SUBJECTS — Drama/Musicals; World/WWII & Austria;

SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL LEARNING — Parenting; Romantic Relationships;

MORAL-ETHICAL EMPHASIS — Trustworthiness; Caring.

AGE: 6+; No MPAA Rating;

Musical; 1965; 174 minutes; Color. Available from

Print Friendly, PDF & Email



This is the film version of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s classic musical based upon the true story of the singing von Trapp family of Austria and their flight from the Nazis just before World War II.


Selected Awards: 1965 Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director (Wise), Best Adapted Score, Best Film Editing, Best Sound; 1965 Directors Guild of America Awards: Best Director (Wise); 1966 Golden Globe Awards: Best Actress-Musical/Comedy (Andrews), Best Film-Musical/ Comedy; 1965 National Board of Review Awards: Ten Best Films of the Year; 1965 Academy Awards Nominations: Best Actress (Andrews), Best Supporting Actress (Wood), Best Art Direction/Set Decoration (color), Best Color Cinematography, Best Costume Design (color). This film is ranked #55 on the American Film Institute’s List of the 100 Greatest American Movies of All Time (2006). It is ranked #4 on the American Film Institute’s List of the 25 Great Movie Musicals. This film is listed in the National Film Registry of the U.S. Library of Congress as a “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant” film.

Featured Actors: Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer, Eleanor Parker, Peggy Wood, Charmian Carr.

Director: Robert Wise.


This wonderful musical is a classic work of popular art. Featured songs include: “Climb Every Mountain,” “I Have Confidence In Me,” “Something Good,” “The Sound of Music,” “16 Going on 17,” and “My Favorite Things.” It also provides background to the peaceful German annexation of Austria just before World War II. It shows some of the tactics used by the Nazis to intimidate those who were reluctant to follow their lead. The movie also demonstrates how love can transform a dysfunctional family.




If your children are very young, ages 6 – 8, just enjoy the film and the music. For children, 9 – 11 describe the Nazis briefly and their takeover of Austria. See the Helpful Background section. For children 12 – 15 ask and help them to answer the Quick Discussion Question. For children interested in knowing how things work, describe thunder and lightning. See the Thunder and Lightning in the Helpful Background section.



The story told in the musical is true, differing from the real story only in a few details, e.g., the family escaped in two automobiles and not on foot. The Von Trapps did not return to Austria after WWII, but settled in the United States. They arrived in New York with only $4 in their pockets. At first they made their living as touring musicians. After fourteen years they established a music camp in Vermont, naming it “Little Austria.” The Baron, who had been a decorated submarine commander in the First World War, died in 1947. Maria Von Trapp lived until 1987, reaching the age of 82. Maria Von Trapp’s only complaint about the musical was that it portrayed her as a “goody-goody.”

On March 12, 1938, Nazi troops peacefully entered Austria to effect the union of Austria and Germany. This was called the “Anschluss”. Germany and its friends in Austria claimed that there was a common Austro-German language and culture and that Austria should be a part of the Third Reich. As shown in the movie, the few Austrians who opposed the Anschluss were drowned out in a chorus of “Heil Hitlers.”

Most Austrians have never seen this film and the story of the Von Trapp family is not well known in that country. “Edelweiss” is not a particularly popular song in Austria. It is not a kind of folk national anthem as implied by this film. This movie is meaningful primarily to audiences in the U.S.


The tops of clouds carry a positive electric charge but the bottoms of clouds are negatively charged, as is the Earth. The cloud sparks as a lightning bolt when the difference in the charges is great enough. About 65% of the occurrences of lightning are in a single cloud or from one cloud to another. Only about 35% of lightning bolts hit the earth. The speed of lightning can vary, but it is usually about 90 miles per second (143 KM per second). A lightning bolt has an inner core of about one inch consisting of the electrical charge and an outer core which consists of glowing ionized particles. When the electrical charge hits the ground, a counterstroke goes back up through the same route to the cloud. This is so rapid that we can’t see it.

Lightning is hot: about 30,000 degrees Fahrenheit or 16,700 degrees Celsius. It heats the surrounding air which then expands at supersonic speed. A sonic boom (thunder) is produced as the air moving away from the lightning breaks the sound barrier. The light from a lightning bolt travels at the speed of light. Thunder travels at the speed of sound which is much slower. If you are far away from a lightning strike, you will see the lightning several seconds before you hear the thunder. You can determine approximately how far you are from the lightning strike by counting the seconds between the lightning flash and the thunder and then dividing by five for the distance in miles, or by three for the distance in kilometers.


The telegraph was the first practical method of sending information electronically. It came into common use in the first half of the 19th century. It has only recently been replaced by teletype, facsimile, and next day delivery services. Even after the telephone came into widespread use, messages that were important were sent by telegraph. The company that obtained a monopoly on telegraph service in the United States was called Western Union. In a telegram, the word “stop” would be used to indicate the end of a sentence.



Should Captain von Trapp have stayed in Austria and resisted the Nazi takeover of his country or did he do the right thing in fleeing to the United States?

Suggested Response:

There is no one right answer to this question. The Nazis probably would have killed him and his family, but if enough people had stood up to the Nazis, Germany would not have been able to absorb Austria into the Third Reich. In the end, it is an issue of tactics.


1. See Discussion Questions for Use With any Film that is a Work of Fiction.

2. Describe how lightning makes thunder.

3. Why do you see the lightning before you hear the thunder?

4. Why wasn’t Maria able to conform to the rules of the convent?

5. Why did the Mother Superior think that Maria should try life outside of the convent?

6. In the film, what was the significance of the song “Edelweiss?”



1. How was Captain von Trapp as a parent before Maria’s influence took hold in the family?

2. Can you say whether caring or discipline is more important in raising a child? Are they mutually exclusive?

3. Von Trapp was a strict disciplinarian as a father. Did this mean his children thought that he didn’t love them? [Note that the word “discipline” comes from the Latin word, “disciplina” which means “instruction, knowledge”.]


4. As shown by this film what did Maria see in Von Trapp and what did he see in her? Is this usually enough to sustain a long term relationship?


Discussion Questions Relating to Ethical Issues will facilitate the use of this film to teach ethical principles and critical viewing. Additional questions are set out below.


(Be honest; Don’t deceive, cheat or steal; Be reliable — do what you say you’ll do; Have the courage to do the right thing; Build a good reputation; Be loyal — stand by your family, friends, and country)

See Quick Discussion Question.


(Be kind; Be compassionate and show you care; Express gratitude; Forgive others; Help people in need)

See questions in the “Parenting” section above.


If your child is musically inclined, get the score from the local library or music store and encourage him or her to play some of the music. If someone can play the piano, get the family together and sing some of the songs.

  • Do re mi fa so la ti do – are the words used to denote the various tones of the diatonic scale in music.



convent, moon beam, mother superior, doe, re, Anschluss, wiener schnitzel.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email