Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. USA, 1965. Robert Wise Productions, Argyle Enterprises. Screenplay by Ernest Lehman, with the partial use of ideas by George Hurdalek, from the stage musical book by Howard Lindsay, Russel Crouse and the book The Story of the Trapp Family Singers by Maria von Trapp. Cinematography by Ted D. McCord. Produced by Robert Wise. Music by Irwin Kostal. Production Design by Boris Leven. Costume Design by Dorothy Jeakins. Film Editing by William Reynolds. Academy Awards 1965. Golden Globe Awards 1965.
The hills are alive with some of the most enjoyable schmaltz you’ll ever see. There’s plenty to criticize in this candy-coloured version of the life of the Von Trapp Family Singers, but it’s just so damn chipper you might as well go with the flow and like it anyway. Julie Andrews is absolutely terrific in the lead role as the spirited Maria, a novice in a convent who is sent by her wise Mother Superior (Peggy Wood) to go live in the home of a retired naval captain (Christopher Plummer) and be governess to his seven unruly children. While at first they seem resistant to having yet another guardian, the children end up loving Andrews because she sings them fun songs during thunderstorms and takes them on play-days where they roam about in ugly outfits that she has made out of curtains. The second half of the epic-length enterprise isn’t as much fun, as the clan gets involved with Nazi terror when the Germans take over Austria, and Captain von Trapp finds himself falling in love with his governess despite already having a beautiful mistress (Eleanor Parker) in tow. Here the songs are gone, and the dramatic tension is cranked up, making for a pretty uneven viewing experience, but a memorable one all the same. No review is ever going to be a more convincing reason to watch it than the look that people will give you if you tell them you haven’t already sat through it, so ignore me and watch it anyway (those of us who were raised religiously remember it being the only film our families deemed suitable and therefore have seen it more times than we care to admit). Rodgers and Hammerstein’s beautiful score still sounds great after all these years, and the performances haven’t waned a single bit: it’s the most ridiculous, emotionally manipulative experience and it’s always worth one more go.