How do you solve a problem like Maria? If you’re 20th Century Fox you turn to Julie Andrews and create an all-singing fairytale nun-turned-governess who brings order to a dysfunctional Austrian family. But the reality – and there was a reality – is that the story was sprinkled with more than just a handful of Hollywood stardust.
A new documentary, hosted by Sue Perkins and due to be aired on BBC2 over Christmas, unravels the truth behind the real von Trapp family, on whom The Sound of Music was based. And it seems the ten children (yes ten, not seven as depicted in the film, as Maria and captain von Trapp had a further three together in real life) weren’t exactly skipping through the edelweiss in delight at their portrayal.
Actor Nicholas Hammond, who played the oldest son Friedrich in the film, got to know the surviving members of the family well in later years and persuaded them to take part in the documentary.
“Much as they admired the film, they were frustrated that sections of their real life were kind of erased. For instance, probably the largest and most heartfelt issue for them was that they all loved their real mother, whereas in the film it’s the governess who is warm and loving and whom the children all fall in love with. It was not to take anything away from Maria, but they were hurt that their own mother, who died when she was quite young and who they all adored, is just never referred to.”
But Hammond says the family is happy with the film’s legacy. “They’re very pleased with the message it sent about their family standing up to adversity, having moral courage and doing the right thing.”
Climbed Every Mountain is on 29 December at 8:15pm on BBC2