reinhardt fled Austria for the United States with the coming of the Nazis.
Very little was known or available to Christopher Plummer about the real Captain von Trapp so the actor took to the Salzburg mountains with an interpreter. There, they met with Georg's nephew and asked him what the real man was like. The nephew told them that he was the most boring man he'd ever met.
Robert Wise went to great pains to ensure that one of the film's iconic songs - "Climb Ev'ry Mountain" - was played very differently from the stage show. In the theatre, the Mother Superior comes centerstage and belts out the number. In the London production he saw of the show, Wise found this treatment cringeworthy and sought to create a more resonant, quieter version of the tune. To that end, he had Peggy Wood virtually silhouetted throughout her rendition of the song.
In the background of the picnic in the mountain pasture when Maria and the children start singing "Do Re Mi", you can dimly make out a castle on top of a hill. This castle featured more prominently in the Richard Burton-Clint Eastwood thriller Where Eagles Dare two years later.
The main reason the film was not shown inside Germanic Europe is because of the serious historical inaccuracy to both the Anschluß of Austria and the Nazi Party being portrayed inaccurately, just in general. Even before it came out, Hedy Lamarr warned the studio not to show it inside Germanic Europe, because she knew how the men, especially, would react, but the studio executives laughed her off. Several other famous Germanic Europeans also did not take kindly to the film, becoming quite vocal, including: Peter Lorre, who had seen the Broadway play, Marlene Dietrich, Eva Gabor, Conrad Veidt, Audrey Hepburn, Werner Klemperer, John Banner, Fritz Lanf, Karl Freud, Robert Clary and Erich Plommer. It is what caused the studio to pull the film from cinemas six months before they intended to, causing them to actually lose money on its first release. It was not until the late 1970s when the film would actually break even.