When Julie Andrews Met The Real Maria Von Trapp, She Received One Criticism About Her Acting

One of Julie Andrews’ most memorable roles was as Maria von Trapp in The Sound of Music. However, while her portrayal of the free-spirited governess won her countless fans, the real von Trapp had one criticism about her acting. And she told her it straight on prime time television.

Andrews had grown up around entertainers. As a child during World War II, Barbara Wells, her mother, and Ted Andrews, her stepfather, entertained British troops for a living. They both later found work as stage actors. And, as their career progressed, they paid for their daughter to take singing and dramatic arts lessons.

Even in those early days, it was clear to those around Andrews that she had talent. In her book Julie Andrews – My Star Pupil, singing coach Madame Lilian Stiles-Allen wrote, “The range, accuracy and tone of Julie’s voice amazed me… She possessed the rare gift of absolute pitch.”

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Before long, Andrews began to spontaneously appear in her parents’ shows. And it was these impromptu gigs that would give the young singer her big break in the theater. Then in 1948 – aged just 13 – Andrews became the youngest-ever solo vocalist at a Royal Command Variety Performance, where she sang for King George VI and his wife, Queen Elizabeth.

A television and radio career in the U.K. followed and Andrews also enjoyed stints in London’s West End. However, it wasn’t until a move to the U.S. in the run up to the singer’s 19th birthday in 1954 that the stars really aligned. She starred as Polly Browne in the Broadway adaptation of musical The Boy Friend and won herself rave reviews.

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Following Andrews’ Broadway debut, she was cast as lead character Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady in 1956. She then starred as Cinderella in a television musical penned by Rodgers and Hammerstein, before appearing on numerous television shows throughout the late 50s and early 60s. Then, in 1963, the emerging star landed a role that would propel her career into the stratosphere.

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It was then that Andrews was cast as Mary Poppins in the iconic Disney musical of the same name. The actress had originally turned down the role as she was returning to London to deliver her first child. However, Walt Disney was so keen to have her in the film, he reportedly told her, “We’ll wait for you.”

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Following Mary Poppins release in 1964, the movie became Disney’s biggest success to date. It made a firm star of Andrews, who bagged the Best Actress award at the Oscars and the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Motion Picture Comedy or Musical. But her career hadn’t reached its pinnacle just yet.

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Just one year after Andrews’ appearance in Mary Poppins, she starred in an equally iconic film – The Sound of Music. The actor had been writer Ernest Lehman’s first choice for the movie. And when director Robert Wise saw her performance as the practically perfect nanny, he agreed that she was the one.

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In Julia Antopol Hirsch’s 1993 book, The Sound of Music: The Making of America’s Favorite Movie, the author said Wise had only just begun watching Mary Poppins when he came to that conclusion. Apparently, he turned to Lehman and said, “Let’s go sign this girl before somebody else sees this film and grabs her!” And that’s exactly what they did.

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Andrews subsequently agreed to a two-film deal with Twentieth Century Fox for a fee of $225,000. In today’s money, that’s worth approximately $1,820,000. It was then that the actress was officially cast as Maria, a free-spirited nun-in-training with a love of singing and music.

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Set in Salzburg, among the beautiful Austrian Alps, The Sound of Music tells the story of Maria as she is sent to work as a governess for the von Trapp family. At the head of the clan is Georg von Trapp, played by Christopher Plummer. He’s a stern naval captain who needs someone to help control his seven unruly children.

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After the captain’s wife passed away, he had taken to running his household with the military precision used on his ships. However, Maria is soon able to inject some energy into the children through music. Eventually, she even melts the the naval man’s heart.

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Maria and the captain soon fall in love. But their romance gets off to a rocky start as world events begin to close in on their Alpine idyll. As the Nazis prepare to annex Austria, the family are forced to escape over the mountains, or else face their father being forced to serve in Germany’ navy.

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The Sound of Music hit U.S. cinemas in March 1965. And while the critical response to the movie was mixed, it proved a hit among the public. A month after its release, it became the top movie in the country. Furthermore, it held this position for 30 of the subsequent 43 weeks.

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The movie went on to become 1965’s highest-grossing film. Some moviegoers loved the The Sound of Music so much that they even paid to see it more than once. In fact, in some U.S. cities, more tickets were bought than there were residents.

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The film’s success just kept growing. By 1966, it had even surpassed Gone with the Wind to become the highest-earning movie to date. And thanks to subsequent re-releases and theater runs, The Sound of Music eventually made $2.366 billion, according to adjusted for inflation figures. That makes it the fifth-biggest earner in film history.

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The success of The Sound of Music was good news for leading lady Andrews. Her performance in the film earned her a second Golden Globe, as well as more Oscar and BAFTA nominations. She was now a bona fide star of the silver screen. As a result, the actor was given a TV show of her own, The Julie Andrews Hour, which ran on ABC from 1972 to 1973.

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It was on this show that Andrews came face-to-face with the real-life Maria von Trapp in front of a television audience. Von Trapp was the inspiration behind the actor’s character in The Sound of Music. And it was her family’s story that had captivated film audiences across the globe.

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Von Trapp, born Maria Augusta Kutschera, was brought up by a court-appointed guardian after becoming orphaned. She later entered a convent to train as a nun. Once there, she was sent to tutor one of Baron Georg von Trapp’s ten children. The baron had been commander of a submarine in the First World War, but retired following the death of his then-wife.

