As an Austrian, I Am Baffled by America's Love for The Sound of Music

And no, I will not be flying from Vienna to Seattle to see the 5th Avenue Theatre's new production. If you go see it, here are a couple things to keep in mind.

Comments

1
Stay in Vienna. Enjoy the Islamic State bringing you Anschluss 2.0 LOL
2
Did the Stranger pay you for this column in yodelling lederhosen?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3oqnSSCH…
3
America don't give a FUCK what you think.
4
Seattle and America doesn't give a FUCK about what you think
5
I completely see the author's point. But didn't realize that musicals, which are complete puff piece fantasy and fiction, even when based loosely on truth, are supposed to be where we are getting our history lessons from. Does anyone think anything they learned from a ridiculous movie where characters randomly burst into song is absolutely true? Well, sure, some people will, because some Americans are really stupid, but there's really nothing you can do about them.
6
As an American visiting Austria, I was deeply concerned that the Austrian people might get the false impression that all Americans joined church choirs from Iowa and drove their tour buses around Salzburg re-enacting the various scenes from The Sound of Music.
7
The bigger problem is that the current production at the 5th cast a Von Trapp who can't sing. Seriously. I could have done better than that poor guy. They also cast a powerful belter as Maria, which is just as crazy as it sounds. (at least she has a great voice)

The kids are great, though.

Last thought: would it kill the theater community to learn how Nazis spoke, acted, and marched? The lack of menace from the Nazis was the last bit of flabbiness that undermined the production.
9
Good article though needs editing to tell story right up front which is that Sound of Music is a lie about how most Austrians responded to Hitler -- they loved him.

So yes, ALL media which influences how people see the world should be as accurate as possible.

10
I go to Salzburg about twice a year and people do dress like that. You can get all those clothes on most street corners but also in neighboring towns where tourists don't go. I know the writer thinks it's all Krautrock and "Book of Mormon" but the Weinacht Markt in every town still trumpets that style, if slightly more redneck than the movie version.
11
A few things:
No one remembers the political part of the Sound of Music. Why would they? We remember the awesome songs and the generally creepiness of this guy gunning for his childrens' nanny.

Don't worry, Sound of Music or not, when most Americans hear "Austrians," the first thing they think is "little Nazi fucks." Or they think, nothing, or they think, nah, it's spelled, 'Australia.' Weirdly, I don't think this about Germans, probably because there is all kinds of stuff I know about modern Germany: political importance, and their awesome cities and culture. But I've literally never heard anything about Austria other than Nazism.

So, the legacy of Austrians as terrible Nazis is safe.
12
My Mom made me watch that movie 10 times or more when I was growing up. I always thought it sucked. That was not because of the historical or geographic inaccuracies, which I had no idea about, but because it is the movie equivalent of eating a pound of cheese that has been soaked in a vat of artificial sweetener for a year - cheesy, cloying sweet and totally fake. I never had any illusion that it represented any kind of reality, & I doubt anyone else did either.
13
I thought all Austrians were muscle-bound ex-governors of California.
14
@11: Right you are. Saw the Sound of Music several times; forgot it was set in Austria.
15
I don't care for The Sound of Music much, but this article seems awfully nitpicky about their 'national costumes' and liberties taken in musical motion pictures in general. Seems embarrassed to think 'Muricans assume Austrians stride about in leather lederhosen today, not unlike yokels from the 16th century? Uh, no, I doubt many of us do if we think about it at all.... The musical number jump-cuts from one location to another? DUH. How very peculiar to complain about THIS! No one wants to watch a group standing in one spot singing, this is the way a movie is done to make it,maybe interesting? Fit in some movement, show some scenery? The author seems puzzled by the movie-making process....and as for Austrians loving the Nazis, I'm not at all surprised. (just as 'Muricans seem to love the politics of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and other third-world-nation type states. Why wouldn't they?)
16
Haters be hatin', and hatin' on "The Sound of Music" is the ultimate hate. If the "The Lonely Goatherd" marionette show didn't melt your heart, then you must be a goddamn Nazi.
17
Bavaria and adjacent Austria are the homeland of Naziism. There's plenty of nostalgia, particularly in the Munich area. They are still suppressing tiny sidewalk monuments in front of homes from which Jews & other victims were removed, transported and murdered. Fucking pigs.

