The Sound of Music, i.e. "That’s Mary Poppins?"

Image from Wikipedia

Still too much in a flu (well, stomach bug) haze (my pregnant sister landed in the hospital with it Wednesday-Thursday, and thank goodness she’s OK) and staring at the wall being still not an option but an occupation, I am pulling out of Bigsofa archives a blog of “The Sound of Music”. Note that several things now associated with Homeland Security were in the film the explicit territory of Nazis.

The Sound of Music

Directed by Robert Wise
Julie Andrews – Marie von Trapp
Christopher Plummer – Captain von Trapp
Eleanor Parker – The Baroness
Richard Haydn – Max Detweiler

Released 1965
Rates: Good movie but really twisted politics

I read “Sound of Music” is the most watched movie of all time, which means it must be blogged. After all, the most watched move of all time must resonate deeply with a host of people.

Decades have passed between now and then and I suppose my palate has been cleansed enough of my introduction, at age eight, to the hype of “Music”. A monumental production with pioneering aerial cinematography! Wow! But what I recollect most is the rumor that “Sound of Music” was to be the last of something like good, solid, wholesome cinema, that it was the last of the musicals–laws were to be written against them, Julie Andrews was to be banished by Congress–and from here on out it would be all decadent breasts bouncing out of Hellwood, no more family fare.

For that reason “The Sound of Music” was as holy as Salk and as much a must as the polio vaccine. Gather up the Girl Scouts and hustle them down for an afternoon audience with the holy mother, Andrews the new icon of god-fearing American entertainment, a young Saint Joan who had shorn her hair that we might heed the great sky god who spoke to her upon the mountain, only the desolate she gathered in were Kennedy’s orphaned children and their suburbia-addled mothers whose land-locked lollipop ships were under heavy assault by the British pop-rock invasion and its shaggy boy beasts. And what I remember almost as well is my mother disliked Julie Andrews, her voice, her looks, everything about her, and because of this and her contempt for the Julie Andrews’ hype I was unable to wholly throw myself into the experience of “Music” as were the rest of the dedicates who swore loyalty to Julie and resistance to what the Dark Powers of the World had sworn to do to her. Women cried. Maybe it was a Northern thing. The South had “Gone with the Wind” and Scarlett O’Hara. The Yanks had “The Sound of Music”. One wanted the return to plantations and the thirteen-inch waist. The other wanted to turn the clock back before WWII and absolve the Old World gods who had disdained crossing the Atlantic. They were going home to pack their suitcases and carry them across the waters before they went murderously senile.

Fear of the death of god was an up-and-coming concern in suburban homes. In a few years “Life” magazine would headline a possible obituary. Right up there on the endangered list with god was his compatriot spirit, music. Atonal Shoenberg and his 12 note serial method hadn’t killed it. Safe to say that those who feared what they sited as meaningless 60s pop lyrics had never heard of Shoenberg. The old standard “Yes, we have no Bananas”, now that was all right, as long as it didn’t go by its original title, the “I’ve Got the Yes! We Have No Bananas Blues”.

The Old World gods they trusted to Julie Andrews to carry over the Alps knew nothing of the Blues.

Julie Andrews would later attempt to remind she was an entertainer and dissociate herself from being holy mother of the American musical, drunkenly baring breasts in “S.O.B”.

But for now it’s 1965 and as “The Sound of Music” opens we are treated to stunning big screen aerial shots (I recollect, watching on my 20 inch tellie) of clouds which make me feel yes, I should be remembering something, been here before, so familiar, coming in through the clouds, over the mountains, shades of the primordial, the creation of the world (was I there?), several years hence Kubrick will use over hill and dale aerial cinematography to ferry us silent screaming to Jupiter and beyond but right now it’s 1965 not 1967 and Julie Andrews’ latest hit was as the Heartland’s dream governess in “Mary Poppins”, which also opened with clouds, Julie taking a cumulous cab…

