The magic and charm of Rodgers-Hammerstein-Lindsay-Crouse 1959 stage hit are sharply blended in this filmic translation which emerges one of the top musicals to reach the screen. The Robert Wise production is a warmly pulsating, captivating drama set to the most imaginative use of the lilting R-H tunes, magnificently mounted and with a brilliant cast headed by Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer which must strike a respondent chord at the boxoftice. Slated for roadshowing, the Todd-AO film cloaked in the superb tints of DeLuxe Color bears the mark of assured lengthy runs and should be one of the season’s most successful entries, particularly with Miss Andrews-fresh from ber “Mary Poppins” triumph – to further spark attention.
Wise drew on the same team of creative talent associated with him on “West Side Story” to convert the stage property. With its natural physical limitations, to the more expansive posibilities of the camera. Ernest Lehman again wrote the screenplay after the Howard Lindsay-Buck Crouse stage version, a moving portraiture of persons and events; Saul Chaplin served in the exacting post of associate producer; and Boris Leven used all his artistry as production designer on sets strikingly beautiful.
For the story of the Von Trapp family singers, of the events leading up to their becoming a top concert attraction just prior to World War II and their fleeing Nazi Austria, Wise went to the actual locale, Salzburg, and spent 11 weeks limning his action amidst the pageantry of the Bavarian Alps. Ted McCord catches the beauty and fascination of the terrain with his facile cameras, combining the splendor of towering mountains and quiet lakes with the Old World grace of the historic City of Music, a stunning complement to interiors shot in Hollywood. Against such background the tale of the postulant at Nonnberg Abbey in Salzburg who becomes governess to widower Captain Von Trapp and his seven children, who brings music into a household that had, until then, been run on a strict naval office regimen, with no frivolity permitted, takes on fresh meaning.
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Richard Rodgers composed two new songs for the picture, for which he also wrote the lyrics, as he did with added numbers to the remake of “State Fair.” Pair, “I Have Confidence In Me,” sung by Miss Andrews, and “Something Good,” an Andrews-Plummer duet, replace three songs from the original stage show which didn’t blend well into changes made by Lehman in the libretto. While neither is as catchy, perhaps. As certain of the other songs. Both are made into interesting numbers.
Of particular interest is the sequence simulating part of the famous Salzburg Festival and actually shot in the spectacular Felsenreitschule, or Rocky Riding School. The stage of the vast amphitheatre is backgrounded by scores of arched tunnels carved out of the rocky mountain that surrounds the city and it forms an impressive backdrop for the climactic scenes of the film, which show the Von Trapp family making their escape after an appearance onstage while storm troopers are waiting for them in the audience.
Miss Andrews endows her role of the governess who aspires to be a nun but instead falls in love with Navy Captain Von Trapp and marries him, with fine feeling and a sense of balance which assures continued star stature.
Plummer also is particularly forceful as Von Trapp, former Austrian Navy officer who rather than be drafted into service under Hitler prefers to leave his homeland. He scores with several song numbers, outstanding here “Edelweiss,” and is bound to be cast importantly in future films.
Playing the part of the baroness. Whom the captain nearly married, Eleanor Parker acquits herself with style. Peggy Wood is especially outstanding as the Mother Abbess, sympathetic to the young postulant who cannot seem to conform to the abbey’s disciplined regulations. One of the film’s top moments is her singing “Climb Every Mountain,” to encourage the girl after she returns from the Von Trapp estate. Richard Haydn as Max, the impresario who launches the Von Trapp family on their singing career, and in a character foreign to past roles also registers effectively.
The seven children are ably portrayed, topped by Charmian Carr as the eldest, who displays a nice voice with her singing of “Going On 17” in a folksy number with Daniel Truhitte. Nicholas Hammond and Duane Chase play the two boys, and Heather Menzies, Angela Cartwright, Debbie Turner and Kym Karath the younger girls.
Marni Nixon, whose voice was used for Audrey Hepburn’s in “My Fair Lady,” Natalie Wood’s in “West Side Story” and Deborah Kerr’s in “King And I,” makes a brief appearance here, her first film role, as Sister Sophia. She sings with Miss Wood and four other nuns in the number, “Maria.” Ben Wright lends menace as a Nazi leader, Daniel Truhitte plays young Rolfe, who turns Nazi, and Anna Lee is among the sisters.
Various song numbers have been without exception expertly staged. “My Favorite Things,” sung by Miss Andrews and the children, is perhaps the most warmly presented, while “Do-Re-Mi,” showing femme and the moppets picnic-bound through the streets of Salzburg, the most spritely. Miss Andrews’ opening title song atop mountain marks an effective start of the picture which is prologued by aerial views through the mountains, and “Lonely Goathered,” a puppet number backed by. Hers and children’s voices. Provides a light note. Moppets’ “So Long, Farewell” is charming, and various reprises throughout the film lend additional interest.
Every technical credit is top-flight and impressive. William Reynolds’ editing is bright, never permitting pause, and costumes designed by Dorothy Jeakins catch the flavor needed. Set decorations by Walter Scitt and Ruby Levitt are in keeping with the high excellence of the picture itself, choreography by Marc Breaux and Dee Dee Wood lends color and sound by Murray Spivack and Bernard Freericks a decided asset. Special photographic effects by L. B. Abbot and Emil Kosa, Jr., are a further plus. Irwin Kostal’s arranging-conducting of the beautiful score is one of most potent assets.
1965: Directing — Robert Wise, Film Editing — William Reynolds, Music (Scoring of Music–adaptation or treatment) — Irwin Kostal, Best Picture — Robert Wise, Producer, Sound — 20th Century-Fox Studio Sound Department, James P. Corcoran, Sound Director; and Todd-AO Sound Department, Fred Hynes, Sound Director
Nominations: Actress — Julie Andrews (“Maria”), Actress in a Supporting Role — Peggy Wood (“Mother Abbess”), Art Direction (Color) — Art Direction: Boris Leven; Set Decoration: Walter M. Scott, Ruby Levitt, Cinematography (Color) — Ted McCord, Costume Design (Color) — Dorothy Jeakins