http://www.newsweek.com/munich-continue-…
19
It's a appalling incredibly arrogant review where Puschitz extrapolates discordant snobby objections with a complete disregard the Rogers and Hammerstein's right to "create suspension of belief" whether its the geography of Austria or the history of the characters. Anything that is warm and dear to most Americans must be shred to pieces by condescending theatre critics who feel a compelling need to trash every one of Rogers Hammerstein's brilliant successes.
20
#1 Stay in America and enjoy the new Fascist state brought to you by Trump (Cruz, etc.), the GOP congress and Fox News!
21
And Star Trek should be looked to as a documentary as to what our future will be like.
22
Everything is Terrible.
23
Oh, and I find this Austrian's take on the Sound of Music interesting.

Why the hell anyone would want to silence him on this country's weird cultural appropriation is beyond me.
24
You should review Hogan's Heroes next. That'll get closer to the meat of america's cultural assimilation of WWII. It's pathetic, witness the first 4 comments in this thread... No blood was spilled on this land, so it's not important.

I'm still waiting for the 9.11 musical. Can't wait to see all the cultural snobs crawling out of the woodwork to defend that...
25
I have the same reaction every time I watch "An Amercian in Paris" and Gene Kelley goes into the world of his own drawing. "That cocksucker" is the inescapable thought. Fucking musicals...
26
i refuse to believe that musicals could possibly lie to me!

are you telling me that gary, indiana is not the beautiful small-town paradise i learned about in "the music man"?

http://www.forbes.com/pictures/mli45lmhg…
27
@1-4: If you think you could manage it, try not showing your ass once in a while.
I agree with judybrowni @23. The author is an actual Austrian sharing an Austrian perspective on this musical. Maybe all y'all could stop being so damn butt hurt about it.
28
@Lissa

I can't speak for anyone else, but I'm not "butt hurt." The topic is a musical for christ's sake. How hilariously preposterous is it to take issue with its historical accuracy? Forget history, you can't even expect fidelity to reality!
29
Hate to break it to ya, but Americans really don't think about Austria at all.
30
@24: Now's a great time to watch Springtime for Hitler and Germany!
31
@OP

