The Sound of Music (1965) on the Big Screen

TCM Presents and Fathom Events have showcased some of the finest films in American cinema for the last 4 or 5 years, bringing your favorites and mine to the big screen, as they were meant to be seen. Due to their continued efforts, this past weekend I screened The Sound of Music (1965) at a local theater.

This film is breathtakingly beautiful.  I heard a man behind me gasp repeatedly during that sweeping intro through the mountains. (At least, I assume it was the imagery that rattled him and not a medical condition. I should have checked.)

When you mostly watch movies with friends and family or alone at home, the sudden thrills of a stranger in a dark room are a little weird, I must admit.

But the film is every bit as wonderful as it is on that dusty old VHS at home. Better, even. With The Sound of Music in the theater, you feel as if you're frolicking on the mountaintop with Maria (Julie Andrews), or dancing in the ballroom with the Captain (Christopher Plummer) and his lady love, Baroness Shraeder (Eleanor Parker).

The opulence of it all is displayed in the setting, the fabric...everywhere. You'll notice it more with larger pictures, of course.

  • I never before noticed the rough weave on Maria's first few outfits as she leaves the abbey.
  • The Captain's green cuffs and collar are made of velvet.
  • As Maria, sent to become governess to the Captain's seven children, becomes accustomed to her surroundings, the Captain's wealth seeps into her clothing. The coarse fabrics gradually give way to smoother textures.
  • Although Maria's wardrobe is upgraded, she still wears calf-length dresses like the children. The sultry Baroness doesn't show anything above her ankles. 
  • At the big party, Maria emerges from the greenery (nature); the Baroness emerges from the ballroom, looking like a beautiful Barbie dressed in spun sugar (refinement). They talk to the Captain on the patio where the rough outdoors and refinement meet.
  • You wish you could spend more time in the Captain's ballroom, just to study the paintings on the wall.
  • You'll notice the chandeliers in the ballroom are covered in muslin when we first see them. It is a forbidden room that the Captain has not used since his wife died. When music returns to the house, the light fixtures are resplendent at the party.
  • There are little beads intricately woven onto the bodice of Liesl's party dress. (Not the famous dinner dress; the other one when she asks to taste her first champagne)
  • The male children wear lederhosen obviously made of actual leather. On my VHS copy, they merely look like brown shorts.
  • During the "Climb Every Mountain" number, the detail is remarkable. You can see the wood grain of the pole that Maria hangs onto as she listens to the Mother Abbess singing her advice. 
  • During that same song, there is that famous, half-shadowed, closeup profile of the Mother Abbess. On the big screen you notice her soft, corrugated wimple next to circles of glass behind her. The circles of glass make up the back wall which allows the light to shine through; she's almost glowing. It's a powerful scene.
  • Layer upon layer... there are so many wonderful things to see. You just want to pause it and stare at the detail.
Eleanor Parker as the Baroness

About the audience of the showing.

  • It was a packed house. Sold out.
  • There was a range of ages. A silver-haired lady of a certain age quite jovially said, "You don't have a two-year old with you, have you?"  I did not.  " Oh good!," she said,. "That's why we moved from over there."
  • There were some technical difficulties before the film began, so during the 20 minute wait, someone began singing one of the songs from the musical. I dreaded that this showing might become a singalong. It didn't. 
  • Someone started laughing ahead of the comic cue in the storyline, then stopped themselves and laughed on schedule with everyone else.  Ah, the problems of watching your favorites in public. :)
  • A few ladies in the audience expressed profound sadness with an "Aww" when the Baroness makes her teary-eyed speech. I never in my life pitied the character until then.
  • At a seminal moment you could hear an audible sigh of relief from the audience when the Nazis leave the area.
  • There was definite grumbling and revulsion when Liesl's boyfriend says her father had better obey the enemy if he knows what's good for him.
  • I cried (as I do every time) when the Captain thinks of the homeland that no longer exists. When his voice cracks singing about his nation, I almost cannot watch it; it's so emotional.

