Die Trapp-Familie, The German ‘Sound of Music’: A Laterblog

As far as we’re concerned, the hills are always alive with the sound of music. We both grew up on the Julie Andrews classic, and last year we live blogged NBC’s attempt at a live action production. Traci even took a Sound of Music tour in Europe. But something had escaped us until now: the 1956 German version of the story, Die Trapp-Familie. The later American film and musical, The Sound Of Music, is not a word-by-word remake of Die Trapp Familie – it is just based on the same story –  so we needed to know what was different!

Where curiosity knocks, YouTube answers … and we live blog. Enjoy!

M: Okay, one similarity between Die Trapp Familie and every American movie from the 50s: those 10-minute-long opening credits over scenery where they show the credit for every cast and crew member. I applaud whoever first moved those to the end.

This, basically.

M: Maria teaches a class full of kids, which makes a nice set up for her later dealings with the Von Trapp kids.

One plus of closed captioning: they can explain the translations that require a bit of cultural context. For instance, little Austrian kids say “devil” and “thunderstorm,” which – who knew? – are “mild expressions of anger.” Maybe the captioner realized that German always sounds a little angry if your ears are usually tuned into English.

I can totally picture a little 1940s child saying “oh, thunderstorms!” when he is expressing mild anger.

T: Maria is told ‘Girls shouldn’t whistle at all!’ because God Hates Whistling was the original God Hates F*gs.

M: I might be losing it, but in the scene with the abbess, you can almost tell exactly what’s being said without even reading the captions. Maybe it’s because I’ve seen The Sound Of Music one too many times. But seriously, would they please sing “How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?”

M: Maria’s traveling outfit looks like it was stolen from Thoroughly Modern Millie. Also one of the items she packs appears to be a stick with some streamers on it. Is this a German thing I don’t know about, maybe? It’s like when a kid packs to run away from home, and they bring a teddy bear and, like, a handful of Connect 4 tokens.

T: This version of Maria is also much more aloof than the Julie Andrews version – not only is she whistling, but she’s sliding down staircases because she thinks it’ll get her to the chapel faster.

M: This version was filmed a lot closer to World War II than The Sound Of Music, AND it’s a German production. Things were still very touchy in the post-war period, so now I’m very interested to see how it’s handled.

T: Captain Von Trapp is very non-Captain like? Or is it because I’m so accustomed to Christopher Plummer? This dude seems more like an awkward and trepidatious waiter from Sardi’s.

M: Oh man, the entrance of the Von Trapp kids is just as good in this version, and is actually barely different from the American scene. I’m thinking either (1) both are pretty true to life, (2) the Sound Of Music was actually heavily influenced by Die Trapp Familie, or (3) as a matter of course, all children used to enter rooms in single file lines wearing matching pert sailor suits.

T: This is the trippiest version of Sound of Music I’ve ever seen.

M: NEW NAME ALERT. Rupert = Friedrich; Werner = Kurt, Agatha = Liesl, Hedwig = Brigitta, Maria = Louisa, Rosemarie = Marta, Martina = Gretl. These are actually the real Von Trapp kids’ names (I looked it up). Except, for some reason, “Rosemarie,” whose real name was Johanna. Makes sense.

So, the American version traded up for an even MORE stereotypical Austrian/German name than each child’s real name. Except Hedwig, which is pretty hardcore.

T: For some reason, in my head I’m confusing this movie with both Annie and Sister Act.

M: Maria has abandoned her Daisy Buchanan travel dress and she’s broken out the dirndl. Now they’re all ready to do whatever the Die Trapp Familie version of Do Re Mi is. But first: curtain outfits. Or in this case, table cloth outfits.

This fabric.

T:  OMGGG this is so boring without the music. Also maybe because I don’t speak German?

M:  I’m still disappointed nobody went to the hills to sing Do Re Mi. There’s a thunderstorm, so I have to hope that maybe some singing will happen?


M: NEVER MIND. The primary lyrics in what we know as the My Favorite Things scene: “Hop, hop, hop. Horsie, Run, Gallop!” It does sound marginally better in German.

T:  Also the captain is a horrible actor and doesn’t have an ounce of chemistry with the Baroness, who is much older. Also he doesn’t have chemistry with Maria either. Will there be a twist where they don’t actually end up together in the end??

M: Die kinder are “playing u-boat.” This is not a joke based on cultural stereotype.

T: I mean, IDK about you, but I personally played “pagoda” and wore rice hats on the reg.