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As Kutschera became a regular feature in the von Trapp home, the baron’s children came to love her. And so, too, did the war hero. When he proposed to the nun-to-be, she made the hard decision to leave the church. The couple married in 1927 and the one-time nanny soon fit right into the musical family.

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By the middle of the 1930s the von Trapps had began singing together. In 1937 they even embarked on a European tour as the Trapp Family Choir. However, just like in the movie, the family chose to flee Austria after the country was invaded by the Nazis. They hadn’t wanted to be associated with the regime, and were also eager to continue with their shows.

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The von Trapps escaped to America, and in 1938 they put on their debut concert in New York. The performance won them rave reviews and the choir’s profile grew and grew. So in 1949 – two years after the death of her husband – Maria von Trapp published her family’s story in the form of a memoir.

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The book was later adapted into two German films. The movies went on to become West Germany’s most successful movies in the years that followed the war. In the U.S., von Trapp’s memoir inspired a stage musical, which was later translated into the movie The Sound of Music. But the movie deviated from the book in several ways.

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For example, in the movie, the von Trapp family only start to sing with Maria’s encouragement. In one memorable scene, Andrews’ character teaches the children the major musical scale through the song “Do-Re-Mi.” However, in real life, the family actually practiced music before the trainee nun arrived in their home.

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Moreover, the captain is portrayed as being slightly cold and detached from his children at the beginning of the movie. In reality, he was a warm, loving character who enjoyed making music with his family. His misrepresentation in the film was reportedly distressing for his family.

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In contrast, the real-life Maria, it seems, wasn’t as pleasant as her fictional counterpart. She was actually prone to angry outbursts and known to slam doors and even throw things. Her temper would quickly dissipate, though, and she would soon return to her usual good-humored self.

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So, given that von Trapp was not as sweet as The Sound of Music made out, Andrews may well have been nervous when she came face-to-face with the singer on her show. In order to break the ice, then, the actor decided to ask von Trapp’s opinion of her performance in the film.

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In a clip from that episode, von Trapp replies, “Well, you were absolutely wonderful.” This is clearly music to Andrews’ ears as she smiles brightly. There was, however, a “but.” As a result, she proceeds to critique the actor’s portrayal of her honestly, revealing one specific area in which she could improve.

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Dressed in traditional Austrian clothing, von Trapp asks Andrews to bring to mind her yodeling in the song “The Lonely Goatherd” from the film. She then tells her, “You know, Julie, there is yodeling and yodeling.” Understanding her point, Andrews responds, “And I was only yodeling?”

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Andrews is sympathetic to von Trapp’s concerns, and asks if there’s anything she can do to rectify the situation. It’s then that the one-time novice nun offers to demonstrate, “a tiny, little, genuine Austrian yodel.” And what’s more, she offers to teach the star the singing technique along the way.

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Von Trapp then sings two lines of yodeling before inviting Andrews to join in with the song. The star does so, and soon the pair are harmonizing together like the professionals they are. It is a heartwarming moment in which the two Marias flaunt their talents with an extra helping of family fun.

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Forty years after the iconic moment first aired, the sweet encounter between Andrews and von Trapp found a new audience on YouTube. Since its appearance in 2013, the clip has clocked up over 997,000 views and more than 300 comments. And many of those comment-posters gushed over the on-screen chemistry between the two stars.

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Beneath the clip, one user wrote, “What a marvellous Austrian folk song hummed by Julie and Maria. Both of their voices are great to me.” Meanwhile, another viewer added, “No one could have played Maria von Trapp better than Julie Andrews! She made the film classic, iconic and timeless worldwide!”

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Meanwhile, other users shared stories of their own encounters with the real von Trapp. Charlie Jordan wrote, “I had the pleasure of spending an afternoon visiting Maria Von Trapp at her home in Stowe, Vermont, in July 1968. She was an amazing woman and very strong.”

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Expanding on the story, Jordan continued, “We hiked up a mountain to show me, my mother and sister the gravesite of Baron Von Trapp. I was 15 years old and totally out of breath when we got there. [But von Trapp] made the climb without any problem. I’ll never forget that experience!”

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YouTube user Gabrielle Budd also claimed to have known von Trapp. “Back in the 80s, I lived in Stowe, VT. I had a part-time job with Maria von Trapp in her home as her private cook,” they wrote. “Maria loved her birds and fed them everyday. She had a candle and statue of Jesus and the blessed mother in each room.”

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After recounting some of the meals Budd had made for von Trapp, they added, “She was a good soul and was proud of her accomplishments. She loved her family. I will never forget her, she made a difference in my life. She had a great faith in God… That’s what made her special.”

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Von Trapp passed away at the age of 82 when she developed heart failure following an operation in 1987. She was buried in her family plot with the captain. Five of the von Trapp children are also interred there. At the time of her death, she had called Vermont home for over four decades.

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Despite the success of The Sound of Music, von Trapp received very little payment from the film. However, for her, the movie’s influence was “beyond money.” Talking to The New York Times, von Trapp explained, “There seems to be so much despair in the world. But so many people write about how much the film has helped them in restoring their confidence in God.”

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