15 Behind-The-Scenes Secrets From The Sound Of Music

Photo: Courtesy of 20th Century Fox.
It's hard to believe, but Julie Andrews turns 80 on October 1. Perhaps her most famous role in a long, glorious career is Maria in The Sound of Music. The classic film celebrated its own milestone birthday — the big 5-0 — in April this year. Here, we're turning the spotlight on its leading lady.

To honor our favorite singing governess, we've pulled together some little-known facts about the beloved movie musical. Even if you've been watching it with your grandma every annum since you were born, we bet some of these revelations will still come as a surprise. (For example: Can you imagine a world in which Audrey Hepburn took on the role of a musically adroit former nun? We definitely cannot.)

Test your true knowledge of this cinematic touchstone — and celebrate the birthday of one of Hollywood's most treasured performers — by digging into the best SoM trivia, ahead.
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Photo: Courtesy of 20th Century Fox.
The Leading Lady Kept Toppling Over
Julie Andrews had a helluva time staying upright while filming the opening scene on those hills (that were alive! with the sound of muuuuuusic!). In each take, she had to run back and forth across the mountaintop meadow, high in the "Swiss Alps" (the scene was actually filmed in Marktschellenberg, Germany) while a helicopter filmed everything from overhead.

"The down draft from those jets was so strong, that every time...the helicopter circled around me, the down draft just flattened me into the grass," Andrews has said. "I braced myself, I thought, It’s not going to get me this time. And every single time, I bit the dust.”
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Photo: Courtesy of 20th Century Fox.
The Sound Of "Mucus"
Christopher Plummer was not psyched about the overall sappiness of the film. To be more specific: He hated it.

He has referred to the musical as "The Sound of Mucus," and also likened working with Julie Andrews to being "hit over the head with a Valentine card." (The two are reportedly friends to this day.)
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Photo: Courtesy of 20th Century Fox.
Wait, That Wasn't The Austrian National Anthem?!
We hate to be break it to you, but "Edelweiss" is not the national song of Austria. Don't worry: The Reagan administration had that wrong, too.

Also, Christopher Plummer's singing voice was dubbed over, which is fine by us. It wouldn't be fair for him to have the voice of an angel and be such a handsome devil. Perhaps there is justice in this world.
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Photo: Courtesy of 20th Century Fox.
The Almost-Drowning Incident
From the outset, the cast and crew knew that little Gretl, played by Kym Karath, was afraid of the water — a feeling that translated plainly through her face in this scene.

When everyone you see in this photo fell out of the boat, Julie Andrews was supposed to catch Karath, but they ended up on opposite sides. "I couldn’t swim," Karath said many years later. "So that was a horrible experience."
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Photo: Courtesy of 20th Century Fox.
Schnitzel With What?
It may have been among Fräulein Maria's favorite things, but apparently nobody in Austria would ever deign to consume schnitzel with noodles. Potato salad maybe. Noodles, no way.

Cut Rodgers and Hammerstein some slack, though — there aren't that many words that rhyme with strudel. Plus, this was the very last musical they created together! They earned this little bit of artistic license.
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Photo: Courtesy of 20th Century Fox.
The Great Escape That Never Happened
In the movie, we're supposed to believe that the von Trapps escape from under the noses of Nazis, climbing over the Alps, on foot, after giving a performance in which they declare love for their homeland.

The real family whose saga inspired the movie actually pretended they were heading to a vacation in Italy, just one day before the Germans shut down Austria's borders. From there, they made their way to America, where they became the Von Trapp Family Singers and toured with Columbia Concerts, Inc.
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Photo: Courtesy of 20th Century Fox.
Little-Known Leisl Facts
You can't see it here, but Leisl, played by actress Charmian Carr, performed this scene with a badly sprained ankle. It was wrapped beneath her tights, and the bulge was easy to see in early versions of the film. (Later versions were digitally altered.)

Also, while no real-life romance existed between the eldest von Trapp daughter and a young Nazi, Carr admitted years later that while making the movie at 21 years old, she had a crush on another cast member: Christopher Plummer, who was 35 and married at the time.
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Yodels Away...
Apparently, Julie Andrews was no expert yodeler. She did okay, but the real Maria von Trapp eventually taught her a thing or two — on national television.
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Photo: Associated Newspapers/Rex/REX USA.
Where Was The Real Maria?
Sadly, though — despite the fact that she had to be courted pretty seriously to even consider allowing her family's story to be made into a major motion picture — the real Maria von Trapp didn't even get an invite to the movie's premiere.

When she called the studio to inquire about a ticket, execs told her there were none left. Bad form, old boys.
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Photo: Courtesy of 20th Century Fox.
Somewhere In An Alternate-Cast Universe...
This could have looked like a very different movie. Julie Andrews considered turning down the role: Having recently filmed Mary Poppins, she was wary of playing another governess character. She got over it, and even entertained the kids on set by singing the yet-to-be heard "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious."

Rumor has it that Audrey Hepburn and Doris Day were considered for the part of Fräulein Maria, and that both Sean Connery and Bing Crosby turned down the opportunity to play Captain von Trapp. Grace Kelly was allegedly in the mix, too, for both the lead role as well as that of that of the Baroness.
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Charmian Carr's Famous Competition
Mia Farrow also auditioned for the part of Leisl. After listening to this audition tape, we think it's best for everyone that the role went to Charmian Carr.
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Photo: Courtesy of 20th Century Fox.
Captain Von Trapp: A Real-Life Softie
The von Trapp family was disappointed by how harshly their father was portrayed in both the stage musical and the film. In truth, Captain von Trapp was the softie, while Maria was the taskmaster and disciplinarian.

The family tried to persuade producers to soften Christopher Plummer's character, but they were ultimately unsuccessful. He really did use a whistle to signal the kids, though.
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The Writers Got The Kids All Wrong
The real von Trapps had an oldest son, not an oldest daughter, and the character of Leisl was purely fictional.

Another tweak: While Captain von Trapp did have seven children from his first marriage, he would go on to have three more with Maria, the last of whom was born in 1939.

All the names and ages of the kids were changed in the film version. All of them really were musical, though, long before Fräulein Maria ever arrived.
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On-Set Growth Spurts
Adorable little Gretl gained enough weight during the filming of the movie that by the end, she was a little to heavy to carry around.

Actress Kym Karath doesn't actually appear in the final scene, in which the von Trapps climb over the mountain: Christopher Plummer requested a lighter stunt double to carry on his back.

She wasn't the only one to experience a growth spurt during production. Plummer himself said that he ate and drank a lot while on location, and his costumes had to be adjusted to accommodate his more plentiful girth.
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The Von Trapp Tradition Goes On
A new generation of von Trapp family singers are still at it today. The great-grandchildren, who grew up stateside, released their first EP this year.

While it's not exactly like the madrigals their ancestors took on tour, we have to admit: This version of "Edelweiss" is pretty incredible.

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