50 Facts About ‘The Sound of Music’ For Its 50th Anniversary

The Sound of Music, Julie Andrews20th Century Fox via Everett Collection

50 years ago today — March 2, 1965 — The Sound of Music hit theaters in the United States. In honor of the iconic film’s anniversary, we take a look behind the scenes of one of our favorite movies to share some things you may not have known.

1. While singing “I Have Confidence,” Julie Andrews accidentally tripped in the Von Trapp courtyard.

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Director Robert Wise felt it added a much needed nervousness to the song and the character, so he decided to use it in the film.

2. Julie Andrews sang “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” to the Von Trapp children between filming.

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Since Mary Poppins hadn’t been released yet, the kids all thought she made it up just for them. 

3. Maria never uses the Captain’s first name, Georg.

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She calls him only Captain, Sir, or Darling.

4. Christopher Plummer traveled to the Salzburg mountains to meet Captain’s nephew and learn more about the character.

Since very little information was available about Captain Von Trapp for Plummer, he and his interpreter met with Captain’s nephew to learn a bit about him. The nephew described the real man as the most boring man he’d ever met. 

5. The day after the von Trapp family escaped Austria, Hitler ordered the borders shut.

6. They also took a train station to Italy and safety; they didn’t hike over a mountain.

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Salzburg is much closer to Austria’s border with Germany, and neither Italy nor Switzerland are within walking distance.

7. If they had hiked over a mountain, they’d find themselves near Hitler’s mountain retreat in Germany.

8. Charmian Carr (Liesl) has admitted she was attracted to Christopher Plummer, who played her father.

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Despite the 13 year age difference, Plummer admits that the feeling was mutual. He insists it never evolved beyond flirtation.

9. Director Robert Wise didn’t get along with the real Maria von Trapp when she came to the set.

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He called her “bossy.”

10. In the original play, ideological differences drive the Captain and the Baroness apart.

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She wouldn’t stand up to the Nazis, and he refused to compromise with them.

11. Grace Kelly had been considered for the part of the Baroness, but was a bit too busy, you know, being a princess.

12. The gazebo scene with Maria and the Captain was made a silhouette to hide the uncontrollable laughter of Julie Andrews.

The Sound of Music20th Century Fox via Everett Collection

According to Andrews, a lighting device kept making a certain “raspberry” noise every time she leaned in to kiss Plummer. After more than 20 takes, the scene was changed to a silhouette to make her laughter less noticeable. 

13. The real Von Trapp children weren’t pleased with how stern their father was portrayed.

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Maria Von Trapp had asked Wise to soften the character a bit, but the director refused. 

14. Kurt’s high note in “So Long, Farewell” is actually sung by Liesl’s real life younger sister.

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The note was out of Duane Chase’s range, so Charmian Carr’s sister, Darlene, sang it instead. 

15. Mia Farrow auditioned for the role of Liesl.

Liza Minnelli and Sharon Tate were also among those who tested for the part.

16. Christopher Plummer admits he was drunk when they filmed the music festival sequence. 

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17. The movie is one of only four films to win both the Tony Award for Best Musical/Play and the Oscar for Best Picture.

The others are My Fair LadyA Man For All Seasons, and Amadeus

18. Charmian Carr (Liesl) danced through “Sixteen Going On Seventeen” on an injured ankle.

During the first take of this scene, Carr slipped while leaping from a bench and fell through glass. She wasn’t badly hurt, but her ankle was injured and needed to be wrapped for the scene. 

19. Even though nobody had seen how she would perform on screen yet, Julie Andrews was always director Robert Wise’s first choice.

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20. Yet she almost turned down the part, fearing it was too similar to Mary Poppins

21. The actress who played Marta, Debbie Turner, kept losing teeth during filming.

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They had to be replaced with false teeth.

22. The children kept growing during filming, so lots of heel lifts and camera tricks were needed for height continuity.

Louisa (Heather Menzies-Urich) started production three inches taller than Friedrich (Nicholas Hammond); he had to wear lifts. By the end of filming, he’d grown six inches. Liesl (Charmian Carr) had to stand on a box while Friedrich didn’t wear shoes to help keep their heights consistent.

23. Nicholas Hammond had to endure a bunch of painful bleachings to turn brown hair blond for the film.

24. Christopher Plummer disliked filming so very much that he referred to the movie as “The Sound of Mucus.”

25. Kurt Russell, Richard Dreyfuss, and Veronica Cartwright were among those who auditioned for roles as von Trapp children.