Indeed, I have been here before! Is that Mary Poppins’ magic carpet bag in the poster for “The Sound of Music”? Is Andrews incapable of keeping her feet on the ground? But no no no folks and folkies we are not riding into dirty old London (which turned around and shafted us with Carnaby Street). Instead, we descend through frigid pristine fogginess to alpine greenery, twittering birds, violins, horns, flutes. Our spirits should soar even as we glide to earth and be still my heart, there she is, Julie Andrews singing to the hills her cheery positive take on loneliness, skipping over stones, being blessed with the sound of music until church bells chime and she is sent hastily, clumsily seeking her fallen habit, flying fleet-of-foot to mass. A veritable Diana who belongs to field and stream but no man.

Which is when we realize we have stumbled upon a novitiate whose senses still tie to the physical world in a manner that those who never mix peas with mashed potatoes would have believe ill becomes the sacred, the protestant-puritan corps d’esprit to whom the film ironically caters though espousing a certain common sense acceptance of sensual joys which the film’s Catholic nuns realize are god-given and essential to most. That kind of world -is-fundamentally good Sisterhood so popular in 60s Holywood movies. There is, by the way, not a single priest exhibited in the film. I don’t know if this is something people realize, but certainly the subconscious takes note. The film belongs spiritually to mother earth. Which is a why it succeeds despite lousy politics. Had it belonged to venerable pater it would have belonged to the fatherland and ultimately to Hitler, and I don’t believe the film ever refers to the fatherland, instead only to the homeland.

Cut from Julie’s spontaneity and hills of green to stone courtyard and chapel dotted with somber women in black, the aged and middle-aged congregating for chapel and worship. Order and containment. A world into which Maria doesn’t fit, the Sisterhood admits. The absent Maria adores animals. And if one has not found her in the usual places one is to look for her in the unusual. (Get it? We will not hit you over the head with sacred allusions.) Maria is likeable and not so likeable, loveable and not so loveable. She is rebellious, and always in trouble. How do you solve a problem like Maria?

“Who are these guys?” my seven year old asks.

During the 60s Hollywood seemed intent on priming prepubescent females for the nunnery with a string of popular nun films. Debbie Reynolds was “The Singing Nun”. Guitars and folk music played prominently. Spiritual hipsters swung rosary belts. It was Hollywood’s manner of expressing the notion of 60s musicians as priests and priestesses leading a spiritual new wave. I would discuss this some more but Maria–tomboyish, short-haired Maria–is running about slamming doors and is about to be showed the gate for the wolf pack with which she’ll be most at home.

No, no, Maria pleads that she belongs at the convent, that she grew up on the mountain and the mountain led her to the convent. Something like that.

Not for a second would anyone in the American theater buy that Julie Andrews grew up on that Alpine mountain. Andrews is, after all, American–oh, that’s right, British, sorry–but Americans interpret as they please and as the movie intended, for this is not the story of Austrian Maria Von Trapp. Andrews instead speaks to the several generations’ removed American immigrant who carries the mountain with them over the American prairie in their portable strudels and cuckoo clocks. The American German-Austrian is no more German to the Austrian-German than the low German-German was to the Imperial Aristocratic Hapsburg. Or oops I suppose I shouldn’t go there.

Anyway, yeah, right, Maria grew up on the mountain. In Colorado. And the Mother Superior informs her the will of god is that she leave the convent for a time, to learn what she really wants, which is not what the enthusiastic Maria wants to hear, that she is to take care of the seven children of a retired officer of the Imperial Navy, Maria expressing the kind of dismay one wouldn’t expect of 60’s Catholic opponents of The Pill (contraception a hot subject of debate at the time for Catholics, and see I told you the film was aimed primarily for Protestants). Not a good sign that the retired officer of the Imperial Navy is unable to keep a governess but we all already know that story and what will happen, how Julie will win their hearts and marry the Captain and flee with him over the mountains from Nazi-occupied Austria to Switzerland, so obviously we aren’t at the movie to have that question answered for us.

