The Real Von Trapp Family Behind "The Sound of Music"

Herbie J Pilato

According to journalist Collin Bertram and, "When The Sound of Music debuted on cinema screens in April 1965, audiences fell hard and in huge numbers for the joyous celebration of music, dance, patriotism, and familial and romantic love, propelling it to become one of the world’s most beloved movie musicals and turning the story of the von Trapp family into lore."

As Bertram continues to report, "Like many true stories filtered through Hollywood’s often overly sentimental lens, The Sound of Music on-screen differs significantly from the true tale of Maria, the novice nun who takes a job as a governess in the Austrian household of the von Trapps, only to find herself falling in love with a widower and retired naval captain Georg von Trapp and his seven children."

"The film stars Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer as Maria and Georg, and features enduring songs such as 'Do-Re-Mi,' 'How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria,' 'Climb Ev’ry Mountain' and 'Edelweiss,' notes Bertram. "It received five Academy Awards (including best picture) and is the third highest-grossing movie of all time in the U.S. after its box office is adjusted for inflation."

As Bertram chronicles further, "...a cinematic recreation of the 1959 Broadway musical featuring music and lyrics by Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein, the Robert Wise-directed movie is based on the early chapters of Maria's 1949 memoir, The Story of the Trapp Family Singers, which chronicles Maria and the von Trapp’s beginnings in Salzburg, Austria, through their escape from Nazi-occupied Europe to the family’s eventual relocation to America."

"Though money did not appear to be of concern to the family depicted in the movie," Bertram adds, " real life the fortunes of the von Trapp family had faltered during the global depression of the early 1930s to the extent that at the time the film is set, most of the household servants had been dismissed and the family had begun taking in boarders. The lack of funds also prompted the family to consider turning their love of singing together into a profession."

“It almost hurt [my father] to have his family on stage, not from a snobbish view, but more from a protective one,” Eleonore is quoted as saying in a 1978 Washington Post interview.

As Bertram concluded, "Both in real and reel life, the family singers won first place in the Salzburg Music Festival. But the sound of music was already well established within the household before Maria arrived. In a reversal of the stern, music-forbidding retired naval officer depicted in the film, the real Georg and his first wife encouraged song in the family home years before Maria arrived. “In reality, Georg was a warm and loving if somewhat overwhelmed father,” author Tom Santopietro writes in The Sound of Music Story. “It was actually Maria herself, with her emotionally stunted upbringing, who needed thawing.”

To read more about the real Von Trapp family, click here.

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Herbie J Pilato is the author of several books about pop culture including RETRO ACTIVE TELEVISION, THE 12 BEST SECRETS OF CHRISTMAS, MARY: THE MARY TYLER MOORE STORY, TWITCH UPON A STAR, GLAMOUR, GIDGETS AND THE GIRL NEXT DOOR, DASHING, DARING AND DEBONAIR, and NBC & ME: MY LIFE AS A PAGE IN A BOOK, among others. He's also a TV writer/producer, and has worked for Reelz, Bravo, E!, TLC, and hosted THEN AGAIN WITH HERBIE J PILATO, the hit classic TV talk show (which premiered on Amazon Prime in 2019).

Los Angeles, CA

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