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14 Things You Never Knew About ‘The Sound Of Music’ And The Real-Life Von Trapp Family

kate by Kate Taylor
Kate is a writer who laughs at her own jokes and likes to pour too much hot sauce on her food.

If you’re anything like me, The Sound of Music was one of your favorite childhood movies because its nearly three-hour running time meant you always got to stay up past your bedtime. Now as an adult who envies my former 9 p.m. lights-out regimen, I still enjoy all two hours and 54 minutes of the film.

To most people, The Sound of Music refers to the hit 1965 film starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer. Some will remember the film in its original musical form, and even less will remember the memoir that started it all, The Story of the Trapp Family Singerspublished in 1949 and written by Maria von Trapp herself.

The movie and musical are based on the true story of the von Trapp family, but of course certain details have seemingly been lost or gone unnoticed through the process of a musical and Hollywood adaptation.

In fact, even the biggest Sound of Music fans, including myself, will be surprised by these little-known facts. Please SHARE with friends and family and let us know if we missed any trivia in the comments!

1. Liesl Was Not 16 Going on 17

sound of music 16 going on 17

The names and ages of all of the real-life von Trapp children were changed for the stage and screen. Liesl’s character was based on the second eldest von Trapp daughter, Agathe in real life. Agathe was born in 1913 and would have been 25 by the time the story was supposedly set.

The eldest’s name was actually Rupert and he would have been in his late 20s and working as a physician when the family fled Austria in 1938. It is said that when asked which child he was in the movie by fans, that he would curtsy and say, “I am Liesl,” as a joke.

2. The Real Captain Was Much Warmer Than He Appeared On Film

sound of music captain

Georg von Trapp did call his children by personalized whistles and make them wear sailor suits, but he was reportedly also warm and loving. In real life, the von Trapp children were disappointed by the harsh portrayal of their father in the film.

3. Julie Andrews Nearly Turned Down The Role As Maria

julie andrews mary poppins

Andrews had just finished filming Mary Poppins in 1964 when she was first approached to star in The Sound of Music. The actress nearly turned down the role of Maria for fear that the character was too similar to that of Mary Poppins.

4. The Musical Was Initially Titled 'Love Song'

love song sheet music

The musical version of Maria von Trapp’s book was first titled “Love Song.” It wasn’t until the composers’ lawyers realized that “Love Song” had been used as the name for dozens of musicals that it had to be changed to avoid a copyright lawsuit.

5. Maria Could Have Been Played By Audrey Hepburn

audrey hepburn

Films based on Maria’s memoir had already been made in the German language before Paramount considered making an English version. The studio initially envisioned Audrey Hepburn to play Maria.

6. The Real Maria Was Not Actually A Governess

sound of music

Maria was actually hired initially as a tutor for Georg von Trapp’s second oldest daughter, who was also called Maria. The daughter had contracted Scarlet Fever, which had killed her mother (Georg’s first wife) four years earlier.

Complications from the disease meant the younger Maria couldn’t walk to school and created the need for a tutor.

Maria the main character was 21-years-old and was supposed to work in the von Trapp household for 10 months before fully joining the convent.

7. Sean Connery Could Have Played The Captain

sean connery

Many actors other than Christopher Plummer were being considered for the role of Georg von Trapp — most notably, Sean Connery and even Bing Crosby and Rex Harrison.

8. Maria Is Not The One Who Taught The Children To Sing

von trapp family

In reality, a different person of the cloth is the one who discovered the von Trapp children’s talents. In 1935, Father Franz Wasner came to the von Trapp villa and liked what he heard when the family sang.

He took the family under his wing and taught them until they were discovered by a famous opera singer called Lotte Lehmann when she was at the Salzburg music festival. She insisted they too enter. They did, and won first prize in 1936.

9. Maria Was Not In Love With Georg von Trapp

christopher plummer julie andrews

In the movie version, it is clear that Maria falls in love with both the children and their father. Off screen, when Georg proposed, Maria wrote in her memoir, “I liked him but I didn’t love him. However, I loved the children, and so in a way I really married the children.”

10. Three von Trapp Children Were Left Out Of The Movie

sound of music

Maria and Captain von Trapp had three children with each other after they were married in the late 1920s. The film and musical timelines were altered for the production and accordingly, the last three children were not yet born.

11. The Family Did Not Flee Austria By Climbing A Mountain

train

The family took a far more civilized mode of transportation — the train. They also didn’t escape to neutral Switzerland, but rather took the train south through the Tyrol region into Italy. 

12. The Family Opened A Lodge In Vermont

vermont lodge

After coming to America, the von Trapps settled in the somewhat familiar alpine village of Stowe, Vermont. The family opened a lodge, which is still in operation and called the Trapp Family Lodge.

13. Julie Andrews Had To Learn Guitar For The Film

sound of music

The musically talented actress did not have any experience playing guitar before she signed on to the film. Andrews learned especially for the film and her role as Maria.

14. The Film Was A Hit Everywhere, Besides Austria

austria map

The Sound of Music may be one of the most popular films of all time, and when adjusted for inflation, is still the third highest grossing movie in history, but it was not so in its home country of Austria.

The film only ran for three weeks when it was released in 1965 and was not aired on TV until 2000. It is thought the Hollywood embellishment is not to traditional Austrian taste.

Did we forget any fun Sound of Music facts? Please let us know in the comments and don’t forget to SHARE on Facebook!