The Real History
The film itself is based on a true story. Born in Vienna, Maria von Kutschera was living as a novice candidate at the Benedictine Convent on Nonnberg in Salzburg when she was sent by her Mother Superior as a governess to the househould of Baron Georg Ritter von Trapp to look after his seven children, left motherless after the death of his wife. In 1927 Maria became the Baron's wife and began the Trapp family's legend. and in the early 30's she founded a family choir with which she undertook frequent public performances whilst they remained in Austria.
After fleeing the country on Hitler's annexation of Austria in 1938, the family, with ten children, had no income other than that drawn from their musical performances, known as "The Trapp Family Singers". Their success in the USA, however, proved sufficient to enable them to settle there and, in 1941, to purchase a farm in Stowe,Vermont, which ultimately became the Trapp Family Lodge.Today the Trapp Family Lodge is a flourishing hotel, and the great-grandchidren of Capt. Trapp make "New Von Trapp family Singers Climb Every Mountain".
I first saw the movie The Sound of Music as a young child, probably in the late 1960s. I liked the singing, and Maria was so pretty and kind! As I grew older, more
aware of world history, and saturated by viewing the movie at least once yearly, I was struck and annoyed by the somewhat sanitized story of the von Trapp family it told, as well as the bad 1960s
hairdos and costumes. "It's not historically accurate!" I'd protest, a small archivist in the making. In the early 1970s I saw Maria von Trapp herself on Dinah Shore's television show, and boy,
was she not like the Julie Andrews version of Maria! She didn't look like Julie, and she came across as a true force of nature. In thinking about the fictionalized movie version of Maria von
Trapp as compared to this very real Maria von Trapp, I came to realize that the story of the von Trapp family was probably something closer to human, and therefore much more interesting, than the
movie led me to believe.
Part of the story of the real von Trapp family can be found in the records of the National Archives. When they fled the Nazi regime in Austria, the von Trapps traveled to America. Their entry into the United States and their subsequent applications for citizenship are documented in the holdings of the National Archives and Records Administration.
Fact from Fiction
While The Sound of Music was generally based on the first section of Maria's book The Story of the Trapp Family Singers (published in 1949), there were many alterations and omissions.
Maria came to the von Trapp family in 1926 as a tutor for one of the children, Maria, who was recovering from scarlet fever, not as governess to all the
Maria and Georg married in 1927, 11 years before the family left Austria, not right before the Nazi takeover of Austria.
Maria did not marry Georg von Trapp because she was in love with him. As she said in her autobiography Maria, she fell in love with the children at first sight, not their father. When he asked her to marry him, she was not sure if she should abandon her religious calling but was advised by the nuns to do God's will and marry Georg. "I really and truly was not in love. I liked him but didn't love him. However, I loved the children, so in a way I really married the children. . . . [B]y and by I learned to love him more than I have ever loved before or after."
There were 10, not 7 von Trapp children.
The names, ages, and sexes of the children were changed.
The family was musically inclined before Maria arrived, but she did teach them to sing madrigals.
Georg, far from being the detached, cold-blooded patriarch of the family who disapproved of music, as portrayed in the first half of The Sound of Music, was actually a gentle, warmhearted parent who enjoyed musical activities with his family. While this change in his character might have made for a better story in emphasizing Maria's healing effect on the von Trapps, it distressed his family greatly.
The family did not secretly escape over the Alps to freedom in Switzerland, carrying their suitcases and musical instruments. As daughter Maria said in a 2003 interview printed in Opera News, "We did tell people that we were going to America to sing. And we did not climb over mountains with all our heavy suitcases and instruments. We left by train, pretending nothing."
The von Trapps traveled to Italy, not Switzerland. Georg was born in Zadar (now in Croatia), which at that time was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Zadar became part of Italy in 1920, and Georg was thus an Italian citizen, and his wife and children as well. The family had a contract with an American booking agent when they left Austria. They contacted the agent from Italy and requested fare to America.
Instead of the fictional Max Detweiler, pushy music promoter, the von Trapps' priest, the Reverend Franz Wasner, acted as their musical director for over 20 years.
Though she was a caring and loving person, Maria wasn't always as sweet as the fictional Maria. She tended to erupt in angry outbursts consisting of yelling, throwing things, and slamming doors. Her feelings would immediately be relieved and good humor restored, while other family members, particularly her husband, found it less easy to recover. In her 2003 interview, the younger Maria confirmed that her stepmother "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."
The Sound of Music (Three-Disc 45th Anniversary Blu-ray/DVD Combo in Blu-ray Packaging)
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