“The Sound of Music” echoed throughout American movie theaters for the first time on this day in history, March 2, 1965.
It remains among America’s favorite things nearly 60 years later.
The film’s soaring tunes painted idyllic images of Alpine hills flowering with snow-white edelweiss against a backdrop of the terrifying darkness of Nazism.
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The Hollywood version of the real-life-inspired tale of Austria’s Von Trapp Family singers on the eve of World War II has become an enduring entry in American moviecraft, while inspiring audiences around the world for nearly 60 years.
“The Robert Wise production is a warmly pulsating, captivating drama set to the most imaginative use of the lilting Rodgers and Hammerstein tunes,” Variety wrote in a contemporary review published the day of the debut.
The movie, Variety added, is “magnificently mounted and with a brilliant cast headed by Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer, which must strike a respondent chord at the box office.”
“The Sound of Music” debuted as a limited release in a handful of American theaters.
It quickly proved a popular sensation.
“The Robert Wise production is a warmly pulsating, captivating drama.” — Variety magazine, 1965
By the end of the year it had surpassed “Gone With the Wind” as the top-grossing movie in American history (since surpassed by several films).
It was the first movie to top $100 million in sales and would set box-office records in dozens of nations around the world.
“Its success was way, way beyond what anyone involved imagined,” AVClub.com proclaimed in 2019.
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“It remained in theaters for four-and-a-half years. More than a decade after its release, ABC paid $15 million — nearly twice the movie’s budget — to show ‘The Sound Of Music’ on TV once. And it’s still making money.”
The movie netted $158 million domestically, and $286 million globally, on a budget of $8 million, according to industry data. It won five Academy Awards in 1966, including Best Sound, Best Music and Best Picture.
Andrews was nominated for Best Actress for her cultural touchstone role as Maria, the nun who falls in love with Austrian naval captain Baron Georg Von Trapp (Plummer).
She lost the Oscar to British actress Julie Christie for her performance in the 1965 drama “Desire.”
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“For millions of people, the film is the rare combination of a powerful and moving story, first-rate first-rate music and breathtaking scenery of Salzburg,” boasts Sound-of-Music.com, published by Panorama Tours of Salzburg.
The movie was filmed in both Los Angeles and Salzburg, a scenic mountainside city wedged against the border of Bavaria, Germany.
Landmarks in the historic old Austrian city feature prominently in the movie.
“When the Nazis annexed Austria in 1938, the Von Trapps realized that they were on thin ice with a regime they abhorred.” — Prologue Magazine
Salzburg today counts “The Sound of Music” sites among its most popular tourist attractions — alongside other notable locations such as the downtown birthplace of Amadeus Mozart, or Berchtesgaden, the mountaintop retreat of Hitler and the Nazi elite, just outside Salzburg over the German border in Bavaria.
“The Sound of Music” is based on the real-life tale of the Von Trapp Family singers, an Austrian entertainment troupe in the 1930s, who refused to yield to Nazi rule.
“When the Nazis annexed Austria in 1938, the Von Trapps realized that they were on thin ice with a regime they abhorred,” Prologue Magazine, a publication of the National Archives, wrote in 2005.
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“Georg not only refused to fly the Nazi flag on their house, but he also declined a naval command and a request to sing at Hitler’s birthday party. They were also becoming aware of the Nazis’ anti-religious propaganda and policies, the pervasive fear that those around them could be acting as spies for the Nazis, and the brainwashing of children against their parents.”
The movie ends with the family fleeing over the Austrian Alps. The family in real life made its way to the United States, eventually settling in Vermont.
They opened the Trapp Family Lodge in the ski resort town of Stowe, Vermont, in 1950. The family still operates the lodge today.
“They realized how beautiful it was and that it reminded them of Austria, so they decided to stay,” Sam Von Trapp, the grandson of Maria and Baron Von Trapp, told Fox News Digital in 2022.
Johannes von Trapp, Sam’s dad, opened Von Trapp Brewing, a small craft brewery, at the lodge in 2010.
Maria was pregnant with Johannes when the Von Trapps escaped Austria in 1938.
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Maria wrote a memoir of the family’s ordeal, “The Story of the Trapp Family Singers,” in 1949, following the death of Baron Georg in 1947.
The book was turned into a movie in West Germany, “The Trapp Family,” in 1956. It became a Broadway hit as “The Sound of Music” in 1959, with the Rodgers and Hammerstein score, winning six Tony Awards.
The Hollywood adaptation made it a global classic still beloved by millions of people today.
The Von Trapps weighed “staying in Austria and taking advantage of the enticements the Nazis were offering … against leaving behind everything they knew — their friends, family, estate, and all their possessions,” wrote Prologue Magazine.
“They decided that they could not compromise their principles and left.”