For many people at holiday time, “The Sound of Music” is indeed one of their favorite things.
And why shouldn’t it be? Having endured for more than a half-century, and likely adding to its already vast fan base every time ABC televises it — which will happen again Sunday, Dec. 20 — veteran filmmaker Robert Wise’s splendid, Oscar-winning 1965 version of the Rodgers & Hammerstein stage staple remains a delightful experience for viewers of all ages, even when broken up by numerous ads meant to grab the attention of last-minute gift shoppers.
Much credit for retaining the audience has to go to Julie Andrews, ideally cast as Maria, the spirited nun-in-training sent to serve as governess to the seven children of the stern Captain von Trapp (Christopher Plummer, doing a fine job in the role, though he maintained for many years that he wasn’t as fond of the film as others are). Right from the classic opening sequence of Andrews crooning the title tune on an Austrian mountainside, she has you in her charming grasp.
While such stalwarts as Eleanor Parker, Richard Haydn and Peggy Wood also are in the cast, the seven actors who play the von Trapp offspring also are essential to the movie’s success. Sadly, two — Charmian Carr and Heather Menzies (the latter becoming the wife of actor Robert Urich later) — have passed, but they’ll be remembered forever for what they did here. Among the others, so will Angela Cartwright, who had just started her “Lost in Space” television gig at the time. And Nicholas Hammond would grow up to be TV’s live-action “Spider-Man.”
Set against the pre-World War II backdrop that the actual von Trapp family dealt with, prompting the stirring finale underscored by “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” (which sent more than few patrons out of theaters with tears rolling down their cheeks), “The Sound of Music” is undeniably old-fashioned. That’s a not a bad thing, since that also keeps it timeless.
So does a fabulously memorable score that includes “Do-Re-Mi,” “Edelweiss,” “The Lonely Goatherd,” “Sixteen Going on Seventeen,” “Maria” (as in, “How do you solve a problem like … ?”), “Something Good” and “So Long, Farewell.” Consider that a single production features all those popular songs, and it’s no surprise that the soundtrack stands as one of the top-selling of all time.
Julie Andrews may not resemble Santa Claus, but for legions of followers, she’s as basic a symbol of the holidays … thanks largely to her glorious performance in “The Sound of Music,” a seasonal television gift that truly keeps on giving.