Why are we here?

“When the lord closes a door, somewhere he opens a window,” Maria voices the wisdom of the Mother Superior, bolstering her confidence as she exits the convent.

And suspension of disbelief collapses. It was already difficult buying Julie Andrews as a wannabe nun. It was difficult that Andrews was about 30 in this role and if you stood her up against a door frame the emotional maturity of the character seemed to be about 16 years of age tall on tiptoe. One of the more major problems was that Julie had short blond hair and everyone knew that Mary Poppins had brunette hair she wore back in a bun. Oh, but what we are now forced to accept! For she is dressed in a doudy gray ill-fitting dress of schoolgirl cut, a rough-textured brown jacket four sizes too small, and broad school-girlish hat brim crowning her blond Julie brow (which was the death knell for broad-brimmed schoolgirl hats which had been Sunday popular beforehand). There was nothing the least bit attractive about this Julie, nor was there intended to be, except her brash, rash enthusiasm and her shiny blond hair. It doesn’t occur to us at first what we have here is Julie Andrews as Charlie Chaplin. Instead, we long to rescue our dear nanny, Mary Poppins, from this terrible, unfortunate hazing as she sings this is what she wanted all along but was afraid of it, shoring up her confidence through song as she boards her bus, is clumsily stuck on the bus steps by her guitar as she disboards, as she skips and whirls in a naive, supposed unfeminine manner down the road, and I think y’know Julie really did throw her heart into this performance and begin to be won over as she comes up onto another gate, her other opening door, to the Captain’s overwhelming mansion, the Leopldskron Castle where the front exteriors were shot.

Breathless, Maria rings the bell. Just in case one of the audience imagined her outfit was appropriate for the culture and time, the butler’s reaction informs that just as she was ill-suited to the convent, so she shall be ill-suited to life in the house of a captain of the Imperial Navy.

Maria, in sackcloth, is intended to be each female viewer: an ugly duckling, the every day peasant girl whose exceptional individuality attracts the prince to recognize in her heart a royal kinship, thus transforming the atypical talking toad into the proud beauty which she always really was, in other words a Cinderella story, her dead mother embodied both in the Captain’s dead wife and the compassionate Mother Superior.

Cut to castle’s interior and ain’t it the truth, Maria nearly breathless at the grandeur of old Austrian wealth. Down Cinderella steps she’s drawn, her curiosity promptly leading her through closed doors right into Bluebeard’s secret, gold-walled, opulent closet. Bang. On the threshold he appears, the Captain. The pretty frog meets the beautiful beast. “There are certain rooms not to be disturbed!” he growls, which is of course an open invitation to disturb, to brush away wintery ghosts with fresh spring leaves. Hollywood expects that every female, aged 10 to 90, has fallen at once for the gruff Captain and having fallen they’ve replaced Maria with their own face and form and will be loyal to the end as long as Maria doesn’t metamorphosis into an ideal that would threaten to outshine them, and as long as they get what they want, a doting prince.

Hollywood has had a love for stories of authoritarian fathers and the Captain’s character is of the same blood line, both military and royal, expecting royal and military discipline at all times. When the captain blows his whistle the children promptly marshal forth in pseudo naval uniforms with proper bows and striping. The message is that children kept under a tight rein shall find freedom whatever way they can. We love authority but hate it and rebel against it. We honor the handsome, harsh Captain but…

Ok the kids are introducing themselves. One by one, calling out their names. Ages 16 to 5. A point of identification for nearly everyone. If all the women in the audience are now Maria, nearly every single child in the audience is now imagined in the role of one of the Captain’s children. Every single one of the children in the audience loves it that Fraulein rebels against whistles. Every single one of the children in the audience imagines they are the one who slipped the fat frog into Fraulein’s pocket because they know it’s going to be ok, she will love them regardless, so of course they put a welcoming pinecone in her dinner seat and Julie, cross still hanging about her neck in a loud “Not Available” way, bringing god to the table, nimbly contrives prayer to be followed by tears of contrition on the part of her charges, children fleeing in shame of their tricks. They have met their love match and from now on out will be capering lambs.