You're baffled? Lot's of lovely songs and costumes. Cinematography. Talent aplenty. Art doesn't need to be a documentary. Sometimes it's just fun and beautiful. Sometimes timeless, moving themes can be injected into historical bullshit. Try loving the people around you for the people that they are, not as the historical purists that you might hope they would be.
32
@22. Yup
33
"How dare a person who's actually from the country TSOM is set in and knows the true history and culture of said country attempt to express justifiable concern over how a sacred cow of American musical theatre got it way the hell wrong," said an embarrassing number of commenters. "What's next," I imagine they'd continue, "Native Americans complaining above Columbus Day?"
34
There are plenty of people in Europe that adore bloated, lavish Hollywood musicals. I suspect the letter writer takes himself a bit to seriously like many sour, desperate to be outraged lefty types. These types usually hate Disney as well.
35
Today I learned that Austrians have hipsters too
36
@33: If TSOM is not true history, it is true American culture.
37
Americans love musicals where a dude bangs the babysitter. Yeah, that is pretty much the whole plot line.
38
Yes, yes The American Musical is a sacred art form adored, as are all other American Cultural Artifacts, the world over, as is right and proper. That any could be critical of it is inconceivable.
Whatever.
We grew up with this movie and have varying degrees of fondness for it as part of both our cultural and personal landscapes.
The author did not, and comes to it with a different perspective not the least of which is his country of origin and the way this movie is viewed there (or not).
Americans love this musical.
Austrians don't.
To quote another American musical:
Let it go.
39
@35: They do! Last Christmas we were serenaded by a trio of them after dinner at the Hanneshof in Erpfendorf.
They were adorable.
40
JP, I appreciate that you started a discussion, but you would not have left such a bitter taste in readers' mouths had you dropped the bratty and incredulous headline from the start and instead used the film as a framing tool for a much more interesting (and mature) discussion about how Americans still do live in self-absorbed ignorance of the world around them in the 21st century, and how film viewers do not always compartmentalize Hollywood fact from fiction like they should. As a reader, I'm always seeking ways to enrich my sense of worldliness, but the tone of your article sadly precludes any such exchange
41
And he didn't even get into the terrifically repressive governments pre-Anschluß—militarist Fascism (Benito helped keep Adolf out for awhile) wasn't enough for the Austrians, they (well, most of them) weren't happy until actual Nazis were in charge.
42
@37: Maria did not leave the convent because she got knocked up.
43
Assuming Austrians are like a bad musical is like assuming your "friends" are like most Americans.
44
Perhaps the only thing remotely incorrect about The Sound of Music is perhaps the chauvinistic Sixteen going on Seventeen number. I'm surprised that wasn't brought up in the article.
45
Would have been cool to reference the actual Von trapp family and their actual startlingly different story which includes their larger family and emigration to America. Did you accidentally delete the paragraph where you address problem with the fictionalization of biography and history for entertainment
46
@42: you do know there's a difference between "banged" and "knocked up" right? And while it used to be that in order to be knocked up you would have banged, even that correlation no longer holds.

and Zander's comment is comedy gold.
47
I don't think the author really knows how musical theater and Hollywood work.
48
I felt the same kind of righteous anger and indignation when I saw the car chase in "McQ", which, after all, is the only thing the world knows about Seattle.

Sorry, I've been listening to the same sort of supposed intellectuals talk trash about musicals since my Freshman year as a theatre major at the U of Iowa. (While we're on that topic, don't get me started on Austrian Operettas) Just remember, my dear artistes: Musicals pay the bills for the one act plays exploring your teenage angst that you wrote to get back at your parents.
49
Catalina: True, but I always wanted to drive a Firebird under I-5 to beat someone going north and getting off at the Mercer exit with Elmer Bernstein playing (and let's face it, that would probably be faster these days).

However, you must also remember the navigational prowess to follow in a car someone rowing a boat from the ship canal to Alki.

To the author's point...so what? It's a musical, fer cripes sake.
50
Hitler was Austrian, FYI. Although historically inaccurate, I just love the songs! Who doesn't want to spin around on a mountain top and sing? I also suspect Austrians have some messed up view of Americans based on popular entertainment.
51
Interesting that the author for taking TSOM A seriously. Certainly nobody in the U.S. has done that since, oh, 1965.
52
@18 for the win. Hilarious (and true.)
53
You need to get off it Mr. Puschitz, the Sound of Music is just pure entertainment and is not intended to show cultural or historical accuracy. I have never heard of any American who thought that "Edelweiss" was Austria's national anthem. While I have never seen TSOM I did see "A funny Thing Happened on the way to the Forum" and did not come away thinking that a Roman Patrician master and his slaves danced atop an aqueduct singing "Everybody Ought to have a Maid". Get over it

You did mention that your friends "made" you watch this show; did they restrain you and place mechanical devices on your eyelids in the manner of "A Clockwork Orange"? You didn't have to watch and I think you had a good idea as to what it was about. After all, kein mensch muss mussen. Sorry, I don't have an umlaut or s-set key.
54
I thought that Arnold Schwarzenegger embodied the American idea of Austrian culture?
55
Wow such feelings everyone has about a cheesy musical. Who knew?
56
I've always more or less assumed that all decent people deeply loathed The Sound of Music for all the obvious political and aesthetic reasons. The sympathetic portrayal of the goddamn Nazis is profoundly appalling, but it's not even one of the five worst things about the damn movie. Pauline Kael said it best:

