Sound Of Music is arguably the best-loved musical of all time. Now that it is well past its fortieth anniversary, it is interesting to trace a bit of its history and see what impact it had on its star- Julie Andrews, who portrayed the central character of Marie- a nun- turned- nanny who not only changes the whole household of Captain Von Trappe, but also turns the family’s approach towards life head on.
This film was based on the book ‘The Story Of The Trappe Family Singers’ written by Maria Von Trappe (born as Maria Kutschera), who told her extra-ordinary life-story. Maria started out as a nun in a convent in Salzburg, Austria but then took the job of a matron in a widowed naval commander Von Trappe’s family of seven children. In the course of events, the commander fell in love with this nanny and married her. The family became famous for their singing skills but then had to stage a daring escape act as Nazi German troupes invaded Austria.
Actress Julie Andrews, who rose from the ranks through her child-roles, radio-shows and stage musicals had already made her mark as a magical screen- nanny in Mary Poppins (1964) but Sound Of Music was to be her eternal claim to fame. Even though she did not win an Oscar for this performance, her endearingly charming Maria, whose ability to turn the dreary routine of life with musical excursions was to become one of the benchmarks in wholesome family entertainment.
One of the major disappointments in her career was to miss out on the screen adaptation of My Fair Lady (1964) despite having popularized that role in a stage-musical earlier. The studio-heads opted for a more bankable Audrey Hepburn but Julie still had the last laugh by winning that year’s Best Actress Oscar for Mary Poppins.
Unfortunately this stamp of wholesomeness prevented Andrews for being considered for more versatile and more mature roles. She tried to break these shackles especially through her husband Blake Edwards’s films. Thus in Ten she played second fiddle to Bo Derek as hero’s sensible mistress, in S.O.B. she went down and dirty going topless in a shot and in Victor/ Victoria she cross-dressed. But still the prim and proper image stuck to her like super-glue and at seventy-plus if we remember her apart from her nanny-roles, it is for her stately Queen playing grandmother in Princess Diaries.
Tired of her goody-goody image, Julie Andrews once wore a badge of protestation- “Mary Poppins is a junkie!”