14 Facts About The Sound of Music

With its iconic camerawork, catchy musical score, and great performances, it’s not hard to see why so many people still love The Sound of Music, even after all these years.

1. Julie Andrews Kept Falling Over During The Mountain Scene.

The opening scene of Andrews twirling on the mountaintop may look effortless, but it was anything but. Not only was it raining and cold throughout production, the helicopter kept knocking Andrews over. “This was a jet helicopter,” she said. “And the down draft from those jets was so strong that every time … the helicopter circled around me and the down draft just flattened me into the grass. And I mean flattened. It was fine for a couple of takes, but after that you begin to get just a little bit angry… And I really tried. I mean, I braced myself, I thought, ‘It’s not going to get me this time.’ And every single time, I bit the dust.”

2. It Was The Last Rodgers And Hammerstein Musical.

The musical theatre partnership between Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II yielded Oklahoma!, South Pacific, and The King and I, among others. The Sound of Music, based on two German films about the von Trapp family (as well as a memoir by Maria von Trapp), opened on Broadway in 1959 to tepid critical reviews. In 1960, Hammerstein died from stomach cancer. The last song he wrote was "Edelweiss."

3. Two Years Before The Movie, Julie Andrews Spoofed The Musical.

In the 1962 TV special Julie and Carol at Carnegie Hall, Andrews and Carol Burnett parodied The Sound Of Music in a skit called Pratt Family Singers. You can watch it above.

4. Andrews Almost Wasn't Cast.

Richard Rodgers knew that Julie Andrews would be the perfect Maria for the role after she auditioned for one of his musicals in 1956, but she starred in My Fair Lady instead. No one felt that the theater actress would work well on a movie screen in color—until Walt Disney showed William Wyler the rushes from Mary Poppins, and everyone realized she was perfect. Except for 20th Century Fox, who wanted a four film contract. Ultimately, it got haggled down to a two film contract, and movie history was made.

And as for the story that Julie Andrews was worried about being typecast as a nanny after Mary Poppins? She said, “Having done the Americanization of Emily between Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music, I hoped that would show I didn’t only play nanny roles!”

5. The Boat Scene Traumatized Gretl

The scene where the rowboat overturns and Maria and the kids fall into a lake was hard on Kym Karath, who played 5-year-old Gretl. Since Karath couldn’t swim, Andrews was supposed to fall forward when the boat turned over and rescue her. Instead, Andrews fell backwards and couldn’t get to Karath in time. “I went under, I swallowed a lot of water, which I then vomited all over Heather [Menzies-Urich, who played Louisa],” Karath said.

6. Christopher Plummer Hated The Movie.

Plummer, who played Captain von Trapp, hated the film so much that he called it The Sound of Mucus. “Because it was so awful and sentimental and gooey,” he said. “You had to work terribly hard to try and infuse some minuscule bit of humor into it.” He drank and ate away his sorrows in Salzburg, which caused him to gain so much weight his costumes had to be let out. He also admitted on the DVD commentary that he was drunk when filming the music festival.

7. Andrews Kept Giggling During The Love Scene.

When Maria and Captain von Trapp declare their love in the gazebo, Andrews and Plummer had to stand close together and sing “Something Good.” But the romance was interrupted when the lights above them made rude noises that caused Andrews to giggle. “Christopher would be looking into my eyes and saying 'Oh Maria I love you,' and there’d be this awful raspberry coming from the lights above us,” Andrews said.  Finally, director Robert Wise turned the lights off and filmed the scene in silhouette.

8. Here’s Mia Farrow Auditioning For Liesl.

Farrow was one of many actors who tested for Liesl, but in the end, the part went to Charmian Carr.

9. Carr Injured Herself During “Sixteen Going On Seventeen.”

While filming the song “Sixteen Going On Seventeen,” Carr—who, incidentally, was 21 years old at the time—fell through the glass in the gazebo and injured her ankle. In the scene, she’s wearing a bandage covered with make-up on her leg.

