Study Guide

The Sound of Music Cast

  • Maria (Julie Andrews)

    How do you solve a problem like Maria?

    Easy. Just hire Julie Andrews to play her.

    After the film's release, when a lot of high-profile film critics were busy hating, they still agreed that Julie Andrews' energetic performance kept the film from sinking into a miserable, sentimental muck.

    Maria is one of the most memorable characters in musical-film history—a joyful, playful, optimistic person who's had some sadness in her life, but whose love of music and nature buoys her along. She tells us all about herself in the opening scene:

    MARIA: The hills fill my heart with the sound of music.
    My heart wants to sing every song it hears.
    […] I go to the hills when my heart is lonely.
    I know I will hear what I've heard before.
    My heart will be blessed with the sound of music
    And I'll sing once more.

    Singing seems like a spiritual experience for her. We soon find out why.

    Problem Child

    While Maria's been filling us with the sound of music in that opening scene, she's really playing hooky. She's supposed to be back at the abbey for Vespers prayers.

    The abbey?

    Yep—our happy, tuneful nature lover is also a novice nun at an abbey in Salzburg. So now we know she's really sweet and virtuous. She's totally devoted to God. But there's a catch: She can't seem to keep her focus on becoming a nun. She sings (not allowed in the abbey), she wanders, and she's late for everything. Her presence in the abbey is starting to be a little…disruptive.

    NUN #1: When I'm with her I'm confused, out of focus and bemused
    And I never know exactly where I am.

    NUN #2: Unpredictable as weather. She's as flighty as a feather.

    NUN #4: She's a darling.

    NUN #3: She's a demon.

    NUN #4: She's a lamb.

    NUN #1: She'll out-pester any pest, drive a hornet from its nest.

    NUN #2: She can throw a whirling dervish out of whirl!

    The nuns love Maria but don't know what to do with her… except sing about it.

    NUNS: She climbs a tree and scrapes her knee.
    Her dress has got a tear.
    She waltzes on her way to Mass and whistles on the stair.
    And underneath her wimple she has curlers in her hair.
    I've even heard her singing in the abbey!
    […] How do you solve a problem like Maria?
    How do you catch a cloud and pin it down?
    […] How do you keep a wave upon the sand?

    Maria knows her faults more than anyone. She knows she's flighty and can't stop singing and speaking her mind. She tells the Reverend Mother how awful she feels about it.

    MARIA: You know how Sister Berthe makes me kiss the floor after a disagreement? Lately, I kiss the floor when I see her coming to save time!

    Reverend Mother adores Maria, but thinks she might not be suited to the contemplative life; her mind just won't sit still. Not wanting Maria to make a seriously bad career move, she suggests that maybe the abbey isn't the right place for Maria just now. Her energy and lively nature might be a better fit somewhere else.

    Maria balks, but when the Reverend Mother describes it as the "will of God" that Maria leave, how can she refuse? Maria's even less thrilled when she hears that the Reverend Mother is sending her to be a governess for a widower with seven children. But God's will, etc. She reassures herself that "Whenever God closes a door, somewhere He opens a window."

    Nobody Solves a Problem Like Maria

    Maria's a super positive person, so she decides to take on her new assignment with the von Trapps with a "can do" attitude. It works, but not without a few bumps early on. The captain can't even stand the sight of her at first. He doesn't like her clothes. Maria doesn't seem too self-conscious, though; she's got a good reason:

    CAPTAIN VON TRAPP: Put on another dress before meeting the children.

    MARIA: But I don't have another. When we enter the abbey, our worldly clothes go to the poor.

    CAPTAIN VON TRAPP: What about this one?

    MARIA: The poor didn't want it.

    Maria's not that intimated by the stern Captain von Trapp. She thinks his policy of summoning her and the children with whistles is just nuts, and she doesn't mind telling him so as soon as they meet:

    MARIA: Oh, no, sir. I'm sorry, sir! I could never answer to a whistle. Whistles are for animals, not for children. And definitely not for me. It would be too humiliating.

    CAPTAIN VON TRAPP: Fräulein, were you this much trouble at the abbey?

    MARIA: Oh, much more, sir!

