The Sound of Music Story by Tom Santopietro

Typically, I really enjoy a ‘behind the scenes’ look at the icons such as The Sound of Music. Yet while this book is full of information about the movie, nothing felt new, interesting, or what I couldn’t have found either on IMDB or having watched the several anniversary appearances of the cast on Oprah or Good Morning America. A lot of the book is just putting facts into perspective (e.g., telling about the accomplishments of every single cast member, from editor to star) rather than riveting perspectives from ‘insider’ knowledge. It amounts to a lot of congratulatory statements about how amazing and perfect each person was who worked on the movie and how the movie is so incredibly perfect as to be canon. The last 25% of the book is pretty much the author’s opinion on the movie’s impact and how well it has held up over time. So, again, although not a terrible book, I really didn’t feel I finished it knowing that much more about the subject than if I had watched a few Youtube clips or looked on IMDB.

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The book takes a chronological approach, starting with the broadway play and the decisions on whether a movie would be made from what was considered at the time a dying breed: the saccharine musicals. With the exception of Andrews and the child actors, few people wanted to do the movie and the studio was hurting for cash after big name flops (read: Cleopatra). There was a bit of information about the Von Trapp family, changes for dramatic purposes from the real story, and a little known German film telling their story.

The book then delves into the filming – talking mostly about the musical numbers and the daunting task of filming them. Of course, the serendipitous moments that improved them and the obstacles (constant Austrian rain) come up a lot. Plummer’s reluctance to do the movie and his recalcitrance on the set to interact with the other actors are dismissed as almost method acting to play the uptight Captain. And there are a lot of pages dedicated to talking about how the actors, children and adults alike, were the most amazing ever put on film.

More plaudits follow as the film is released and starts to do very well. There isn’t a lot discussed about any negative impacts on the actors following the success of the movie – the book really does focus nearly exclusively on the positives. E.g., discussions about rain causing massive delays during filming turns into a “but we all got to know each other better in the tent at those times” or “Andrews never once complained and was always smiling and pleasant to everyone even after sitting in a tent outside of the rain for all day.”

Ironically, for me this book echoed the film in that it is a very pleasant and sweet dissembling that, while at heart a true story, somehow feels like a very slick big studio production. If Rogers and Hammerstein were still alive, passages in the book could be put to music and it would be as applicable to the reality of making Sound of Music as the movie was to the Von Trapp family’s actual lives.  Definitely not a terrible book but I was hoping/expecting more depth.  Reviewed from an advance readers copy provided by the publisher.

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