My Favourite Things
January 2, 2009 7:40 PM   Subscribe

"When Mr. von Trapp finally returned to take over from his father, Johannes, he had had quite a decade: teaching skiing in Aspen, modeling for Ralph Lauren, surfing in Chile and even making People magazine’s America’s Top 50 Bachelors list in 2001. Recently, he sat in a dark office at the Trapp Family Lodge, the inn his grandmother started, trying to decide what to do with some old curtains..."

- the legacy of the Von Trapp family, made famous (but not rich) by The Sound of Music, now with less singing at the Trapp Family Lodge in Vermont.

Also, the real story of the von Trapp Family at the US National archives.
posted by crossoverman (38 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Thank you for the update about the von Trapp family. I think Maria wrote a biography that was pretty good, it described all the differences between the movie and their real lives.
posted by Melismata at 8:07 PM on January 2, 2009

The Trapp Family Lodge is a wonderful place to vacation. I've been there several times, and, as the NYT article says, it's very light on Sound of Music references. They screen the movie once a week in the little theater in the basement of the main lodge, but they also show a movie (which I've never seen) titled The Real Maria every night.

The food is very good; there's the main lodge dining hall, and another really good restaurant a little ways down the hill, and a fantastic bakery. The piano player, John Cassel, is a class act, and a really great guy. There is a bit of the nostalia-chaser element that shows up, as the article also states, but it's not too bad.

The cross-country skiing and snow-shoeing is nice. The estate owns a lot of land around the lodge, and there are some great trails that run up and down the mountain that the lodge is on. Be sure to go all the way up the mountain to the Slayton Pasture Cabin to get sandwiches and hot chocolate or cider. It's a mellow getaway. Highly recommended. And Stowe is nice, too.
posted by dammitjim at 8:19 PM on January 2, 2009 [3 favorites]

I played Kurt Von Trapp in our junior high production of The Sound of Music. I remember nothing about it, aside from pissing off my stage siblings when I showed up for the cast photo in my curtain togs, rather than the sailor suits they were wearing.

/Lamest rebel EVAR
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:45 PM on January 2, 2009

The thing I thought was kind of sad about this story was how the father spent his whole life bitter about being forced to stay and work in the inn ... and then basically forced his son to come home and work in the inn.
posted by lunasol at 8:48 PM on January 2, 2009

look out! its a trapp!
posted by sexyrobot at 8:56 PM on January 2, 2009 [6 favorites]

posted by sexyrobot at 8:56 PM on January 2, 2009

I made it to the lodge with my family a couple times, and when I was about 5 years old in the early 80's, I got to meet Maria there and have a photo snapped with her. All I really remember was thinking she was a nice old grandmotherly lady, but I would love to have had a chance to meet her now that I'm older and know more about the life she lived. The lodge is maybe not the best type of establishment for some of the family members who would prefer more privacy, but I really respect Maria for making herself as open, accessible, and friendly to visitors as she did after all that they had been through.
posted by p3t3 at 9:01 PM on January 2, 2009

My son just ushered at a sold-out concert down the road, the eve before Christmas Eve, by one of the von Trapp grandchildren who has an active musical career: Elisabeth. She's quite renowned for her singing, at least in these parts.
posted by LeLiLo at 9:02 PM on January 2, 2009

look out! its a trapp!

That was almost the post header. Then I thought about it.
posted by crossoverman at 10:02 PM on January 2, 2009

They're in ....Vermont?

It's so perfect I can't speak

I can only SING!

not the title song, that means nuclear war

posted by The Whelk at 10:18 PM on January 2, 2009

They have a place in Vermont? I wouldn't have guessed.