The Sound of Music is a classic for many reasons: great cast and crew, storyline, music and source material. But it is also great because the attention to visual detail is staggering. Sure, it's a feast for the ears - it's a Rogers and Hammerstein musical. It is also a feast for the eyes.

I strongly recommend viewing a classic movie in your neighborhood, if it is convenient for you. It will add another layer of appreciation for the craft; you will see details you've never seen before; it might be the only time you'll have to see these films as they were meant to be seen - on the big screen.

Further Notes


  1. I loved this post, fantastic. I regret not being able to catch the movie this time around, but I want to sometime. Your attention to the detail of their attention to detail is great.

    1. Thank you.
      Maybe we can project the movies onto the side of the house and try to duplicate the experience more often than once in a lifetime. :)

      -- Java

    2. I always felt sorry for the Baroness, ever since I first saw the movie as a child. I have a hard time understanding why anyone wouldn't. She's an invited guest in their home and they treat her with utter disdain and contempt unless they feel compelled or forced to interact with her. At very least, the Captain, Maria and the family are impossibly rude to her, ignoring her completely while they sing about goats, goatherds and mountain greenery. The kids are openly hostile and curt toward her when she tries to join them in their game, etc., etc. I sympathize completely with her funny aside to Max: "Why didn't you tell me...To bring along my harmonica!" She also strikes me as the only honest one in the group. All my life people have hissed at the scene where she helps Maria choose a dress for the party, but all she does is point out to Maria that she's falling in love with the Captain, and she does so very graciously, when she could (justifiably, considering the times) openly berate her for ignoring her vows as a nun-wannabe. I think Eleanor Parker does an excellent job playing the role, and her (literal) kiss off to the Captain is beyond considerate. Also, as lively and appealing as Julie Andrews' "Maria" is, as a few of my sisters have pointed out through the years, Parker, one of the most beautiful women in movie history makes Andrews look like "a dropout from Boys Town" by comparison.

  2. Anonymous,

    You raise valid points about the abuse Baroness suffers as a guest in the house. As a kid, I didn't understand the complications of adulthood; she was presented as a villain and that's how I understood her until this screening.

    A signal that classic movies sometimes give to the audience that the match between the available male parent and the new woman in his life is not suitable is when the lady mentions boarding school. This strikes terror into the hearts of children who simply want to be with dad.

    The Baroness is a convenient plot device to create tension. In a film that significantly involves children, the prospective step-mother will be prickly and will be showcased as an evil person. If there is a more maternal alternative to her, one accepted by the children (like Maria), the alternative will marry dad with the blessing of the children.

    This unfair storyline is left over from fairy tales (Think CINDERELLA and her wicked step-mother). Legend has it that authors needed a cruel authority figure in their fairy tales but didn't want it to be the mother, so they decided that using someone of no blood relation would make the stories less harsh and easier to take. Enter the wicked step-mother.

    This fictional trope eased its way into movies as well. You'll also see it in MY FAVORITE WIFE, THE PARENT TRAP, CORRINA,CORRINA, IT TAKES TWO, THE BEAUTICIAN AND THE BEAST, AU PAIR and MOVE OVER, DARLING, to name a few.

    Thanks for stopping by.

    1. You're welcome, Java. But, to be fair, even though it takes substantial liberties with the storyline, the plot of THE SOUND OF MUSIC is based on fact. In the Broadway original, the Captain finds he can't marry the baroness because she believes in compromise with the invading Nazis, but the movie deep sixed this plotline to concentrate exclusively on the love story. It also turned the character of "Rolf" into a "villain" who betrays the Von Trapps to the Nazis, something he doesn't do in the original stage production. As one critic said, "It made for a more exciting finale, but went against the code of Rodgers and Hammerstein, who believed in the basic goodness and redeemable qualities in people." Thanks for your response. I enjoyed it.


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"Java's Journey: A really fun, informative well-written blog that explores all of the things - and I mean all - I love about classic films."-- Flick Chick of A Person In The Dark Email:


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