How the Sound of Music became world-famous

The making of a movie

Last group picture Family Trapp in Salzburg
The Trapp Couple

How do you produce a film which is not only good, but also a commercial success. The Sound of Music is an excellent example. Robert Wise, the director of the Hollywood movie once explained it like this: The Sound of Music became such a success because it tells a true story in one of the most beautiful cities of Europe. This story touches your heart, the main roles are played mainly by children and the city of Salzburg provides an unforgettable backdrop.


It was however a stony path before the cameras could roll in 1964

As the Trapp Family Singers became highly successful with their concerts and tours throughout the United States, publishers were pushing Maria to write her memoirs and those of the family choir. After initial hesitation the story of Maria von Trapp was printed in 1949: Her book "The Story of the Trapp Family Singers" became one of the most loved books in the States. Only in 1952 was the German version published in the German speaking part of Europe under the title "Vom Kloster zum Welterfolg" - from the cloister to world renown.


Despite earlier concert trips in Austria and sending relief charity parcels from war stricken families after WWII, the family was practically unknown, but this book raised their popularity.

The touching story of the novice taking loving care of harl orphans and becoming a Baroness woke the interest of a German film company who produced two films - "The Trapp Family" (1956) and subsequently "The Trapp Family in Amerika" (1958).

Maria was actively involved in writing of the screen play of both films, so they give an accurate picture of what really happened in the eventful life of the Baron's family.


Both films became box office successes in Germany and Austria, partly due to famous actors in the leading roles; Ruth Leuwerick as Maria von Trapp, Hans Holt as Baron von Trapp and Joseph Meinrad as Dr. Wasner. They came under the genre "Heimatfilm" (Fatherland film) that was extremely popular in the post-war German speaking world.


In the 50s Musicals were booming in the USA. Shows like "My Fair Lady" or "Guys and Dolls" ran for years on Broadway and authors and composers were forever seeking new stories. No wonder that they came across Maria's memoirs and in 1958 the successful Rodgers & Hammerstein team began working on the new musical "The Sound of Music". The Broadway production premiered in 1959 and run successfully for three years with 1443 performances.


This brilliant success lead to Hollywood producers pricking up their ears and wanting to film the musical. The screen play was again based on the memoires of the Baroness von Trapp. They had bought the film rights from German film producers and it is known that Maria had not made a lot of profit from the first films and dit not profit from the later success of the Sound of Music. Some of the scenes in the movie remind us of the original direction of the German colleagues, although the Sound of Music strays relatively far from the true story. This upsets the Trapp purists, but it does not harm the continuing world wide success of the movie and its catchy tunes.