You probably don’t need me to tell you that Christopher Plummer, who played Captain Von Trapp, has died at the age of 91. If you’ve been reading this blog for some time, you probably don’t need me to tell you what an obsessive Sound of Music fan I am. I know he played other parts. In fact, we watched “Knives Out” just after Christmas. But for us obsessives, there is only one defining role.
And that’s why I’m choosing to celebrate his long life with ten moments from just one film. Captain Von Trapp, here are your best bits:
1. Dressed Up Putdowns
I mean, here is a man who looks doch schön in a dress uniform and has the medals to show off with. And although I love his “rather warm” Laendler with Maria in this outfit, my absolute favourite bit of this scene has to be the stinging putdown he delivers to Herr Zeller, soon to be the Gauleiter of the geAnschlusst Österreich:
Herr Zeller: Perhaps those who would warn you that the Anschluss is coming – and it is coming, Captain – perhaps they would get further with you by setting their words to music.
Captain von Trapp: If the Nazis take over Austria, I have no doubt, Herr Zeller, that you will be the entire trumpet section.
Herr Zeller: You flatter me, Captain.
Captain von Trapp: Oh, how clumsy of me – I meant to accuse you.
How clumsy indeed…!
2. Oh Yes You Are, Captain
I nearly used this whole quote as my blog post header but thought anyone who didn’t know the script off by heart might consider it ridiculously insensitive. Still, here’s the context – Georg and Maria are having a blazing row about the children running around Salzburg in their playclothes. And Georg momentarily loses his cool:
Captain von Trapp: I don’t care to hear anything further from you about my children.
Maria: I am not finished yet, Captain!
Captain von Trapp: Oh, yes, you are, Captain!
[pauses, then corrects himself]
Captain von Trapp: Fraulein!
3. A Deplorable Lack of Curiousity
Whereas in this scene, he retains his cool throughout…even in the face of mortal danger and the malice of Herr Zeller, who is definitely up for Round Zwei of that trumpet section argument.
Herr Zeller: I’ve not asked you where you and your family are going. Nor have you asked me why I am here.
Captain von Trapp: Well, apparently, we’re both suffering from a deplorable lack of curiosity.
You’d be surprised how often I use the phrase “deplorable lack of curiosity”. Actually, you won’t be.
4. Boots and Guitars – My Favourite Things
Now, if you know me even a little you might know that boots and guitars are indeed among my favourite things. And here is CvT modelling both in one scene! Why don’t men wear riding boots any more? I mean, I’m sure Nathan would if they were readily available. He very nearly bought a Captain Von Trapp style jacket when we were in Salzburg. And talking of that trip to Salzburg, I am so pleased that I got to sing Edelweiss..not on the same stage as Georg did but on the stage next door. I don’t know if we’ll ever leave the country/city/borough/house again but, if we do, Salzburg is on our list of places to go back to.
I also love the look on Georg’s face through the whole festival sequence. He wasn’t meant to be part of the singing group, he didn’t attend rehearsals…and you can really tell. Unlike Maria who, naturally, pulls off a festival-winning performance with no warning at all.
5. I Fell in Love With You the First Time You Blew That Silly Whistle
The first scene between the Captain and Maria is just jam-packed with great lines, from the moment he catches her curtsying to herself to the moment he blows that silly whistle for the first time. Most of the zingers in it belong to Maria (“The poor didn’t want this one”) but this whole exchange is just classic:
Captain von Trapp: Now, when I want you, this is what you will hear.
Maria: Oh, no, sir. I’m sorry, sir. I could never answer to a whistle. Whistles are for dogs and cats and other animals, but not for children and definitely not for me. It would be too… humiliating.
Captain von Trapp: Fraulein, were you this much trouble at the Abbey?
Maria: Oh, much more, sir.
Captain von Trapp: Hmm.
[starts walking away. Maria blows her whistle & he turns around]
Maria: Excuse me, sir. I don’t know your signal
Captain von Trapp: You may call me Captain.
6. Who Should We Hear From Next?
So yeah, Christopher Plummer didn’t record his own vocals. So yeah, Christopher Plummer fancied the pants off the person playing his daughter. Neither of these things detract from the magic of this scene. Only one thing could have truly ruined this song and that would be if the Baroness had indeed brought along her harmonica.
7. You’re Just a Boy, Rolf
Nothing emphasises what a man CvT is more than the contrast with Rolf who is, as we all know, just a boy. He steps in front of the gun, allowing his wife and children to run to safety and disarms his with a set of skills that Liam Neeson would be proud of. If only he hadn’t pushed it that tiny bit too far…
8. To Join Them, Unthinkable
Why was he standing in front of that gun? Because he was an anti-Nazi. Not just a get-along-with-everybody Uncle Max type but a proper 30s antifa. And while it should go without saying that most people are naturally anti-Nazi…well, after all the far-right antics of the last few years, it’s not so much of a given any more. But CvT rips up a Swastika flag. there is no ambiguity about the politics of this guy.
9. Dinner Time is Not to Be Disturbed
Now that he’s retired from Sea Captaincy, I have no idea what Georg gets up to all day in that big house. No wonder he needs Max to move in and entertain him. And equally little wonder that dinnertime is so important to him. It isn’t like there’s much else in the Von Trapp Schedule. Dinner gets two prime CvT moments, which showcase both sides of his parenting style. The “wonderful new world of… indigestion” scene near the beginning is the more Trad Trapp, trying to reign in the madness Maria has brought to his well ordered table. But by the time the second scene comes round, he’s relaxed a bit. He’s got a plan to offload all these kids onto their new mother and she’s got a plan to offload them all onto boarding school. So he figures it’s time to mess with them a bit. Like any parent, he can instantly see through all that Stiershizz they’re giving him about blueberries and he lets them spin themselves into a merry web before instructing Cook to cancel their dinner. And then walks off, smirking to himself.
10. You Brought Music Back Into the House
Oh gosh, I’m not sure I can even write about this bit. I have a rule that when emotionally stunted men get emotional, so do I. Giles, Toby Ziegler, Dr Cox…and, of course, Captain Von Trapp. I cry every single time I watch this. I’m crying just looking at that photo. Don’t get hung up on the logistics of quite how a 5-year-old can get changed that quickly and just enjoy the sight of a man’s cold heart visibly melting. Waaaahhhhh
Thank you Christopher Plummer for one iconic performance. I know you hated it at the time and drank your way through it but even you softened to it in your later years.
So long, farewell, goodbye, Auf Wiedersehen. I’ll like to stay and taste my first champagne. Yes?