M: Oh, we used to play potato famine. You just didn’t eat potatoes.

When the kids finally DO sing, they are harmonizing much more nicely than in the American movie. Not-Gretl has a cute voice. She’s my favorite. Also, the stick with streamers was just the end of her guitar. OOPS.

T: “The country bumpkin is leaving!”  – She’s a nun, folks.

Boys aren’t allowed to be with the girls? WHY IS THIS A RULE AMONG SIBLINGS

M: Creepy.

T: The Captain is sneezing and if I didn’t know the end of this already, I’d assume it was foreshadowing for some kind of pneumonia that kills him.

M: Christmas scene! They trim one of those old-fashioned trees that’s shaped like the cross between a shrub and a sea-monster. With live candles. And…a sparkler? Captain holds the lit sparkler at Maria’s face while she talks longingly at him.



T: The Captain’s randomly lit sparkler is dangerously close to both him and Maria. Why even does he have this and why did he find it necessary to light at this very moment.

M: Fun fact: the children sing Silent Night – original German lyrics of course, but the captions directly translate the German lyrics. “The faithful, highly holy parents, who gaze on a beautiful child with curly hair.” Eh, it’s no “adieu, adieu, to you and you and you-oo,” but it’ll do.

See,  this is why translation software like Smartling takes context into account. Because these word-by-word translations are just awkward.  Though I did like learning “oh, thunderstorms!” as a mild expression of anger.

M: With all of the scenes the American version uses, I’m really surprised they don’t use this one. I mean. CHRISTMAS. Maybe some of the Austrian traditions would just come across weird to U.S. audiences. Like the Captain giving every child in the village wooden clogs in Maria’s name. That IS an Austrian tradition, right?

T: “Every child in the abbey today receives a pair of sturdy clogs in your name” AUSTRIA: WHERE EVERY CHILD WANTS A STURDY PAIR OF CLOGS

M: The children put on a play, but they’re shadows behind a sheet, and they are accompanied by Maria on the …. I’m calling it a harpsichord. I guess it’s supposed to be charming and innocent, but it’s creepy instead.

T: The kids are putting on a shadow play of Sleeping Beauty. I don’t know anything about Austrian Christmas traditions, but is this really one of them?

M: Well, the American adaptation of the story had to cut something to fit in all those “auf wiedersehen, good nights.”

Photo Jun 15, 10 40 03 PM

T: I appreciate that one of these kids plays the recorder. Can anyone in America say their 5th grade recorder lesson in music class helps them today in their recorder careers???

This Baroness bitch just told Maria to act in a more restrained manner around the Captain, and tells her he’s in love with her. Maria is shocked, SHOCKED to learn this, and her initial reaction is to leave ASAP.

“My dear child, you may know your prayer book, but about yourself, you know nothing.” – The Baroness, a little shit stirrer.

I feel like everything is happening super fast now and all of a sudden the Captain’s in love with Maria. In SoM that didn’t happen until at LEAST the 3rd hour.

Maria consults with Mother Abbess on matters of the heart, and after their convo, she goes back to the Captain and tells him Mother Abs told her she “must” marry him. I mean, okay.

This whole agreeing to marry each other before kissing this is just so foreign. Not just because this is in German.

M: I hate it. Captain and Maria get engaged, they kiss finally, the kinder cheer. The nuns get Maria all gussied up for the wedding (it’s a 1950s German movie kind of gussied).

Photo Jun 15, 10 55 19 PM


T: The wedding just ended and they cut to a crying baby, because they have one now. And the Captain basically just confronted Maria about not paying attention to him enough as she freaking feeds their baby with a bottle.

M: Die Kinder are really getting into their singing, but it’s much more churchy and less catchy than in the American version.

T: For the first time, seeing the kids all together and singing and playing instruments is extremely creepy to me, for some reason? It’s got a similar sweatshop vibe but not as harsh…?

M: I haven’t counted how many times die kinder have sang the word hallelujah but we’re well into the dozens, maybe hundreds. Makes “la, a word to follow so” feel positively inspired.

T: I must’ve missed something because the “Doctor” who is dressed like a Priest is now conducting the kids, and he’s making them harmonize at the dinner table. Literally these kids are eating soup and he’s making them practice.

M: Delicious irony: Captain, in his mahogany and leather library, saying “we are poor people.” DRAMATIC.

T:  I feel like because I’ve been watching this for so long (like an hour) I’m starting to understand German. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. I understand the words ‘ya’ and ‘Maria’.

