Art Vs Commerce: End of History (1960s)


This year was also all about the musical numbers, but this time there was a very clear winner. So no need for further rap battling, we can all just speak normally this time.

Well, I’m going to, you do what you like.

Wait, how long is this one? …Oof, that’s long… that’s barely shorter than Spartacus… look, I watched Mary Neely’s recreations of all the songs, does that count as watching this one?

No? Fine. Fine. No, you’re right, this whole thing was my idea, no sense complaining…

The Joint Champion

You probably know the basic story of this one, based at least somewhat on the real von Trapp family singers. Maria (Julie Andrews), a free-spirited nun-in-training, is sent to be a governess for the stern Captain von Trapp’s (Christopher Plummer) seven (!) children. The widower Captain tries to run his household the way he ran navy ships, all discipline and uniforms and marching and summoning children by whistle, while Maria wants the kids to be kids and the Captain to try loving them a little, we all know where this leads. The Captain learns a lesson about life, he and Maria fall in love despite sabotage from a jealous bitch Baroness, because Maria’s a sheer delight and let’s be real, young Christopher Plummer could get it, the von Trapps are happy like they haven’t been in years, simple but effective with many well-known songs.

Songs that inspired this random but classic Kids in the Hall sketch…

And were slightly ruined forever by comedian Rachel Harper.

It’s probably the best known and most loved Rogers and Hammerstein musical, with the only possible exception being Oklahoma, and with good cause, but man it objectively takes a weird turn in the third hour. (Yes it’s long, musicals are long, My Fair Lady wasn’t short either.) Most stories would go to curtain once Maria and the Captain tie the knot and everyone is happy, but in The Sound of Music there’s still another 40ish minutes which are mostly, if not entirely, about the von Trapps needing to flee the Nazis. I know it actually happened and all but it’s weird, tonally it is weird.

To their credit, it doesn’t come out of nowhere. A running plot thread through the movie (and I assume the stage musical) is that Austria is on the verge of being annexed by the Third Reich, and the Captain is not on board with it. He hates the Nazis and openly scorns anyone who’s in favour of or just indifferent to annexation, at which point his “sassy bitch” powers are used for good rather than belittling Maria, and it’s delightful. Also the eldest von Trapp child has a secret boyfriend who… well… shall we say likes dressing up in a funny uniform and wants to be part of a club.

But all the foreshadowing can’t help the fact that we have two hours and change of Maria and the von Trapps becoming a happy family, that story wraps up, and then once they’ve all found their own blue heaven, suddenly they need to flee Austria to escape the Nazis, and it does not fit with the movie that came before. It’s like if My Fair Lady had Eliza come back to Henry Higgins just in time to get caught in the Blitz, or if Mary Poppins flashed forward to World War One, or if West Side Story… no, that one doesn’t work, the second half already has three murders and an attempted gang-rape, hard to make that one much darker. It’s especially weird because once we reach the Nazi plot, Rogers and Hammerstein straight up run out of songs. The last new song happens when Maria and the Captain are done with five minutes of being awkward and admit they like each other (a scene shot in silhouette because Julie Andrews couldn’t stop giggling). Once Austria is annexed, it’s nothing but reprises until we reach “The End.”

Anyway weirdly dissonant third act aside, crowds love it. It won five Oscars and made more money than My Fair Lady and Mary Poppins combined, enough that it saved 20th Century Fox from bankruptcy after they spent so much on Cleopatra that it could be the biggest hit of 1963 and still lose money. Where the Oscars are concerned, The Sound of Music is based on a stage play, so the Academy can claim it’s all artistic and whatnot, despite Broadway musicals being the Marvel movies of stage plays. Call it the Chicago Effect.

And Rotten Tomatoes Says: With an adjusted score of 92.315%, it comes in 66th, which puts it just barely in the bottom half of Best Picture Musicals. (Under An American in Paris, West Side Story, and My Fair Lady, over the rest.)

What’s Good, Hays Code? This has to be the most harmless, saccharine movie about fleeing the Nazis I’ve ever seen, so Hays has no beef.

Anyway here’s Mary Neely doing her version, it’s delightful, I’ll meet you in Other Events.

Other Events in Film

  • This Year in Bond: The flick so nice they ultimately made it twice*, with the most nonsensical theme song, Thunderball! I’d talk about the Bond knock-offs that were starting to happen but this isn’t a Bond blog so no time, no time. (*Niceness not guaranteed, they made it twice for other reasons)
  • Elsewhere in Tom Jones references, What’s New Pussycat united Peters Sellers and O’Toole in the first produced screenplay of Woody All–nnnope, can’t unpack him right now, moving on nothing to see here
  • Certainly my dad was hoping we’d be talking about number two at the ’65 box office, Dr. Zhivago, but Sister Maria needed all the attention, didn’t she.
  • The Spaghetti Western continued to make an icon out of Clint Eastwood with For a Few Dollars More, and now Clint’s not the only one actually speaking English during filming.
  • David O. Selznick passes away at age 63. Following the deaths of Cecile B. DeMille in 1959, Louis B. Mayer in 1957, and Irving Thalberg (so good at making hits the Oscars named a lifetime achievement award after him) way, way back in the 30s, the Old School Studio Era and the big-shot producers that ran it were literally dying out.
  • George Stevens tried to bring back the bible epic with The Greatest Story Ever Told, the Jesus-est one yet, and it flopped hard, bringing that genre to a merciful halt. Save for some outliers.
  • The Beatles are back, experimenting with a thing called “plot,” in Help!
  • Look at Life is an unremarkable one-minute short that happened to be the first thing directed by a young film student named George Lucas.
  • Encounter and Three Rooms in Manhattan welcomed to the screen future legend Robert DeNiro.
  • Its place in film history is shaky at best but do you really expect me to just ignore the release of Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine, starring Vincent goddamn Price alongside beach party icon Frankie Avalon? Because I will not.
  • Last and only seemingly least, Amicus Productions brought a hit BBC science fiction series to the big screen in Doctor Who and the Daleks. Come on. You really thought we weren’t going to talk about the Doctor at all? HA! Peter Cushing replaced William Hartnell as the Doctor, and Amicus acquired the rights to adapt the first TV appearance of the Daleks for a mere 500 pounds sterling. Um… hey BBC, if that’s still the going rate, hit me up? I will cut you a cheque right the hell now.

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