Thus is the power of the Andrews-Nanny. It’s a wonder that no one has capitalized on the winning combination with a chain of “Poppins’ Au pere’s”.

Daddy is no doubt in love by now as well but, unlike real life, there’s a story line to be negotiated.

Enter the villain. A young Nazi-in-training arrives at the mansion. We recognize him as such as he is blond and severe and all Nazi youths of this era, in Hollywood, were blond and severe. He is Liesl’s beau and she runs through the garden of adolescent Eden to find her Rolfe. May she be his possible redemption? Despite their secret and supposedly forbidden love, Rolfe boosts conformity, being careful, in both matters political and romantic. He is the last of the “I’ll tell you want to do” Old World men, I take it. The scene is a charming example of contrariness, the lyrics painting Liesl as timid and shy when she’s as rarin’ to go as a family film of the time permits her to be. As they dance together in the gazebo, Liesl running the circle of benches, I’m reminded of the Lipizzaner stallions which were wildly popular when they began touring in 1970, and well known beforehand so that all horse-loving girls who ever played horsie, galloping about their suburban lawns, were no doubt aware Liesl was a horse and Rolfe her ring master. Which is why I’m reminded of the Lipizzaners. One was supposed to be reminded. The Lipizzaners belonged to the Royal House of the Austrian Hapsburgs. Rolfe may have a rein on Leisl now, but the spirit of General Patton waits in the wings to free the noble-born from the rough commoner who would kidnap power rather than undergo the trial of the glass slipper.

In this film, Royals shoulder their awesome power with a dignified sense of responsibility. The bad butler is the commoner who wants what the Royals have and doesn’t understand his natural-born place. If Andrews is the commoner who makes good, well, it should be considered that she was first engaged to god.

The Royals may serve as a metaphor for humankind’s, uh, nobler, higher self, but their joints are creaky. Denied the request for material with which to make play-clothes for the children, Maria pulls a Scarlett O’Hara and makes clothes of curtains. This is America declaring its independence from Britain. How do I know? Because the colonies, symbolized by the children, all gather in Andrews’ room to sing about their favorite things, and as they all are American (er, Austrian) then Britain must go. Except for Andrews, who is American at heart. She can stay. Skip Ellis Island, go straight to California.

Ironic foreshadowing when Maria learns the Captain is preparing to marry, and she voices she’s been sent to prepare him for his new wife.

“That’s Mary Poppins?” my son asks.

“Yes,” I reply, remembering how stunned we were as children when Poppins went from long dark hair to short blond hair. And married…

But, oh, that Beast Von Trapp! Not only was Maria’s joyful folk music not permitted in the abbey, it is verboten at the Captain’s house.

Maria don’t care. Though the Captain says no to play-clothes she makes them anyway. A miracle, the children are now sunny and cheerful running about with baskets and kerchiefs through town and countryside, following Maria with her guitar. If the Captain says no to music, then she will raise his imps to be minstrels. Anti-authority Maria, in Beatnik brown and sensible flats makes yummy meat loaf of Folk for the American audience. Anti-authority Maria in peasant dress stands outside the home of the Beaver Cleavers, bowl of hippy granola in hand (“No, see, is Old World Goodness, not unbathed hippies, yah?”), and fifes for the children to follow her to the Alpine wilderness (very clean, uncluttered) where they will discover their Boy and Girl Scout natures and find that inside every mid twentieth century American is a little Austrian in Leder Hosen.

Julie became our music teacher. “When you know the notes to sing, you can sing most anything!” Do-re-mi-fa-so-la! A whole generation has Julie to thank for knowing that tea goes with bread and jam.

By the time the Captain returns with his baroness, the children have become Austrian wood fairies and elves teasing traffic. And more foreshadowing. The outrageous Max accompanies, who is looking for new talent for the Salzburg Folk Festival. Bob Dylan need not apply.