M: Me too! I think it’s because my ear is picking up any word that is the same as in English – plus the, like, 5 German words I know.

M: Now the house is going to become a B&B, I suppose. Whatever, fine.

T: And  the head butler now works at Reception and a bunch of Italians are the first guests. Is this seriously what happened???

Two of the boys see a sign on their travels about a singing competition and one of the kids says “it’ll be good advertising for the inn”, since that’s what their lives have come to now.

Is anyone going to sing Edelweiss or….?

M: Werner is crying before a performance. Werner WOULD. But they pull it together and sing a folk song (?) about hunting. With the kids lined up I can see that they were aged up a bit in the American movie. Was that specifically so they could do a teen plotline with Liesl, like soap operas do in the summer? Because in Die Trapp Familie, she looks more like 12 going on 13, tops.

T: “Bow-wow run you rabbits run you deer as fast as you can in the brambles! Else the huntsman comes with his flint musket and he shoots after you! Tra-ra, tra-ra!” WUT.

M: UGH. So… Nazis? Gonna happen?

M: Ah, here we go. Captain refuses to ‘heil’ at a guy in lederhosen. Well done, Die Trapp Familie.


So we don’t get to see the fam hide in the convent? The police are there but Franz tells them they’re out and def not hiding in the library. And they trust him because he’s wearing a Nazi pin. Okay, Franz. I take the Tyra gif back.

Also, the set of this house looks like the Sound of Music Live! I haven’t decided if that’s a good thing or not.

T:  The Von Trapps make it to America, and we know this because of the realistic Statue of Liberty outside the window.

Photo Jun 15, 11 30 19 PM

M: I already feel like the escape will be a lot less interesting without Rolf. But major bonus: we get to see Maria waiting to leave at some sort of American embassy or lounge. There’s jazz music, American flags, and men smoking cigars. Basically, the first ever America-themed party.

“A real attraction – a choir in leather shorts!” – The American dude who’s speaking in German

M: Germany: where the most harrowing part of the movie is an inefficient and slow bureaucracy. The family is holed up at the embassy (?) waiting for entry.

The American representative is speaking German, but he has that growelly, extra-rhotic “American” accent that happens when British people do a bad American impersonation.

T: It’s SO distracting!!

M: Oh. It’s Ellis Island? I missed something. The Americans are all dressed like friends of the Rat Pack: high waisted slacks, trilby hats, wide ties, pocket squares. The phrase “come on!” is not translated into German, because it transcends language, I suppose.

T: Again, did this whole thing go down at Ellis Island, because singing here to stay in the U.S. seems a little extreme.

M: The kids sing at Ellis Island, and the American execs gaze at them with hearts or maybe dollar signs in their eyes. Looks like die kinder Trapp are going to become the Von Trapp kids after all.

T: Do you think the baby Von Trapp is going to be part of this too because I’m starting to think they’ve just been holding a large down pillow this entire time.
Photo Jun 16, 12 58 44 AM

M: YOOO I missed the baby and honestly thought he was clutching a pillow to his breast.

Representatives of all the nations of the world are in the embassy, like a full set of those Madame Alexander dolls in ethnic dress. And they all watch with tears of joy glistening in their eyeballs. Die kinder sing for.ev.er.

T: They sing for.ev.er. and it’s the creepy kind of singing that will for.ev.er. haunt me in my German-speaking dreams.

M: For the final performance, the kids sing this movie’s equivalent of So Long, Farewell. Except it’s Brahms’ lullaby instead. All the sentiment, none of the snap. Actually, that sums up my take on this movie in general. It doesn’t have the catchy Rodgers and Hammerstein tunes, but it’s still a sweet story with the same beautiful technicolor scenery. If you don’t mind reading your movies – or want to test out your semesters of college German – I’d say it’s worth 90 minutes.

T: Yeah, and this So Long, Farewell version has the lyrics, ‘Tomorrow morning, if it’s God’s will, you’ll be awakened again.’ Why do all these tunes sound so morbid to me?! Plus Maria breaks the fourth wall and says ‘Gud nacht’ into the camera. But I pretty much agree with Molly – it’s a sweet story, and if you’re into this kind of biopic, you’ll like it. But I think I was comparing it to Sound of Music too much, which obviously isn’t the way to go into this, but alas, here we are. TBH, I got bored in the beginning and had to stop and start again, but hey, different strokes for different kinder.



3 thoughts on “Die Trapp-Familie, The German ‘Sound of Music’: A Laterblog

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