10. Friedrich Grew Six Inches During Filming.

Nicholas Hammond, who played Friedrich, grew from 5-ft. 3-in. to 5-ft. 9-in. during the six months of shooting. Since Friedrich had to be shorter than Liesl but taller than Louisa, the growth spurt posed a continuity problem. At the start of the film, Hammond had lifts on his shoes; by the end, his shoes were off, and Carr had to stand on a box.

11. Julie Andrews Yodeled With The Real Maria Von Trapp.

When the real Maria von Trapp popped up on an episode of The Julie Andrews Hour, she told Andrews that the actress was "absolutely wonderful" in the film, but her yodeling was not quite up to par—which led to this little duet.

12. The Von Trapps Didn’t Escape Over A Mountain.

In the movie, the von Trapp family escapes the Nazis by crossing over the mountains into Switzerland. In real life, the von Trapps took the train to Italy. If they had gone over the Austrian mountains, they would have ended up in Germany—right by where Hitler had his mountain retreat.

13. Overall, The Movie Is Historically Inaccurate.

For instance, there were 10 von Trapp children, not seven. The real Maria von Trapp left the convent to tutor one child, not to be governess to all the children. She and Georg von Trapp were married 11 years before the Nazis took over Austria, and by all accounts, Georg was a kind man, not the harsh disciplinarian from the film. Most surprisingly, Maria wrote that she didn’t love him when she married him: "I really and truly was not in love. I liked him but didn't love him. However, I loved the children, so in a way I really married the children.”

14. The Movie Saved 20th Century Fox.

After the financial failure of Cleopatra, 20th Century Fox was close to bankruptcy. Luckily, The Sound of Music was so successful, it surpassed Gone With The Wind as the number one box office to date and went on to win five Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director. Today, adjusted for ticket price inflation, The Sound of Music is the third highest grossing film of all time. It’s considered the most successful musical ever on film.

Bonus: Here’s A Recreation Of “The Lonely Goatherd” With The Muppets

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11 Fascinating Facts About Mark Twain

Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Mark Twain is widely considered the author of the first great American novel—The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn—but his rollicking tales aren’t the only legacy he left behind. His poignant quotes and witticisms have been told and retold (sometimes erroneously) over the last century and a half, and his volume of work speaks for itself. Over the course of his legendary career, Twain—real name Samuel Langhorne Clemens—wrote more than a dozen novels plus countless short stories and essays and still found time to invent new products, hang out with famous scientists, and look after a house full of cats.

1. Mark Twain is a nautical reference.

Like many of history’s literary greats, Mark Twain (né Samuel Langhorne Clemens) decided to assume an alias early on in his writing career. He tried out a few different names—Thomas Jefferson Snodgrass, Sergeant Fathom, and, more plainly, Josh—before settling on Mark Twain, which means two fathoms (12 feet) deep in boating jargon. He got the idea while working as a steamboat pilot on the Mississippi River—a job he held for four years until the Civil War broke out in 1861, putting a halt to commerce. (However, another popular theory holds that he earned the nickname in a bar. According to reports in a couple of 19th-century newspapers, he’d walk into a pub and call out “mark twain!,” prompting the bartender to take a piece of chalk and make two marks on a wall for twain—two—drinks. Twain denied this version of events, though.)

2. In addition to being a steamboat pilot, Mark Twain also worked as a miner.

Shortly after his stint on The Big Muddy, Twain headed west with his brother to avoid having to fight in the war. He took up work as a miner in Virginia City, Nevada, but the job wasn't for him. (He described it as "hard and long and dismal.") Fortunately for Twain, he didn’t have to work there long. In 1862, he was offered his first writing job for Virginia City’s Territorial Enterprise newspaper, where he covered crime, politics, mining, and culture.

3. A story Mark Twain heard in a bar led to his “big break.”

Historic American Buildings Survey (Library of Congress), Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

In 1864, Twain headed to Calaveras County, California in hopes of striking gold as a prospector (he didn’t). However, it was during his time here that he heard the bartender of the Angels Hotel in Angels Camp share an incredulous story about a frog-jumping contest. Twain recounted the tale in his own words in The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County. It was published in 1865 in The New York Saturday Press and went on to receive national acclaim.

