The Movie

The Making of

Location scouting in Salzburg began in 1963 and filming on location started in early spring of 1964.

Robert Wise had planned to spend six weeks shooting on location as the flights and the housing for over 250 crew members, technicians, camera men, stage hands, architects and actors were extremely expensive and there were even more technicians coming from Munich, Germany. The schedules were quite tight. The only thing that could not be planned was weather, and as Salzburg is famous for its rain, the six weeks turned out to be eleven.

During location scouting the settings had been chosen: Frohnburg Castle, a 17th century castle on the outskirts of the city, for the front courtyard. Today, the castle houses students of the Mozarteum Music Academy. Leopoldskron Castle was chosen for the setting on the lake with the garden and the terrace leading down to the water. This castle belongs to the Salzburg Seminar and is used for international seminars and conferences.

When the weather was bad the crew could shoot in covered sets. One was St. Margarethen Chapel (e.g. for the beginning scene when the nuns pray) and the other were studios in nearby Parsch.

One of the first scenes that could be shot on location was the wedding scene at Mondsee. That was on April 23rd. Nearly all exterior scenes could be shot on location, although the rain kept returning. There were just a few that could not be shot on location and these were rebuilt in the studios: "Sixteen going on Seventeen" and "Something Good". The interior of the gazebo was difficult to film as sunlight came in from different angles. And, for the other effects like rain and lightning it was less expensive to film in the studios.

One of the most complicated shootings was the family`s appearance in the Rock Riding School. There were a thousand extras sitting in the audience in summer clothes, though it was just a bit above zero. The lighting of the arches turned out to be difficult. Lights and generators from all over Europe had to be ordered.

The opening scene that became one of the most famous in film history was filmed on a mountain about 10 kilometers into Bavaria. The scene was shot from a helicopter and had to be perfectly timed, so one of the crew members hid in the bushes with a megaphone and yelled "Go, Julie" when the helicopter was in the right position. Julie Andrews had great difficulty standing upright because of the jet helicopter´s strong downward drafts. After ten takes she got really angry! The filming up there was strenuous for the crew members. Apart from the weather playing tricks on them, there were no toilets for miles and sometimes it was just freezing.

The Sound of Music owes this sweeping opening shot to the cameraman Paul Beeson. He felt that the only way the shot could be made without casting shadows was to have the camera operator hanging on the outside of the helicopter, secured only by straps. Paul Beeson's camera operator refused on saftey grounds as holding a heavy and cumbersome camera and hanging out of a helicopter sounded too dangerous to him. No one else stepped up to fill the cameraman's position, so Paul did it himself - entirely unprepared, dressed in a jacket and tie and with a fear of heights! But Paul was so dedicated to get the perfect shot he went ahead anyway.

On Friday, July 3rd, after having shot the last part of "The hills are Alive" Wise returned home with the crew and on July 6th, they started the indoor shooting in the studios. The movie was released on March 2nd, 1965 at the Rivoli Theatre in New York. All the movie theaters in America were sold out for weeks: sobbing could be heard every time Christopher Plummer stood on the stage of the Festival Hall to sing "Edelweiss", 16 was a wonderful age to be; and, learning to sing was as easy as "Do Re Mi". Salzburg suddenly became the city of The Sound of Music.

For the children, Salzburg was quite an adventure. During their free time, their teacher, Jean Seaman, showed them the sights and taught them German. The attraction they liked most were the trick water fountains at Hellbrunn Palace, where they laughed a lot getting wet from unexpected angles.

Kym Karath has some frightening memories of the shooting. During the canoe scene the children had to fall out of the boat. Karath could not swim. Julie Andrews was supposed to catch her, but what went well in the first take, went wrong in the second one: Julie went off the wrong side of the boat and Alan Callow had to jump in to save the little star.

During the shooting another problem arose: the children were growing, some more than the others. Charmian Carr, who played "Liesl" did not, so to keep up the continuity she had to stand on an apple box in the end. In her free time, she worked of a documentary of the filming of The Sound of Music which was used as a trailer in the theatres before the release of the film.

And, then there was the baby teeth problem! Debbie Turner lost some of her teeth during the shooting and they had to be replaced which caused her troubles with the singing. One day, Richard Haydn dropped his dentures into the toilet without having a second pair with him.

Photos © Erich Lessing and Leica Gallery

Want to see more?

Experience Sound of Music

Book your tour now


Check out our tours for fans of "The Sound of Music" in Salzburg: Original Sound of Music Tour, Sound of Music Tour with Schnitzel & Noodles, Sound of Music Private Tours, Sound of Music Special Package, Sound of Music at Schloss Leopoldskron Package and many more.