A contrast is made between the glittering salons of Vienna and the pastoral, the Baroness suggesting the Captain prefers it in the country, may even be poetic, may be running from memories.

“I do like rich people,” Max says. “I like the way they live. I like the way I live when I’m with them.”

The Captain discovers Rolfe tossing pebbles at Liesl’s window. Embarrassed, cowed, confused, Rolfe sides with the only comeuppance that his witty mind can come up with. “Heil Hitler!” he announces allegiance, aware how it will grate the royal Captain.

“You know I have no political convictions,” says Max who loves rich people. “Can I help it if other people do?”

“Yes!” exclaims the Captain, overcome with consternation at the New World Order growing up around him.

The Baroness attempting to lighten the mood, I would like to be cynical but she is written not to be despotic but flawed and human, and Maria appears with the children in a boat out of which they promptly fall, cups of excitement overflowing at the Captain’s return, welcoming the baroness, the baroness laughing. And we all know if anything it is Baroness Schraeder who will prepare the Captain for his wife, for Maria, smiling graciously in her fire engine danger red dress, discreetly removing herself as the Captain prepares to climb all over Maria for her permitting the children to climb trees, Maria soaking wet nearly yelling just love them, love them all, they want to be loved, the Sound of Music (hark) intruding just as the Captain orders back to the nunnery Maria who had taught the children to sing for the Baroness Schraeder.

Cloaked in a hazy Vaseline glow, inspired, the Captain turns out also to be one who goes to the hills when his heart is lonely, taking up the song. Stunned, all fall silent. Baroness Schraeder’s suspicions begin to be confirmed that wedding bells are ringing but not for her. Not with the Captain falling into the arms of his children then running out to find Julie and apologizing to her.

Man, I want to be cynical and tart about it all but I can’t be. These people are just too damned happy, when they have been so sad.

Now the puppet theater scene where the children in the audience feel they get a real taste of Austrian culture. I remember that blue dress of Julie’s with the wide butterfly sleeves. I hated that dress and was of course destined to wear one like it in a few years. The story of the lonely goat herder is not quite what one would expect from a novitiate, but Julie is, as she earlier announced, preparing the Captain for his new bride. Despite fluttering eyelashes and the sexual super and subtext, it is a scene for the kiddies. My seven year old rewinds and plays it over and over.

“My dear is there anything you can’t do?” inquires Schraeder of Maria in her politest kitty tone. The citified Viennese have lost their way and haven’t the pure hearts of the country Austrian.

Maria entices the Captain to play guitar, and he does, much to the dismay Schraeder. “Why didn’t you tell me to bring along my harmonica?” she quips.

Clean and bright Edelweiss, blooming and growing, bless my homeland forever. “Bless my homeland forever,” the Captain sings to Maria, his home.

“The Von Trapp family singers,” Max dubs them, having found his new-found talent, a singing group that will be the talk of the Salzburg Folk Festival.

Thrilled beyond words, Baroness Schraeder announces a need for a party.

The doors of the forbidden golden ball room flung open, it resounds with music, people swirling in waltzes, the elegant Baroness receiving visitors at the Captain’s side, heir apparent. But a guest is appalled by the display of the Austrian flag in the hallway. There will be no return to the world that was.

Outside on the patio, Julie teaches the children the steps of an old Austrian (Hollywood) folk dance. This is the version of Cinderella where she doesn’t quite make it into the ballroom, the Prince instead leaving the company of his peers to join her. He breaks in on the dance. They, of course, perform perfectly together, rooted in the folk ways of their country which bind them. She puts out her hand to follow him. Tension. The children have disappeared. Maria and the Captain gaze into each other’s eyes. The children return. “Your face is all red.” Ah, Maria, the shame of it! “What a lovely couple you make,” the baroness admits. Maria flees.

The children, under Maria’s tutelage, sing the cuckoo clock good night song. So long farewell. Auf weidersehn good-bye. Max declares Maria must stay for dinner. Baroness Schraeder at last makes the move to protect her territory, aware it is now or never. The blond ice queen informs Maria that she is in love with the Captain and the Captain believes he is in love with her, then slinks downstairs in her sun-gold dress. (The 50s blond goddess was still having it out with the new more natural beauty Hollywood was swinging toward, but would soon lose her apartment in New York and move to Green Acres.) We have only seen Maria’s bedroom twice–the night she arrived, and now again when she leaves in a terrified panic, taking cover in her old sackcloth. The baroness attempts to take Maria’s place with the children. But can’t play ball. “Boarding school,” she says to Max, who wants the children to rehearse, but the children are unable to sing without Maria. The hills are no longer alive with the Sound of Music. The Captain announces his intention to marry Baroness Schraeder. As the children kiss her reluctantly, Max and Ms. Baroness exchange glances (he keeps her honest). Then the children go to the abbey to look for Maria. “Our abbey is not to be used as an escape,” Maria is told by her Mother Superior. “I can’t face him again,” Maria pleads. And as my son squishes marshmallows on his face, Mother Superior turns to sing that Maria should climb every mountain and ford every stream, follow every rainbow until she finds her dream, Maria standing within a pyramid of light.

Meanwhile back at the mansion, the Captain cordially attempts to find out why the children were late for dinner. Maria returns but this time not in sackcloth. “You left without saying goodbye, even to the children,” Captain says. The screenwriters permit Maria to return on her own rather than being pursued. Permit the Captain to break it off with the Baroness while permitting her also to break off in turn, giving him leave to go to Maria, allowing her to be a character more complex than Snow White’s evil queen mother. One senses that she did care for the Captain who spares no time casually sauntering across the garden toward Maria who wears again the blue dress. In the gazebo where Liesl had danced with Rolfe, Maria sings as to how in her wicked horrible youth she must have done something good to deserve this. The Captain nuzzles her hair and says he fell in love with her the moment she sat on the pinecone. She fell in love with him first, when he blew the whistle. There’s something not right about the scene. I’ve never believed either of them. It doesn’t matter. It couldn’t be any other way. And that’s weird.

Weddings were once really big events in the movies. Maria released from the near risk of the self-imposed prison of the Sisterhood, literally advancing beyond bars into the cathedral, approaching the Captain in a display of virginal white that seems intended to break the Hollywood wedding bank, the last of the capital M movie marriages, makes for an oddly anti-climactic moment, peculiar in its brevity. Unattended, Maria gives herself away, which creates a sense of markedly different. The guests are the world for whom the principles serve as stand-ins. The processional is all. An end tied up in a beginning. One feels the House of Hapsburg receding into the mist.

Indeed. The Captain and Mrs. Von Trapp return from their honeymoon trip (despite the wedding having belonged to the world, one has a hard time imagining bride and groom leaving the country) to find that the Captain is expected to take his place in the New Order, the Third Reich. “We make it our business to know everything about everything,” Rolfe says, reminding us that there was once a time when the American public thought it dangerously fascist to collect and hold data on the citizenry (at least in principle, if not in fact). Maria probably one of the first successful Hollywood stepmothers (replacing empty air makes one not much of a threat), dressed now in a mature suit with a lower cut neck, the new Empress, sings to Liesl, who’s heartbroken over Rolfe, that when you truly love your old ideas of life go away, grow dim, you are someone’s wife and belong to him. Oh well. But there’s no time to think about Maria’s conversion to this new altar of love, they must escape immediately. The evil butler watches with satisfaction from the window of the mansion, the evident heir, as the Von Trapps are caught trying to sneak off in the dark. “I had the impression the contents of telegrams were private, at least in the Austria I knew,” the Captain says, reminding us that there was once a time when the American public thought it dangerously fascist to collect and hold data on the citizenry.

I was ambivalent about the chemistry between Andrews and Plummer as a child and still am, but had it been more intense their relationship would have likely overshadowed the children so was perhaps the right temperature. This is, after all, the ultimate in family films. I would love to be cynical about it, to unravel its feel-good fabric until it stands threadbare, but the writers have been a little too deft, Andrews was too successful a clown, Plummer was too successfully adult in his letting the clown come or go, not chasing her down with boyish histrionics. Andrews and Plummer didn’t so much as make chemistry with each other as with the screen, a great big screen, the anonymous other, and because of this the viewer (at least a viewer who’s the least bit willing) is never alienated from them. Maybe that’s a reason the movie has become so popular as a kind of performance, interactive fest.

However, I can’t let pass the Von Trapp performance at the Salzburg Festival, backed by that extraordinary theater overseen by Nazi authority in an archaic setting that is the ghost of Roman coliseums and out-of-control empires. I can’t let pass when the Austrian audience all joins in singing, “Bless my homeland forever” and one is given the impression that the last thing the Austrians wanted was a Hitler and the Third Reich.

Because Austria’s Germans, after WWI, became less contemptuous of Germany’s Germans, and provided quite a dedicated following for National Socialism following the 1938 Anschluss. I read that though they were only eight percent of the Third Reich’s population, the Austrians comprised fourteen percent of the SS and “forty percent of Nazi personnel involved in genocide”, and that attacks on Jews by Viennese mobs, following the Anschluss, is “common knowledge”.

What is peculiar also is the song “Edelweiss” which is the one performed at the Salzburg festival in the movie, all the audience joining in as a supposed protest against the Anschluss. Peculiar to me for the Anschluss became known as the “flower war” as ” flowers and arms outstretched in the Nazi salute greeted the Whrmacht as they drove toward Vienna.”

What gives?

I read a class lesson that uses “The Sound of Music” as a base for learning history. It discusses the Edelweiss, that it was the national emblem for Austria, states the flower was adopted by the Nazis into their uniform after the Anschluss, and asks what “effect” this would have on the Austrians. I have the feeling the students are supposed to report this would be devastating to the Austrians as nothing is mentioned in the lesson about the “Flower War” and the receptivity of the Austrians to Hitler (who was anti-Hapsburg by the way) and his policies.

Why was Austria portrayed in the screenplay as it was for an audience barely a generation removed from the truth? And Richard Rogers, who was Jewish, and the German-American Oscar Hammerstein II, both who would certainly have been aware of the “Flower War”, what was their intention with “Edelweiss”? Was the song meant to be redemptive, concilliatory, an accusation, or all of these things?

Finally, the Von Trapps hide from the Nazis at the convent. Rolfe discovers them. Plummer faces off with him. “You’re only a boy, you don’t really belong to them, come away with us You’ll never be one of them…” Was it Wise or Plummer who shifted gears from paternal reassurance to fraternal contempt that must ring like fatherly derision in Rolfe’s ears. “You’ll never be one of them.” A nearly fatal error on the part of the Captain, both military and personal, which casts Rolfe’s deciding vote with the Nazis. Senseless as the goose that laid the golden eggs, that screamed against Jack every moment he was rescuing her, Rolfe alerts the Nazis to the presence of the Von Trapps in the church cemetery where the Trapps must certainly have generations interred. Still, the Von Trapps manage to escape and last we see them are climbing every mountain, father leading family out of Austria to the U.S.A. (Vermont’s just over that hill), mother shepherding behind.

I like the film. I can’t help but like the film as I’m vastly amused by Andrews and Plummer in it. But it’s the film’s politics that increasingly occupy my mind as I watch, and continue to occupy me afterward. What they did not reveal about Austria in the 40s, what they couldn’t help but reveal about America in the 60s, and what they infer about the America now.

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Juli Kearns

Juli Kearns is the author of Thunderbird and the Ball of Twine and Unending Wonders of a Subatomic World (or) In Search of the Great Penguin. She is also an artist/photographer, and the person behind the web alter of "Idyllopus Press".

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