Whether it was their first time seeing the film or their 21st, audience members Thursday night were treated to a magical 50th anniversary screening of “The Sound of Music,” Robert Wise’s beloved Austrian Alps classic that attending Oscar-winning star Christopher Plummer called “the primal family movie of all time” and a “fairy tale come to life.”
“It’s the last sort of bastion of peace and innocence in a very horrific sort of time,” the winsome actor told the crowd gathered at TCL Chinese Theater Imax for the TCM Classic Film Festival Hollywood 2015 kickoff event.
Plummer’s co-star and close friend Julie Andrews was also at the fete, sparring jocularly with her onscreen Captain Von Trapp in a way so charming and effortless it begs the question how these two never ran off together in real life as they do in the film.
‘You called me a saint,” quipped Andrews of Plummer during an introductory Q&A moderated by Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences first VP Sid Ganis. “Well ruin my reputation why don’t you.” A moment later: “Oh, but I’m flattered.”
Plummer, a trained stage actor who cut his teeth playing Hamlet and King Lear, famously spent years dismissing his role as a widowed naval captain who recruits a floundering novice as a governess for his seven children as treacle, but he’s since dramatically changed his tune.
“I love making movies,” said Plummer. “I used to think theater was so much better. The writing was so intellectual. But then I said, ‘What am I doing? They pay so well!'”
As for his onscreen chemistry with Andrews, that was instant and everlasting.
“I fell in love with her when I was sitting in the balcony watching her do ‘My Fair Lady,’” Plummer recalls. “Every day (on set) she was as fresh as a daisy.”
The film itself has held up better than ever, with a newly restored print in which the verdant mountains pop a lush, vibrant green and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s famous ode to hills rings with joy and ebullience.
“It was made 51 years ago, and it endures and it lives on,” said Ganis of the film.
“It has the children and the nuns and it has the love story,” added Andrews. “You can pick any of those things when you’re watching the film.”
But Andrews paid special tribute to Plummer, whose stern, stoic Captain eventually warms to governess Maria, professing his love for her in a gazebo, on a starry night with Europe on the brink of war, their figures cutting two perfectly cast silhouettes in one of the most romantic scenes in cinema.
“You made it less saccharine because of the way you played the Captain,” said Andrews to Plummer. “Without that we would have been sunk.”