My current Top 5

My current Top 5


Best Actress 1965: Julie Andrews in "The Sound of Music"

I have to admit that I don’t really care for The Sound of Music which is surprising since I usually love every musical. But something about this movie simply puts me off and so I want to apologize to all its fans right now for my view on the movie.

Right now I can say that, whatever problems I may have with the movie itself, Julie Andrews is not to blame. While the role of Maria is certainly not written by Shakespeare, Julie lifts the material and gives a warm, humorous and touching performance that helps to keep the movie going.

While I think that her role in Mary Poppins was more interesting from an observing point of view, the role of Maria gives Julie Andrews much more to do. For some reason, I also prefer her vocal work in The Sound of Music even though I prefer the songs from Mary Poppins. Julie’s voice fits perfectly to all the tunes and she is able to make them memorable and catchy. Her pure, angel-like voice also helps to distract from the horrible execution of the musical sequences itself: “Do-Re-Mi” is a nice song but one always has to be scared of hurting ones eyes from looking at the children’s cloths; “Something Good” is incredibly boring and “My Favorite Things” is a woman jumping around in her bed with 7 annoying children and even gives us lyrics like “Schnitzel with noodles” which, I can assure you, is a combination that nobody eats. But still, Julie Andrews is always able to make all this bearable and even entertaining.

The smartest decision of Julie Andrews was to play her part as straight forward as possible. The Sound of Music is a movie musical without any hint of irony but instead plays it all as serious as possible and by that seems too self-important. It is thanks to Julie Andrews (and Christopher Plummer, to some extent) that the whole thing still works because she plays even the most silly scenes, like when Maria is going to the van Trapps and clumsily waves her hands or falls over her baggage, as serious as possible, as if it is the most natural thing in the world. While I think that Maria is a rather annoying character in the beginning, Julie Andrews certainly does the most with it. She handles the mix of comedy and drama quite well and like she brings new life into the van Trapp household, she also keeps the whole movie alive. The whole storyline is so sugarcoated and sweetish that it’s hard to stop my eyes from constantly rolling but Julie is magically able to be believable in an unbelievable part.

Even though she doesn’t give the best performance of the movie (that honor goes to Eleanor Parker who also gets a bonus for wanting to send the children to a boarding school), she still gives the most important one and carries the production on her shoulders.

Because she takes the character of Maria so seriously, she also succeeds in the later, more dramatic parts of the movie. When she realizes that she is in love with the Captain and listens to her Mother Superior, Julie shows all the confusion wonderfully on her face. Even though Maria is a rather clumsy woman at the beginning who talks too much and too openly, Julie also shows that she is neither stupid nor naïve. Wanting to be a nun and so being able to spend a lot of time thinking, Maria is very well aware of her own faults and mistakes but she doesn’t seem to be able to stop them. She knows that she shouldn’t talk to the Captain so openly and fresh, but she keeps doing it because she believes, she knows that she is right. But she never appears rude or unpleasant, instead Julie Andrews’s natural charm and charisma make Maria a very loveable woman and it’s not hard to believe that the Captain would fall in love with her.

Julie Andrews’s Maria is a nanny, a love interest and a new mother to the children. And Julie shows all these aspects without ever losing the core of Maria which is hope, optimism and encouragement.

Julie Andrews is able to make even the most cringe-worthy moments of the movie believable and she wonderfully balances the cheesiness of the script and the character with a more serious approach to the material. Whenever Christopher Plummer opens his mouth and starts to sing, I can’t help but laughing, especially because “Edelweiss” is such a dreadful song and even the serious moment when he is singing the song on stage and has to stop because he is so moved is not very effective for me. But the way Julie Andrews looks at him, with so much concern, understanding and love and the way she gracefully moves to his side to support him, is a really great moment.

The real talent of Julie Andrews, which she also showed in Mary Poppins even though the role was less challenging, is to take cheesy, underdeveloped material and turn it into something much deeper and more mature than expected.

But even though I don’t want to overrate her performance. Julie Andrews gives a performance that is better than her movie but at the same time she is not able to lift her movie to a higher level. Despite her lovely presence and thought-out performance, The Sound of Music remains a thin, artificial and shallow experience. Not even Julie Andrews can change that. And I also don’t want to overrate her because the character of Maria is certainly not the deepest or richest or most interesting part ever written.

Still, Julie Andrews succeeds in her own way and for this, she gets


joe burns said...

Oh, this is an easy five for me! But at least you liked it and gave it four stars!

Fritz said...

Mmh, I would say, I respect her performance more than actually like it...but she was good enough for 4 Luises.

Anonymous said...

I LOVE this women. Marry Poppins is first best actress winning performance i saw (obviously i was unaware at the time). Yes she is definition of grace, but an outstanding actress too! And honestly i cant figure out who's Julie Andrews of today. Ah, they don't make 'em like her anymore...