4. It took Mark Twain seven years to write The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Twain started writing the sequel to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer in 1876, but he wasn’t too pleased with his progress. After writing about 400 pages, he told a friend he liked it "only tolerably well, as far as I have got, and may possibly pigeonhole or burn" the manuscript. He put the project on the back burner for several years and finally finished it in 1883 following a burst of inspiration.

5. Mark Twain invented a board game.

While Twain was putting off writing The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, he was busy working on a game he dubbed Memory Builder. It was originally supposed to be an outdoor game to help his children learn about England’s monarchs, but he ended up turning it into a board game to improve its chances of selling. However, after two years of work, it was still too convoluted to be marketable and required a vast knowledge of historical facts and dates. That didn’t stop him from patenting the game, though.

6. Mark Twain created "improved" scrapbooks and suspenders.

Memory Builder wasn't Twain's only invention; he also patented two other products. One was inspired by his love of scrapbooking, while the other came about from his hatred of suspenders. He designed a self-adhesive scrapbook that works like an envelope, which netted him about $50,000 in profits. His “improvement in adjustable and detachable straps for garments” also ended up being useful, but for an entirely different purpose than Twain originally intended. According to The Atlantic, “This clever invention only caught on for one snug garment: the bra. For those with little brassiere experience, not a button, nor a snap, but a clasp is all that secures that elastic band, which holds up women's breasts. So not-so-dexterous ladies and gents, you can thank Mark Twain for that."

7. Thomas Edison filmed Twain at home.

Only one video of Twain exists, and it was shot by none other than his close friend Thomas Edison. The footage was captured in 1909—one year before the author died—at Twain’s estate in Redding, Connecticut. He’s seen sporting a light-colored suit and his usual walrus mustache, and one scene shows him with his daughters, Clara and Jean. On a separate occasion that same year, Edison recorded Twain as he read stories into a phonograph, but those audio clips were destroyed in a fire. No other recording of Twain’s voice exists.

8. Mark Twain did wear white suits, but not as often as you might think.

Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

When you think of Mark Twain, you probably picture him in an all-white suit with a cigar or pipe hanging from his lips. It’s true that he was photographed in a white suit on several occasions, but he didn’t start this habit until later in life. According to The Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum, “In December 1906, he wore a white suit while appearing before a congressional committee regarding copyright. He did this for dramatic emphasis. Several times after that he wore white out of season for effect.” He also refused to trade his white clothes for “shapeless and degrading black ones” in the winter, no matter how cold it got. So take that, people who subscribe to the “no white after Labor Day” rule.

9. At one point, Mark Twain had 19 cats.

Twain really, really liked cats—so much so that he had 19 of them at one time. And if he was traveling, he would “rent” cats to keep him company. In fact, he had a much higher opinion of felines than humans, remarking, “If man could be crossed with the cat, it would improve man, but it would deteriorate the cat.” He also had a talent for coming up with some great cat names; Beelzebub, Blatherskite, Buffalo Bill, Sour Mash, Zoroaster, Soapy Sal, Pestilence, Bambino, and Satan were just a few of the kitties in his brood.

10. Mark Twain probably didn’t say that thing you think he said.

Twain is one of the most misquoted authors in history. According to one quote wrongfully attributed to him, “It is better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than to open it and remove all doubt.” What Twain actually said was, “[He] was endowed with a stupidity which by the least little stretch would go around the globe four times and tie.” There are many, many examples of these.

11. Mark Twain accurately predicted when he would die.

When he was born on November 30, 1835, Halley’s Comet was visible from Earth. It appears roughly every 75 years, and Twain predicted he would die the next time it graced the sky. As he put it in 1909, “I came in with Halley’s Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it. It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don’t go out with Halley’s Comet. The Almighty has said, no doubt: ‘Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together.’ Oh, I am looking forward to that.” He ended up passing away at his Connecticut home on April 21, 1910, one day after Halley’s Comet appeared in the sky once again.

This story has been updated for 2020.