“Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens Brown paper packages tied up with strings”
I know what you are thinking,”What the hell is Mary Poppins doing in the mountains?” I wondered the same thing. I love the classic movies that I was exposed to in childhood. But for every Old Yellar and Wizard of Oz, there are hundreds of other films that everybody refers to as “classics”, because calling them good films would be false advertising. Now, I love Julie Andrews and always will and it amazes me how she still looks so great after all these years, but as much as I admire her, I just can’t stand the Sound of Music. Maybe I am just too cynical, but the whole things just doesn’t add up. Despite my misgivings about the film, I have to admit that I admire the way that it has been implanted into every one’s cultural consciousness. Right now, as you read this, you are envisioning a young Julie as Maria spinning around on a hillside singing. The only problem is that when I think of that scene, all I can see is Chevy Chase in lederhosen singing, “The hills are alive with the sound of Griswald…..”
First about the basics. Her name is Maria? I thought this was a movie filmed in Bavaria, not the south side of Los Angeles. If I can’t suspend my disbelief longer enough to get past the opening credits, good luck getting me to buy into the actual hackneyed plot this movie has. O.k., O.k. Her name is Maria. I will try to move on. The film is a romantic musical set in the Austrian area along the German border. I don’t know about you, but when I think romance, I think Germany. I know it was in Austria and no offense was meant but you see I went to public schools and I my only source of geographical knowledge came from a school with a globe that still referred to our country as The Colonies.
Anyway, back to the movie. Maria is a nun living in the convent who basically is just a bad fit in the sisterhood. Two things. First of all, like there are just sooooo many nuns in the world that any group of them would turn away anyone even remotely interested in joining. Hell, these sisters are more selective than Augusta National. Secondly, the way the nuns were portrayed in the movie, specifically the way they mistreated Maria, it looked less like a holy order and more like Delta Delta Delta. So here is young Maria ready to confirm her devotion to a holy order and the best advice they have for her is that she needs to go live with a lonely man who has more kids than the set of Cheaper by the Dozen.And what’s with Maria singing every time she goes anywhere? That’s not moving the story along, that’s an emotional disorder and it’s not exactly the type of person that you want taking care of your kids. Of course, the dad wouldn’t know that because he doesn’t show up until the movie is half over. The first actual male character we meet is Rolf, no not the dog that played piano on The Muppets, but one of the older daughter’s love interest, who is seen as a sympathetic character, even after he ends up being a Nazi.
That’s another problem. The Nazis, granted they are the bad guys in this story, are portrayed less as the embodiment of pure evil, which they were, and more like some really irritating neighbors. In Sound of Music, they appear to be little more than Kramer in a brown uniform and jack boots. Except this time, Kramer’s latest hair brained scheme involves the annexation of an entire country and the elimination of the Jewish race, actually that part of the Nazi’s plan was never referenced in the Rodger’s and Hammerstein play nor the movie that followed it. I guess it is just hard to find a word that rhymes with genocide.
So now we get to the part where the absent father of this brood finally returns home. However, he has a great excuse. He is a captain or baron in the Austrian Navy. HOLD UP! WAIT A MINUTE! The Austrian Navy? O.k. Granted that I did attend Florida State University and it is not the most prestigious center of learning in the United States but, the last time I looked, Austria was a land locked country . And yet, they have a navy? That makes about as much sense as being a member of the Iowa Coast Guard. So Count Chocula…I mean Baron Georg von Trapp, personally I wouldn’t trust a guy who dropped the “e” off of his first name anyway, returns to the family with the woman Elsa that he intends to marry. Her come the kids in…get this…play clothes that Maria has made from curtains. I loved this scene the first time I saw it…in Gone with the Wind. Elsa is immediately suspicious of Maria, who enters the room wearing a bikini made out of venetian blinds.(just kidding). I love the subtle way that the producers let everyone figure out that the Baron is going to kick Elsa to the curb and the only question is when. Right along this point in the movie there is introduced some random creepy uncle/music producer/ Guest on How to Catch a Predator named Max that says something about showcasing the kids talents in singing at a festival and I think that is when Maria suggests that little Michael should be lead singer and then Marlon and Tito go off and pout until they find out how they are needed for the song” A.B.C.1.2.3.”, or I think that’s what happens. Sorry, but I kept flipping between the Sound of Music and The Jacksons miniseries over on VH1, so I might have gotten it a little confused.