"Set in Austria in 1938, this is a tribute to freshness that is so mechanically engineered and so shrewdly calculated that the background music rises, the already soft focus blurs and melts, and, upon the instant, you can hear all those noses blowing in the theatre. Whom could this operetta offend? Only those of us who, despite the fact that we may respond, loathe being manipulated in this way and are aware of how cheap and ready-made are the responses we are made to feel. We may become even more aware of the way we have been turned into emotional and aesthetic imbeciles when we hear ourselves humming the sickly, goody-goody songs."
58
If the illogical geographical visuals of Salzburg are a primary issue for the viewer, the theatre version of Sound of Music might be just the answer; I imagine their depictions of Salzburg will require an even larger suspension of disbelief. There are many arguments to be made about why the Sound of Music is historically inaccurate and generally terrible, however a misaligned fear that Americans will misunderstand Austria due to poor costuming choices and not enough Nazis misses the mark for me. In an era when musicals frequently used white men to depict people of color, demonstrate massive levels of misogyny and insane plots, I am used to taking musicals with a grain of salt.
59
"The Sound of Music" gave me some very serious false impressions about the true nature of video cassette systems.
When I was a small child, my parents showed the film to me but switched it off after the marionette scene, telling me it was the end of the movie. They didn't want to have to explain Nazism to me at the time, and I understand that a little boy might have quite a bit of trouble processing the fact that there was a whole political ideology centered in part around the extermination of his people. A few years later, we watched it again, this time in full.
I was thunderstruck. The tape had been rewound and replayed, and more film had been somehow generated as a result! And for some time afterward I speculated, at the end of movies, that maybe if we rewound it and played it again there would be more to see. God only knows what conclusions I would have drawn about DVDs had they been widely available at the time.
60
The horror. Next you'll be telling me that modern London has no nannies who float in on the wind, dancing chimney sweeps, or professional sidewalk chalkers with paintings you can jump right into. I refuse to believe it.
61
I am deeply concerned that the movie "Singles" promotes an unrealistic view of the Grunge Era in Seattle - particularly the bicycle chase scene.

And the scene in "Harry in Your Pocket" where they get on an elevator in the lobby of the Olympic Hotel and in the next scene are in a room at the Washington Plaza is an outrage.
62
@56: There is not one scene in the move that is sympathetic to the Nazis. So you never saw the movie, or the play, so you don't know what you're talking about.
63
I wonder if the "reviewer" actually knows anything about theatrical writing, or the long trajectory of questionable cultural and historical views of foreign lands in his own country's musical heritage? The Land of Smiles comes to mind as just one of many Austrian operettas based on completely unbelievable, non-factual representations of non-Austrian cultures. TSOM is hardly an outlier. Perhaps he has no sense of humor. I will admit I laughed out loud when I saw Maria's wedding in the movie -- even Princess Diana didn't have a train or veil that long.
65
Good article , Mr. Austrian.
Too bad so many oh-so-cool Sloggers are idiots.
66
Hey J.P. Remember Seattle proper is not like the rest of Washington. Nazi denial. Ask Cathy McMorris-Rodgers, her hand is so close to that "red button"..
http://www.krem.com/search/MLK%20bomb/
http://www.krem.com/story/news/local/koo…

"Birth of a Nation" is also considered entertainment. Pre-TexASS school board brainwashing. Don't we still condition the children that slavery/genocide = freedom? The Sound of Music is the history the Northwest wants to believe it's own history is like.

"American Nations", Colin Woodard. Then you can see some of the migration patterns, even for Seattle. But the Northwest is full of "indian reservations" and the locals are still upset the "Kennewick Man" didn't man up.

"Lies My Teacher Told Me", James Loewen.

"War Against the Weak", Edwin Black.