Speaking of the Von Trapps, their old place here in Salzburg is going to be turned into a Sound of Music-themed hotel soon, which a lot of people here are against- most Salzburgers haven't even seen the movie, anyway.
posted by dunkadunc at 10:33 PM on January 2, 2009

Those poor Von Trapps. It's been like 60 years and they're still trying to solve the problem of Maria.
posted by grounded at 10:44 PM on January 2, 2009 [8 favorites]

In my vast floaty pen collection, one of my favorites is my Sound of Music floaty pen. I believe you can only find it in the Salzburg American Express office, since most people outside of America, the UK, and Australia haven't seen or heard of the movie. Anyhow, my beloved floaty pen has the entire von Trapp family floating back and forth across the Mozart Platz. So awesome!!! Sadly, the art does not feature any Nazis or nuns holding distributor caps.

Anyhow, after buying the pen I remember my friend and I were walking through the gardens where the "Do Re Mi" number was filmed and I started chatting up a sweet old lady to practice my German. She was decked out in fur and an alpine hat, and was telling me how every day since her husband died she went to the park to feed the birds, as though it was her daily job. Suddenly she got this really odd look on her face and said, "Ahhh, you are American. May I ask you a question?" I nodded and I could tell this was a very important question for her so I sat down to listen as she, very slowly, asked me, "Why do Americans always dance around singing the same song?"

I was confused for a moment. I had no idea what she was talking about. But then it suddenly made sense. I realized she had never seen The Sound of Music, had no idea it existed, and had spent years in this park watching tourists dancing on the fountain, re-enacting the whole "Doe a deer" musical number for eachother. Basically, without any context she had just assumed it was how Americans behave wherever they travel.

I explained, but the memory still makes me laugh. The look on her sweet face was so innocent and *totally* confused. I still keep a photo of her on the shelf in my apartment, all decked out in her furs. Loved her!
posted by miss lynnster at 12:16 AM on January 3, 2009 [211 favorites]

Oh, in other words, seconding dunkadunc's comment about Salzburgers...
posted by miss lynnster at 12:17 AM on January 3, 2009

Not so constructive, but my wife's family sold them the parcel that became the lodge. Way back, or so.
posted by Dr. Boom at 12:22 AM on January 3, 2009

One of the Von Trapp daughters lives in a retirement community a few blocks away from my house. These people get everywhere.
posted by Faint of Butt at 5:37 AM on January 3, 2009

I work with "Kurt"; it's always strange when Lonely Goatherd comes up in shuffle, and he's sitting 2 feet away.
posted by nomisxid at 6:03 AM on January 3, 2009 [3 favorites]

Lonely Goatherd comes up in your shuffle? At work? Have you no shame?
posted by crossoverman at 6:34 AM on January 3, 2009 [10 favorites]

I was a front desk clerk at the Lodge in the mid-nineties. We wore absolutely horrid uniforms that were green with large flowers, made by one of the daughters, that were meant to give the impression that we were dressed in drapes. Johannes was not a popular boss, it's not surprising that he's open about his original dislike for the business. And there was still some lingering dissent between the siblings about how he had bought out shares to consolidate ownership of the hotel.

But it's a gorgeous location, and they've done a lot to conserve the land for future generations. I used to live on down the road, and I'd walk the cross country trails to get to work. One morning I hiked to the chapel at dawn and had the most spiritual experience of my life.

I also enjoyed the historical aspect of the family. I was happy to fill the guests in on the children's real names and history. Or peruse the pictures of Maria in a lobby attached to her old room. I really loved her book, The Story of the Trapp Family Singers. In some cases the truth was better than the fiction. The story of how the baron proposed was actually quite funny. Maria was trying to do spring cleaning before returning to the nunnery. The children were pestering her, and she was saying "yes, yes" without listening to the question. And then the Baron came in to say how happy he was that the children had told him she wanted to get married.