At this time, Maria gets all whiny and runs back to the convent, sisters should have changed those locks, and decides to take her monastic vows. That is until, the Sister Superior( which by the way is what I am going to name my punk band so don’t steal it) explains to her that in reality she loves the Baron von Trapp and should go back to him and declare her love. And she does. Because if there is one person in the world that knows about all the delicate intricacies of the male and female dynamic it is a nun that has spent her whole life in a convent. I swear a convent is just like a life long version of Girls Gone Wild.
Act1 ends and he is where we are. The kids can sing. The Germans want to make the Baron a German officer. He hates the Germans. Elsa loves the Germans. Maria loves the Baron. The Baron loves Maria. Like Chuck Cunningham on Happy Days, Elsa goes upstairs and is never seen again. And I hate all of them.Since the Germans are known for their power of persuasion, they inform the baron that he is to report to some German place that I can’t spell to begin his duty. He explains that the entire family has to perform at a festival(worst Lollapalooza ever) and that he will report after their performance. The Germans agree because if it’s one thing that the Nazis were known for it was their patience.
So the family sings on what can be described as an early version of Austrian Idol and although Simon Cowell makes the youngest von Trapp girls cry, they win. Please stop the suspense it is killing me. But, when the Seacrest tries to present the family with their prize, they are nowhere to be found. They have fled and are crossing 300 hundred miles of German occupied mountainous country on their way to freedom in neighboring Switzerland. They stop to rest and are discovered by Rolf, the Nazi not the Muppet, who shoots them all dead. No wait, that was just a dream I had. Rolf lets them go and they safely reach Switzerland where they spend the rest of their lives getting fat off Swiss chocolates, wearing Swatch watches and having migraines from the continual noise from the thousands of cuckoo clocks in the country.
Everybody lives happily ever after. Especially me because the movie is over. I have been thinking a lot about how to improve this movie and during my research I learned something very disturbing. The von Trapps were actually real people. Their story is the actual inspiration for this movie. I felt a little better about the movie until I read that almost nothing in the movie was historically accurate. First of all, the Baron was not quite the noble sailor that he is portrayed to be. He was actually a submarine captain in the Austro-Hungary navy (an ally of Germany) in World War 1. He sank not only enemy vessels but also over 11 unarmed merchant ships. His luxurious house and money came not from his war honors but rather from his first wife who happened to be the granddaughter of the inventor of the torpedo and when she died of cancer, he got paid. “I’m not saying he’s a gold-digger, but he ain’t messin with….”
Maria was not hired as the governess to all the kids(there were in fact 10) but rather as a babysitter to watch one who was suffering from scarlet fever. Not exactly the hardest babysitting job in history. Maria, by her own words, didn’t love the baron but instead was crazy about the kids. Not the first marriage to stay together because of kids. And the reason she probably didn’t love him was….drum roll please……..he was 25 years older than her. What’s the male Austrian version of a cougar? I know what it is. It’s Baron. (I was going to do a joke about musical older men who marry what are basically children much to the chagrin of the rest of the world but wasn’t sure if I was going to use Jerry Lee Lewis or the guy from Nickelback as the punchline)
The movie events also weren’t accurate in terms of time. The von Trapps did not get married on the eve of World War 2 but rather back in 1927, thank God I didn’t have to suffer through 10 years of plot filler if they had actually portrayed the correct timeline. Finally, the family did not escape by foot into Switzerland but rather by train into Italy where von Trapp was also a citizen. Let us digest that fact for a moment. They escaped into the country run by Mussolini. Really makes you wonder, doesn’t it?
So before I leave this subject let me tell you what I would have done to make this movie not just good, but awesome. There are three things to fix it. They are…….