Sunday, April 19, 2015

Book Review: The Sound of Music FAQ

As a longtime dedicated fan of THE SOUND OF MUSIC (1965), it takes more than a bit for a new book on the subject to impress me.

THE SOUND OF MUSIC FAQ by Barry Monush did just that. It truly is, as the subtitle says, "All that's left to know about Maria, the Von Trapps, and our favorite things."

I previously reviewed Monush's 2010 book on WEST SIDE STORY (1961), and I liked this one, timed to coincide with THE SOUND OF MUSIC's 50th anniversary, even better.

THE SOUND OF MUSIC FAQ, like THE SOUND OF MUSIC FAMILY SCRAPBOOK before it, is a "must own" for SOUND OF MUSIC fans. It exhaustively details an amazing variety of SOUND OF MUSIC factoids, while at the same time it's written in an engaging fashion so that it's not simply a "book of lists."

One of the most interesting chapters, for instance, breaks down how Maria's autobiography influenced the musical, and another chapter chronicles the history of the movies DIE TRAPP-FAMILIE (1956) and DIE TRAPP-FAMILIE IN AMERIKA (1958), West German productions I've always wanted to see.

Want to know which extras appear on which DVD editions? It's all laid out in the chapter "Bringing Home THE SOUND OF MUSIC: Video, Laserdisc, DVD, and Blu-ray." For someone such as myself who owns more editions of the movie than I probably want to admit (grin), it's been a most helpful chapter as I decide whether to buy the movie's 50th Anniversary Ultimate Collector's Edition on Blu-ray.

Another chapter chronicles the history of the movie soundtrack, including a listing of the original LP tracks and the album's chart history; the book goes on to describe theatrical cast albums. An additional 45 pages or so is devoted to a history of recordings of the show's music by varied artists.

"THE SOUND OF MUSIC on Television" chronicles the movie's broadcast history, including NBC's memorably awful hacking of half an hour out of the movie, resulting in a jumpy print that played more like "Highlights from THE SOUND OF MUSIC." As I remember all too well, NBC even edited verses and instrumental passages out of the middle of musical numbers! Air dates, ratings, and a description of the competition airing on other networks during the original broadcast evenings are included as well.

One of my favorite chapters, "THE SOUND on the Page," chronicles the history of books on the topic, ranging from Maria Von Trapp's own works to William Anderon's great THE WORLD OF THE TRAPP FAMILY to memoirs by everyone from Saul Chaplin to Charmian Carr to Anna Lee and more. Monush gives the reader an idea of how much of each book is devoted to the film, ranging from entire books to just a few pages, and gives a flavor of what the author had to say.

Additional chapter topics include changes from play to film, the movie's location schedule, roadshow exhibition schedule, and awards, what the cast has done since making the film, and a look at some additional productions, including the recent live TV version of the play starring Carrie Underwood. In a word, the book is exhaustive, and a real treasure for those who love the film, providing both interesting reading and a "go to" reference book which will be useful for years to come.

THE SOUND OF MUSIC FAQ is a heavy softcover book which runs 488 pages, including index and bibliography. It's illustrated with well-chosen, often unique photos printed directly on the page; the photos include an interesting variety of ads, album covers, and theatrical programs as well as production and publicity stills from the movie.

This book is most highly recommended for fans of THE SOUND OF MUSIC.

Thanks to Hal Leonard Corporation for providing a review copy of this book.


Blogger Barb the Evil Genius said...

I've read Maria von Trapp's autobiography, and it's interesting how different she was from the movie Maria. Both were stubborn, but the real Maria was not the sweet, openly loving one of the film. von Trapp also admits in her autobiography that she naively signed away the rights to The Sound of Music for a ridiculously low payment.

12:21 PM  
Blogger Elisabeth Grace Foley said...

If you're interested in seeing Die Trapp-Familie, there's currently an English-subtitled version in parts on YouTube—here's part one. I got to see it some years back and enjoyed it—you can see from some familiar-feeling scenes why The Sound of Music gave a "with the partial use of ideas by" credit to screenwriter Georg Hurdalek.

1:23 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Barb, so nice to hear from you! Hope you are well. I read all of Maria Von Trapp's books when growing up and found them a very interesting contrast -- rather like the contrast of another Julie Andrews character, Mary Poppins, with the original books!

Elisabeth, thank you *very* much for the link, I am bookmarking it and hope to check it out. I appreciate that immensely.

Best wishes,

6:25 PM  

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