It's interesting to read their more nuanced reaction to the takeover of the Nazis. Not quite as simple as tearing down a flag and climbing the Alps the next day. Georg was tempted by the offer of a position in the Navy, and one of the sons had a rising medical career (probably at the expense of Jewish doctors). Maria was also pregnant when they left. But they had friend's who were afraid of their own children because of the Nazi youth movement and propaganda. And Maria was too religious to be accepting of the Anti-Catholic policies.
posted by saffry at 7:32 AM on January 3, 2009 [5 favorites]

I'm not surprised the Von Trapp's didn't get rich off that movie. No one ever gets rich off a best picture winning movie based on their life. Mozart made no money on Amadeus, Ben Hur never saw a cent, and I'm pretty sure that after Crash was done filming Ludacris actually did keep that poor immigrant family that he pretended he wasn't going to sell into slavery in the movie.
posted by Kiablokirk at 7:51 AM on January 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

I stumbled on Maria's memoirs when working in the stacks at the U of IL library in the 70s and was amazed at how interesting the story was, as opposed to the movie. I have always wished that someone would make a straight (non-musical, that is) movie of the Von Trapp story. It's a great story, the personalities are so much more interesting and complex than in the movie, which I've always found intolerably sacharrine.
posted by nax at 8:14 AM on January 3, 2009

it's always strange when Lonely Goatherd comes up in shuffle, and he's sitting 2 feet away.

You know what's even stranger? Wing's singalong version!!!

Might I add... I was there. And it was magical. (Musical? Not so much.)
posted by miss lynnster at 8:32 AM on January 3, 2009

I'm not surprised the Von Trapp's didn't get rich off that movie.

From the National Archive link in the FPP:
"The von Trapps never saw much of the huge profits The Sound of Music made. Maria sold the film rights ['for just $9,000'] to German producers and inadvertently signed away her rights in the process. The resulting films, Die Trapp-Familie (1956), and a sequel, Die Trapp-Familie in Amerika (1958), were quite successful. The American rights were bought from the German producers. The family had very little input in either the play or the movie The Sound of Music. As a courtesy, the producers of the play listened to some of Maria's suggestions, but no substantive contributions were accepted."
posted by ericb at 8:42 AM on January 3, 2009

I remember reading somewhere that Maria was none too fond of the movie the first time she saw it, and that she felt Mary Martin had done a better job portraying her on Broadway than Julie Andrews did in the film. I read The Story of the von Trapp Family Singers dozens of times when I was younger - I loved that it continued to tell the story of the family after they arrived in the U.S.

I also remember reading somewhere that the house they lived in in the Germantown section of Philadelphia was the same one that Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner were later married in.

The movie may have taken insane liberties with their story, but they are still a fascinating family.
posted by chihiro at 8:59 AM on January 3, 2009

My Austrian best friend (we were pen pals at 14, best of friends now) first heard of the movie when she was working as an au pair in Philadelphia in the late 80s. The family she worked for excitedly rented the film so she could see it. Her official review of The Sound of Music is, "I was homesick at the time and it felt really good to see Austria. But the movie itself sucked."

Basically, she thought it was horrifically cheesy but enjoyed seeing alps and people wearing lederhosen. But hey, who doesn't!!! Tra la la la!

(Actually, my favorite is probably this one solely because seeing the mother on the electric guitar and the daughter on a drum kit in the middle of a field makes me laugh. They're trying so hard to be modern... and yet...)
posted by miss lynnster at 11:00 AM on January 3, 2009

I studied in Salzburg, and I swore up and down I would NEVER give in to the cheesiness of, say, the Sound of Music tour, etc... now I wish I had.

Lesson learned: always do cheesy stuff because someday you'll wish you hadn't been so emo about everything. This is why we are going rollerskating for my thirty-f*coughcough* birthday this week.
posted by at 3:05 PM on January 3, 2009 [6 favorites]

Psssst, miss lynster, it's just a shtik. Think cheesy Nashville country music or something similar. It is a really big business, with music shows on prime time tv that suck your brains out like nothing else. The fake smiles, the fake friends and chumminess, the fake family values.... the bullys (you'll never work in this industry again). It's heartbreaking.

