Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

"Sound of Music" Is Great Family Fare

Cleveland Press March 25, 1965

If you admit to liking "Sound of Music" you'll be pegged as being terribly unsophisticated. But after all these years, the tunes still bring on goose pimples and a lump in the throat.

The film version of this last work from Rodgers and Hammerstein emphasizes both its virtues and shortcomings.

The motion picture's greatest asset is Julie Andrews. In "Mary Poppins" she was poised, proper and all-knowing. In "Sound" she becomes every bit as convincing as Maria, the postulant who is uncertain, awkward and humble and sincere.

As good as this score is, it is even greater when Miss Andrews sings it. Add to this her amazing, crystal voice and her respect and understanding for a Iyric.

Physically, there's no explaining her appeal. She's as plain as can be in this role -- a scrubbed face and straight hair, and yet she positively glows.

The film opens with an aerial view of the Austrian Alps, then a closer look at the clean, green countryside. A diminutive figure runs across a verdant hillside and in a moment we recognize and hear Julie Andrews singing in the film's title song.

AS MARIA she is a postulant in an abbey and her boisterous high spirits give some of the nuns the notion that this might not be her calling. The Mother Abbess (Peggy Wood) suggests that she leave for a time to reconsider, offers her an assignment as governess at the Von Trapp home to take care of seven motherless children.

She quickly wins the affection of the children, more slowly wins over their father, Capt. Von Trapp (Christopher Plummer).

FOR THE STAGE Howard Lindsay and Russell Crouse wrote just enough of a play on which to hang the songs. It was schmaltzy and sugary and not terribly realistic but it was serviceable.

Screenwriter Ernest Lehman neither improved it nor let it alone. He made it longer, built scenes and added dialog. He simplified the story line but also made it lengthier.

He expanded on the triangle -- Maria, Von Trapp and the Baroness (Eleanor Parker). He makes complicated and melodramatic the escape from the Nazis, an unrealistic bit of business which was brief on stage.

RICHARD RODGERS has written two new songs for the movie -- "I Have Confidence in Me" and "Something Good." While they are not up to the other tunes they do give Miss Andrews two more chances to sing.

Other songs have been eliminated -- "How Can Love Survive" and "No Way to Stop it," the latter a wry commentary on the policy of appeasement, and "An Ordinary Couple," a wistful duet for Maria and Von Trapp.

The absence of "No Way" eliminates the basic conflict between Von Trapp and the Baroness -- a difference in attitude toward the Nazi takeover of Austria.

THE FAMOUS "Do-Re-Mi" number has been moved outdoors and worked into an outsize series of picture postcard views of Salzburg. "The Lonely Goatherd" provides the setting for a show by the Bil Baird Marionettes.

"Sixteen Going on Seventeen" is delightfully danced and sung by Charmian Carr and Dan Truhitte and "My Favorite Things" is turned into a happy ensemble number for Maria and the children.

Eleanor Parker manages to humanize a basically unsympathetic character. Richard Haydn is excellent as an opportunistic free-loader. The children are all appealing.

PLUMMER SEEMS a strange choice for Von Trapp. For the first half of the film, his stern period, it looks as though Hamlet had wandered in on the wrong show.

The total effect of this film is one of beauty in both sight and sound marred only slightly by its extra length. There is opulence in the use of the camera in and around Salzburg. The wedding, for example, is grandly staged in a huge cathedral.

If you weep at weddings, you will bawl over this one.