10 surprising facts about The Sound of Music - including where classic Julie Andrews movie was filmed

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The Sound of Music could be played by the BBC following a nuclear strike to boost morale - and 9 other facts about the classic film

The Sound of Music is one of the most iconic film musicals of all time, and was a box office smash hit when it was released nearly 60 years ago.

The film follows the Von Trapp family, a widower and his seven children, who are joined by a nun in training who transforms their lives. Set against the backdrop of the spread of Nazism in late 1930s Austria, the film is also a tale of survival against a terrible evil. It has become a classic in the decades since its release and it’s not hard to see why.

But did you know these 10 facts about The Sound of Music ? 

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The Sound of Music was filmed on location in Austria

The Sound of Music is set in Austria and follows the Von Trapp family in the months leading up to the Anschluss - German reunification with Austria - and the flight of the Von Trapps. The movie was filmed on location in Salzburg, although the film is not well-known in Austria. Fans of the film can visit the iconic locations used in the film including the convent and the church where Maria and the Captain get married.

In many Salzburg hotels, the film is screened daily for foreign tourists, a testament to its enduring popularity more than 50 years on. However, the location was not without its difficulties - it rains an average of 140 days a year in Salzburg, which meant that the crew often had to find alternative spots for filming.

The film that saved 20th Century Fox

This is credited as the movie that saved 20th Century Fox after the debacle of Cleopatra (1963). The epic historical film starring Elizabeth Taylor saw production costs swell to more than $30 million, and it took three years for the film to break even, despite it receiving a strong critical response.

When Fox paid more than $1 million for the rights to The Sound of Music, it was a big risk given that the studio was still suffering from the costs of Cleopatra. However, it turned out to be the right call as the film went on to become the most successful musical of all time. The success of The Sound of Music prompted the studio to invest in a string of expensive musical projects, none of which went on to become big hits. 

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The Sound of Music was filmed on location in SalzburgThe Sound of Music was filmed on location in Salzburg
The Sound of Music was filmed on location in Salzburg | 20th Century Fox

 Mary Poppins connection

Julie Andrews filmed Mary Poppins, her other most iconic film, in 1963 and the film was released in December 1964. When filming for The Sound of Music took place from March 1964, Andrews sang the now-iconic Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious to the cast of children to entertain them in breaks between filming. 

Because Mary Poppins had not been released at that time, the cast thought that Andrews had made up the song herself. The two films also share many similarities - they both star Julie Andrews as a nanny who helps a father build a better relationship with his young children through a series of musical numbers.

The Sound of Music was based on a true story 

The film is based on the real story of the Von Trapps who fled Austria the day before the borders were closed. It is adapted from Maria’s book, The Story of the Trapp Family Singers, although there were plenty of changes made in the film. For one thing, the realVon Trapps didn’t flee to Switzerland as they do in the film - they actually travelled to Italy by train and eventually moved on to the US. 

Maria Von Trapp did join a monastery and hoped to become a nun before being asked to look after Captain Von Trapp’s children, and later marrying him. Again, the real story wasn’t as straightforward. In the film, Maria is desperate to escape the monastery and quickly soon falls for the Captain - the real Maria wanted to return to the monastery and stated that whilst she was fond of the Captain, she married him to be close to the children and only later grew to love him.

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Adolf Hitler visited the real Von Trapp family home

The Von Trapps, growing increasingly wary of Nazi animosity towards Jewish people, left Austria several months after the Anschluss, and had to abandon their home in the process. In 1939, the property became the headquarters of Heinrich Himmler, the leader of the SS and one of the chief architects of the Final Solution.

Himmler used slave labour to build a wall around the property to increase security and then reportedly had all those involved in the construction shot. Hitler visited Himmler at the Von Trapp villa several times during the war. The real Von Trapp house was not used in the movie, Leopoldskron Palace and Frohnburg Palace, both in Salzburg, were used instead. 

The film could be broadcast after a nuclear strike

The Sound of Music is known to be one of the best feel-good films of all time, despite the undercurrent of the rising tide of Nazism which runs through it. The musical numbers and the soppy love story between Maria and the Captain have led the film to become the perfect film to watch on a lazy Sunday.

Perhaps that’s why the BBC reportedly planned to broadcast the movie in the event of a nuclear strike against the UK in order to boost morale. Allegedly, a nuclear bunker built by the BBC at the height of the Cold War was established so that the company could continue to broadcast through a nuclear holocaust. 100 days of broadcasting had reportedly been planned which included The Sound of Music. The BBC has not confirmed these claims.

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It is the most successful musical of all time

The Sound of Music was the highest grossing musical worldwide for 13 years until it was surpassed by Grease in 1978. When not adjusted for inflation, The Sound of Music is only the 43rd most successful musical movie today, with a total gross of $396 million. Disney’s The Lion King (2019) occupies the top spot with a worldwide gross of $1.6 billion.

However, when adjusted for inflation, The Sound of Music has a worldwide gross equivalent to just over $2.5 billion making it the most successful musical of all time, followed by Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, and the sixth most successful film of any genre. 

Christopher Plummer thought The Sound of Music was 'awful'Christopher Plummer thought The Sound of Music was 'awful'
Christopher Plummer thought The Sound of Music was 'awful' | YouTube

Christopher Plummer hated the film

Oscar-winning actor Christopher Plummer, is known for his roles in The Battle of Britain, All the Money in the World, and Knives Out, but his most iconic role remains The Sound of Music. But, Plummer almost didn’t take on the role of Captain Von Trapp and later said that he regretted starring in the movie. 

He said that it was his toughest role, explaining that he found the film ‘so awful and sentimental and gooey’, and later referred to the film as ‘The Sound of Mucus’ in an interview with the New York Times. It’s a shame that Plummer had no love for the film that made him a household name, but fortunately for the late star, the bulk of his scenes were shot in just 11 days. 

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Captain Von Trapp wasn’t really that mean

The character of the Captain in The Sound of Music, is a stern, authoritarian figure who has banned music and grown distant from his children. However, this was not the case in real life and the Georg Von Trapp’s children were disturbed by the way that he was portrayed in the film. 

Georg died in 1947, long before The Sound of Music was made, but his wife Maria, reached out to the film’s producer Robert Wise and asked him to make Georg’s character softer in the film. Wise refused, saying that in the movie, the Captain had to be stern so that Maria could help to change him. Ironically, the surviving Von Trapp family members said at the time of the film’s release, that Maria was actually more strict than the Captain.

The cast almost looked very different

Whilst The Sound of Music has become synonymous with its leads, Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer, many other big names had been considered for the main roles. Doris Day and Audrey Hepburn had been offered the role of Maria but turned it down. Andrews almost didn’t take it on because she was worried the character was too similar to Mary Poppins, which she had just filmed.

Other candidates for the role of the Captain Von Trapp included Richard Burton, Sean Connery, Bing Crosby, Maximilian Schell, and Rex Harrison. Plummer had to have his arm twisted before he accepted the part. Additionally, Fred Astaire has been considered for the role of Max who was eventually played by Richard Haydn, and Liza Minnelli, Patty Duke, Mia Farrow, Kim Darby, Lesley Ann Warren, Tisha Sterling, and Sharon Tate all auditioned for the part of Liesl, before Charmian Carr got the part.

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