(And I really, really, really hate Lederhosen. My mother made me wear them sometimes when I was little even though we live way north of the alps. Woolen knee socks ITCH! Arrrrrgh, the pain. )
posted by mmkhd at 3:43 PM on January 3, 2009

Maria's autobiography was one of the first adult books I read as a kid, and I was really struck by how difficult their lives were, and how their story couldn't be more different than the sugarcoated movie. (And yeah, I like the musical/movie, too.)
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 6:06 PM on January 3, 2009

tourists dancing on the fountain

I never thought the entire movie was filmed anywhere other than on a studio lot! I've been singing do-re-mi on low barriers and the edges of fountains for years and now I feel compelled to seek out this park and do it For Real.
posted by DU at 6:44 PM on January 3, 2009

Well, just go to Salzburg and voila. Or better yet, cheaper than a plane ticket, here's a panorama of Mirabell Gardens... you can pretend you're dancing while scrolling around!!!
(see 4:00 in movie clip)
posted by miss lynnster at 8:57 PM on January 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Psst, mmkhd... I know. But it still makes me laugh, especially because it's fun to tease my Austrian friend... she haaaaates that stuff.
posted by miss lynnster at 9:00 PM on January 3, 2009

Oh hey, I used to go to brunch at the Trapp Family Lodge when I was a kid. Nice place.
posted by flipyourwig at 10:14 PM on January 3, 2009

Salzburg. LOL! I happened to visit the town, but with no idea that the Sound of Music was filmed there. I finally asked someone (another American). ::yawn:: I've never seen the film, but the music was inescapable, mores the pity. I think it is likely I learned every song (but I try, real hard, to loose any links to those songs, to avoid their popping up, thankyouverymuch).
posted by Goofyy at 9:31 AM on January 4, 2009

I went to a Sound of Music singalong in London. It was amazing. There was a costume contest and everything. Photos - mainly of nuns and nazis.
posted by k8t at 5:39 PM on January 4, 2009

I am surprised that the Sound Of Music isn't popular in Germany and Austria, considering it's the flower of about 200 years of German Romanticism.
posted by The Whelk at 6:33 PM on January 4, 2009

While I loved the movie as a kid, after reading this thread, I've come to the conclusion that it sucked in reality. Here's why:- I had no idea that the Van Trapp family was supposed to be a family of professional singers, and that, the guy with the thin moustache was their _agent_. I always thought it was some elaborate plot for the captain to not serve in the evil Nazi army or something. In fact, now that I think about it, that's a massive plot-hole in there, given that Switzerland was perhaps merely _neutral_ and not entirely a refuge for deserters.

Hmmmm. Another childhood memory bites the dust.
posted by the cydonian at 9:10 PM on January 4, 2009

I am surprised that the Sound Of Music isn't popular in Germany and Austria, considering it's the flower of about 200 years of German Romanticism.

Actually, this is the chick flick that the Austrian women I know turn to for their nationalistic romance needs. Yup, Austria really lurrrves their Sisi. Especially this portrait. She's kinda like Austria's Princess Diana... before there was a Princess Diana.*

Ahhh, if only she had a cheesy theme song too! Oh, WAIT.

*Like Princess Diana, she's a flawed human being who in death is perpetually frozen in time as a rebellious romantic figure... young, beautiful, privileged, fiercely independent and an innocent victim of murder. In truth she's said to have been a manic depressive hypochondriac who hated being a Habsburg (she preferred Hungary), and abandoned her children in favor of traveling the world in order to behave as she wished and avoid royal duties (during an era where women didn't disobey rules). When her son committed suicide she embraced her mourning (although rumors are she was self-conscious of aging and used his death as an excuse to avoid the public), and at 61 was stabbed in the heart by an assassin who just wanted to "kill a royal." He didn't care who he killed. Soooooo, she became hotly romantic after that. The twentieth century LOVED her.
posted by miss lynnster at 9:41 PM on January 4, 2009 [5 favorites]

Wait wait wait, do you mean to tell me that the Sound of Music was based on real people?
posted by joedan at 9:42 PM on January 4, 2009

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