67
Puschitz: You're appalled that the Anschluss was portrayed without the cheering Austrians in the streets. Okay. But you also said you understand that tweaks are needed to bring a story to the stage or screen. Okay.
So if you're Robert Wise, and studio executives are on your back for going though so much money, and you want show the Nazi invasion - do you spend thousands more on casting a accurate portrayal with crowds or show a few Mercedes-Benz 770's adorned with Nazi flags rolling through ominously rolling through a town square?
You say you understand tweaks and creative license, but yet you want true depictions. You can't have both. Sorry.
68
Unfortunately, the same thing was done to the pre civil war south in too many movies to name and, instead of being like this Austrian, most southerners believe it.
69
People like this reviewer are such bores. Like an atheist who always walks out before the final scene of Don Giovanni.
70
My mother was Austrian and lived through WWII in her native country.She points out some of the same inconsistencies as Mr. Puschitz. The Sound of Music is her favorite movie. Also, my grandfather wore lederhosen and I have seen people wear traditional garb in smaller towns as well. Perhaps the writer lacks historical and socio-economic perspective.
71
Is this article for real? IT'S A FREAKING MUSICAL! Let's see... since Austrians love Rocky Horror so much, how do you think the residents of Transylvania, "'the land beyond the forest" feel about their entire populous portrayed as gender-bending alien mad scientists and freaks?

I don't think this author has to worry about having friends that will force him to watch any movies in the future. Might want to look into a Netflix account for those einsame Nächte!

*@herrbrahm #7 - "the current production at the 5th cast a Von Trapp who can't sing." That's unimaginable! Ever hear Christopher Plummer sing? Probably not, since his singing was dubbed by singer Bill Lee. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Lee_(…
72
Actually, the Vienna Volksoper presented the Austrian stage premiere of "The Sound of Music" (sung in German) in 2005. There's a revival planned for next year: http://www.volksoper.at/Content.Node2/ho…
76
Puschitz should take notice that ALL American musicals are cheesy fiction soaked in sweetener, not just this one based in Austria. Should I write another article and complain about those inaccurate cowboy and indian movies?
Yes, yes. I know that you can't just run down the hill in 10 minutes from Obersalzburg to Saltzburg as Maria did but I do do know, having lived in Obersalzburg for 2 years that many people did wear lederhosen on hikes during their urlaub.
77
I don't think anybody in the world takes the Sound of Music as their source of historic information about Nazis, the typical victims of Nazis, or the overall Austrian response to Hitler. And the movie really portrays itself as being a sappy-sweet musical about a family-not some realistic political/historical portrayal.

Does anybody think that the musical Oklahoma is an accurate portrayal of early 20th century Oklahoma? I think not.

That being said, it's not a good musical. Maria Von Trapp's autobiography, however, is a good book (very different from the musical).
78
Since this guy obviously believes that musicals are intended to be historical documentaries....I wonder if he gets his view of America and American history from musicals.
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, for instance, shows the peculiar American courting style where a man must kidnap a woman in order to marry her, while quoting Livy's story about the abduction of the Sabine women.
79
As a pretentious twit with nothing better to do but make pseudo-intellectual deconstructions of flippin' MUSICALS, I'd like to add my outrage at the gross inaccuracies of the film industry portrayed in "Singin' in the Rain". And No True Scotsman would tolerate the racist, sexist, patriarchal horror that is "Brigadoon". The horror, the horror!

80
The original Broadway production (with two songs excluded from the more happy-go-lucky film version) uses a mostly imagined story line to explore moral dilemmas that transcend the geographic and political context;
Should Maria break her vow to God to marry a mortal?
(she did)
Should the captain work for the Nazis to maintain his prestige and power?
(he didn't)
Should Liesl give her virginity to a 17yo, or "wait a year or two" as Maria advises?
(she broke it off)
Roger's and Hammerstein's South Pacific similarly borrowed a mostly fictionalized time and place to reveal and denounce racism. They wrote great show tunes, but their real brilliance was using their productions to expose and comment on provocative moral and social issues.