The Sound of Music: The Last Drop of Golden Sun | Patrick Coffin | CWR
“Only grown-up men are scared of women.”
The Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The Sound of Music marked the culmination of creativity by the teams that wrote Oklahoma!, Carousel, South Pacific, and The King and I. It also marked the end of an era. In a sense, it was released at the pre-dawn of the Sixties—not the numeric decade we call the “1960s,” but the cultural one, the Age of Aquarius, LSD, Woodstock and the Kent State shootings.
The musical was already a smash hit on Broadway and London’s West End years before director Robert Wise agreed to helm the big screen version. It was shot in 1964 on sound stages in Century City, California, and on location in and around Salzburg, Austria. The musical on which it is based was the last project by Oscar Hammerstein II who, after a career of co-writing an astounding 850 songs, died of cancer shortly after the show’s 1959 Broadway debut. His last creation was the ballad “Edelweis”.
The first half of the (numeric) 1960s was marked by relative stability and what might be called American cultural gentility. The assassination in 1963 of President John Kennedy was a world-rocking exception to the rule, providing as it did a kind of dark prophecy of the social vicissitudes that would roil the country in the decade to come.
Movie content provides a lens through which to see the shift from communitarian concord to anti-authoritarian animus—not that all traditions and authorities were respected before 1965 and not that the post-1965 world had no gentility. And by movie content I don’t just mean what the movies “are about.” I mean what they presuppose and how they were critically rewarded as artifacts of show business. Here’s a snapshot of the movies that won Academy Awards for Best Film in the 1960s, before and after The Sound of Music: