Recently in my 16 Going On 17 post I claimed The Sound of Music was probably one of the most historically incorrect bio-pics ever made.
That line didn’t generate any comment, but it did fill UP my email.
Several of the faithful asked, “Why?” “Who?” “What?” and such.
So here goes.
Don’t hate me.
The eldest of the real von Trapp youngins was not a 16 going on 17 beauty, but a boy.
Rupert was born in 1911, and by the time the clan took off, he was a doctor with a practice in Austria.
As a matter of fact, there was no Liesl von Trapp.
Maria von Trapp was never hired as a governess. She was a tutor for one lone von Trapp, also named Maria who had contacted scarlet fever, the same malady that took the life of her mother, the 1st Baroness von Trapp some four years earlier.
The Captain trotted over to the Nonnberg Abbey to find a tutor, and Maria Augusta Kutschera, who had been trained at the Vienna State Teachers College for Progressive Education, who was also ailing as well as questioning her spiritual dedication, fit the bill.
She was 21 and was supposed to stay at the von Trapp mansion for 10 months and then take her vows and nun UP.
Maria was there less than a year before wedding the German Naval Hero. They were married in 1926, not 1938 as the film implies. Georg was 47 at the time.
There were actually 10 kids. Seven to start when Maria arrived; three would follow once she wed the Baron.
The Baron got a bum rap in the film too. He was hardly the stern martinet portrayed by Christopher Plummer. Even the real kids were unhappy with the portrayal. Although he did use the whistle, and each child had their own sound as well as their own sailor suit, they didn’t march around the house like a Nazi Youth League, nor did they stand at attention.
Posture, was however, encouraged.
People who actually knew the man claimed he was a warm and loving but overwhelmed father. I mean really, a widower with seven kids! Who wouldn’t be?
And the same people who knew the family claimed that Maria was the hard-ass of the crowd. Her upbringing – she was orphaned and reared by family members – left her “emotionally stunted and in need of thawing.”
The real Maria did petition the writers and directors of the film to soften his character a tad, but lost the battle.
Maria wasn’t the first Mrs. Von Trapp to bring music into the house. Maria Fransizka von Trapp said of her mother in a 1999 interview that “…she played violin and piano and we all sang before we met Maria. We had at least a hundred songs before she came. What she did was teach us madrigals, and of course, this is very hard to do, but we found it was no problem for us.”
The kids were genetically inclined to music.
In her autobiography, Maria, the former novice said she fell in love with the kids at first sight, but not the Baron.
When he proposed, she was not so sure. There was her religious calling and all. But the nuns at the abbey advised her to “…do God’s will and marry the Baron…”
Maria went on to say, “…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. But, by and by, I learned to love him more than I have ever loved before or after.”
Really, speechless here. No words.
Although the family was anti Nazi, thought Hitler was a total dweeb, they didn’t leave Austria just because of the German threat. Money was the motivation.
Like most of the wealthy in Europe, they went broke during the Great Depression – this just in, it wasn’t just in America – losing their fortune when their bank went bust.
They actually took in boarders to make ends meet. One was Father Franz Wasner who recognized their talent, became their musical director, and turned them into professionals.
Maria said, “He slowly but surely molded us into a real musical entity.”
Father Wasner toured with them after fleeing Austria, and many claim he was the driving force behind their success, but the movie producers didn’t want him in the film because he’d detract from Maria’s role.
After all, Julie Andrews was a pretty hot commodity at the time!
And, the fictional character, Max Detweiler, who replaced him, was funny!
Georg von Trapp did get some valid cred in the film. It was mentioned that he was heroic, and he was. He was a National Austrian hero during the Great War. Never mind that he was on the wrong side! He commanded submarines, received the title of Ritter or Knight, and Baron as rewards for his accomplishments.
His first wife and the mother of the seven von Trapps Maria fell in love with was Agathe Whitehead, the granddaughter of Robert Whitehead, the inventor of the torpedo!
Born in 1880 in the Austrian Empire’s Croatia, he was granted Italian citizenship in 1920 when his birthplace became Italian territory.
Which came in very, very handy.
But, the truth belies the most famous scene in the film; the family’s exit from Salzburg.
The family didn’t cross the Alps afoot, they walked out the back door of their villa, crossed the railroad tracks and boarded a train for Italy.
Had they scaled the Alps and not frozen to death on the way, they would have landed smack dab in Germany.
Switzerland was about 200 miles away. Maria was said to have queried the director, Robert Wise, “Don’t they know geography in Hollywood?”
Wise replied, “In Hollywood you make your own geography”.
Their departure from their homeland was far less dramatic, and in reality, no one was chasing them, there were no wayward nuns stealing battery cables, and there was no Rolf ratting them out to the Gestapo.
But they did leave in just the nick of time; the following day, the Austrian borders were sealed.
After they left, the family home was co-opted by the Nazis and Henrich Himmler used it as his summer residence. Presently, it’s a resort and looks pretty sweet!
Here’s the link!