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As did the four oldest Osmond brothers: Alan, Jay, Merrill, and Wayne. 

26. The gazebo’s interior scenes were shot in Los Angeles.

The inside of the actual gazebo was too small to accommodate the dance numbers. 

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27. The gazebo can still be seen in Salzburg, but only from the outside.

Visitors were too frequently attempting to dance along the benches and injuring themselves, so the interior is now off limits.

28. Julie Andrews learned to play guitar specifically for this role.

29. Christopher Plummer also learned to play guitar for the role…but his playing was dubbed. 

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30. Christopher Plummer asked for “Edelweiss” to be replaced.

He thought the song was trite and “schmaltzy” and asked for it to be written out. Screenwriter Ernest Lehman refused.

31. There was nobody at the altar to officiate the wedding during filming because someone forgot to wake the actor.

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32. Julie Andrews has also claimed that the actual bishop of Salzburg can be spotted in the wedding scene.

33. It’s not really Kym Karath (Gretl) on Captain’s shoulders in the final shot as they climb the mountains to safety. 

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Karath had gained a bit of weight while filming in Austria, and evidently Christopher Plummer found her too heavy to carry on his back. He requested a stunt double. 

34. Which is funny, since Plummer’s weight gain required his costumes to be refitted for his extra mass.

He admitted he ate and drank in Austria in order to better cope with the unhappiness he felt from filming. 

35. The movie features a rare onscreen performance by famed ghost singer Marni Nixon.

She played Sister Sophia. Nixon, who had previously done the vocals for Natalie Wood in West Side Story, Deborah Kerr in The King and I, and Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady. Since Julie Andrews played Eliza Doolittle in the Broadway version but was passed over in favor of Hepburn for the film, producers were nervous to learn how she would react to Nixon’s casting. Andrews approached her and exclaimed, “Marni, I’m a fan of you!”

36. Christopher Plummer has said working with Julie Andrews is like “being hit over the head with a big Valentine’s Day card.”

37. Julie Andrews kept getting knocked over from the helicopter’s wind.

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Though that iconic spin looks warm and sunny, Andrews only remembers how cold she was as she repeatedly ran across the mountain with the ferocious winds of the chopper above. She tried digging her feet into the ground without luck. 

38. Director Robert Wise climbed a nearby tree in order to film that first musical number; he wanted to be able to watch the helicopter filming without getting in the shot himself.

39. Sean Connery and Richard Burton were both considered to play Captain.

40. The real Maria von Trapp makes a cameo.

In the “I Have Confidence” scene, as Julie Andrews walks beneath a brick archway, the real Maria can be seen behind her, dressed as a peasant. 

41. Heinrich Himmler, famed Nazi, took over the von Trapp house after they escaped. Adolf Hitler visited him there more than once.

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42. Kym Karath (Gretl) couldn’t swim, so Julie Andrews was responsible for catching her when they fall out of the boat and into the water.

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On the second take, the boat tipped in a way that sent Andrews flying one way and Karath falling out the other side. Heather Menzies-Urich (Louisa) was tasked with saving her instead, which Andrews was haunted by. 

43. Subsequently, Karath threw up all over Menzies-Urich after swallowing too much water.

44. The cast had to be continually hosed down in order to maintain a soaking wet look after falling into the water. 

45. Liesl may have been 16 going on 17, but she was actually older than Rolfe.

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Charmian Carr was 22 at the time she sang that song; Daniel Truhitte, who played Rolfe, is ten months younger than she is. Now who’s older and wiser?

46. Shirley Jones, Anne Bancroft, and Doris Day were all considered for the part of Maria.

47. Robert Wise initially turned down the opportunity to direct the picture.

Stanley Donen, Vincent Donohue, Gene Kelly, and George Roy Hill were also approached and said no.

48. Mary Martin, wife of the producer of the original Broadway show and the first woman to play Maria made nearly $8,000,000 from the film.

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While Julie Andrews earned just $225,000. 

49. According to British tabloid The Sun, it’s one of the films chosen to show after a nuclear strike to improve morale.

Though this is unconfirmed by the BBC who declared it a security issue. 

50. Peggy Wood (Mother Abbess) had a hard time lip-syncing along to “Climb Ev’ry Mountain.”

She struggled to perfectly match the first word of the song, so director Robert Wise had her face away from camera when she began singing. When she looked at camera, she had caught up with the song enough to perfectly pass. The effect of her staring out the window in the beginning added a mystical element to the song and fit in better than originally planned.

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