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The True Story That Inspired 'The Sound Of Music' Is More Dramatic Than The Movie

Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

If you've seen The Sound of Music - and odds are good that you've watched it a few dozen times - you're probably in love with its timeless romance and classic songs.  

Since the movie's release in 1965, it has become one of the most successful films of all time. And the endless copies my family bought on VHS and DVD probably helped a lot.

Christopher Plummer and Julie Andrews on location in Salzburg during the filming of The Sound of Music, 1964Public Domain

But when I watched the movie growing up I always wondered: what happened to the von Trapps after the movie ended?

The surprising answer is that the famous singing family moved to America.

See, The Sound of Music, along with the Broadway play and German film that inspired it, are based on the real life story of Maria von Trapp, her husband Georg, and their children.

Trapp Family Singers preparing for a concert in Boston in 1941. Maria is the third from left, with a dark suit. By Trapp Family Singers-Metropolitan Music Bureau, New York. Photo by Larry Gordon, via Wikimedia Commons

Like in the movie, Maria was a nun who joined the von Trapp household as a tutor (not a governess) for the widower's seven children.

Unlike the classic film, Maria and Georg did not exactly fall head over heels for each other, as Maria confessed in a book about her life.

Georg von Trapp & Maria von Trapp in 1948

"I really and truly was not in love," she wrote. "I liked him but didn't love him. However, I loved the children, so in a way I really married the children." But even their real love story had a Hollywood ending.

"[B]y and by, " Maria remembered, "I learned to love him more than I have ever loved before or after."

But their romance wasn't the only detail about the von Trapps that Hollywood changed. Their dramatic escape from Austria went very differently in real life.

To start with, the movie played fast and loose with the ages, genders, and personalities of the von Trapp children.

Johannes, the youngest von Trapp boy, said that imagining his shy, older sister Agatha performing "You Are Sixteen" left the family "rolling in the aisles in stitches" when they saw the movie.

And while Georg von Trapp had seven children from his first marriage, he went on to have three more with Maria, who was married to him for over a decade before the family fled Austria.

The details of their escape from the Nazi-occupied country are also very different from the movie, but still thrilling.

There was no hike over the alps like in the movie. Instead, the family boarded a train for a singing tour in Europe, and never came home again.

Looks like the von Trapp family is ready for the 'Back to School' season. Are you ready? #throwbackthursday

Posted by Trapp Family Lodge on Thursday, August 16, 2018

The von Trapps settled in America, where their family still runs Vermont's Trapp Family Lodge to this day.

After Georg died, Maria von Trapp wrote a bestselling book about her life to pay the bills, which was eventually adapted into the movie.

So what did the real Maria think about the film's take on her life?

Maria says she wasn't as "ladylike" as Julie Andrews played her, and Georg wasn't as stern as Christopher Plummer's character, but she enjoyed the movie anyways.

"Everyone thinks the Sound of Music was exactly the way things happened," Johannes explained.

"This was the Hollywood version of the Broadway version of the German film version of the book that my mother wrote.”

[H/T: BBC, National Archives]

Does this change the way you see the movie? I still love it, no matter what!

I write about all sorts of things for Shared, especially weird facts, celebrity news, and viral stories. CONTACT: zachary@shared.com