    Turns out, Maria and and the captain, who's extremely controlling and bossy, disagree about everything related to the children. We talk more about the captain in his Character Analysis, but basically, he treats his kids exactly as he'd treat a crew on one of his ships. Maria, in contrast, wants to get to know them and nurture them, and has crazypants ideas such as wanting to make the children some clothes that they can play in—which the captain vetoes immediately.

    She does it anyway.

    The children give Maria a hard time when she first arrives, switching their names, insulting her clothes, and pulling the old frog-in-the-pocket trick to scare her. We see what a decent person she is because she doesn't tell their father what they've done.

    MARIA: I'd like to thank you all for the precious gift you left in my pocket today.

    CAPTAIN VON TRAPP: What gift?

    MARIA: It's a secret between the children and me.

    CAPTAIN VON TRAPP: Then I suggest you keep it, and let us eat.

    MARIA: Knowing how nervous I must have been, a stranger in a new household, knowing how important it was for me to feel accepted, it was so kind and thoughtful of you to make my first moments here so warm and happy and pleasant.

    That gets her some serious cred with the kids. In fact, a couple of them sob with guilt.

    The kids warm up to Maria quickly enough. Conveniently, there's a thunderstorm that first night, and they end up in her room looking for comfort. First the little ones, then everyone. Maria cheers them up with stories about how she handles being sad and afraid by thinking about her favorite things. Personally, we're not crazy about schnitzel, but whatever.

    It only takes Maria something like 12 hours to win them over. Maria's a total natural with kids, and we don't know how she got that way… other than plot necessity. The nuns think of Maria as a child at heart—maybe that's why she can relate.

    Anyway, Maria learns from the housekeeper that the captain is intending to marry his girlfriend, Baroness Schraeder. Now she sees what God was up to:

    MARIA: Dear Father, now I know why You sent me here. To help these children prepare for a new mother.

    After the captain leaves for a business trip, Maria starts transforming the atmosphere in the home. She makes the kids playclothes (out of her old curtains, since the captain refused to pay for the fabric), teaches them how to sing, and just generally gets them to loosen up and have fun.

    The captain returns home with his sweetie the baroness to find that Maria has been allowing his kids to run around town in old curtains, climbing trees and falling out of boats. In the heated argument that follows, Maria's not afraid to tell him off for only interacting with his kids long enough to boss them around. She's passionate about this:

    MARIA: Kurt acts tough to hide the pain when you ignore him, the way you do all of them. Louisa, I don't know about yet. The little ones just want love. Please, captain, love them all!

    CAPTAIN: I don't care to hear more.

    MARIA: I am not finished yet, captain!

    He's shocked. Nobody talks to him like that. She's sacked on the spot.

    Just in the nick of time, he hears the children in the distance singing a song Maria taught them to welcome the baroness. He's transfixed by the sound, suddenly realizing that keeping joy and music out of the house after his wife's death was wrong, wrong, wrong. Maria's brought it back. She's un-sacked.

    And… we have our turning point.

    A Girl Who Will Never Be a Nun

    Once they get over their initial mutual disdain, Maria and the captain slowly develop respect for each other. And since this is a movie musical, that respect morphs into romance. Maria doesn't even really notice until the baroness helpfully points it out:

    BARONESS: Now where is that lovely little thing you were wearing the other evening? When the captain couldn't keep his eyes off you.

    MARIA: Couldn't keep his eyes off me?

    BARONESS: Come, my dear, we are women. Let's not pretend we don't know when a man notices us.

    MARIA: The captain notices everybody.

    BARONESS: There's no need to feel so defensive, Maria. You are quite attractive, you know. The captain would hardly be a man if he didn't notice you.

    MARIA: Baroness, I hope you're joking.

    This totally throws Maria off balance; falling in love wasn't on her agenda. She packs her bags and flees the von Trapp house without saying goodbye, hoping that the abbey will take her back for good. Which is exactly what the baroness hoped would happen.

    That doesn't work, though, because the Reverend Mother soon realizes that Maria is just running away from her feelings about Captain von Trapp. She forces Maria to go back and face her feelings. She does. He does. There's a gorgeous, awesome wedding at the cathedral in the abbey, and the nuns celebrate their wayward novice, who finally found what God meant her to be. Maria takes one last look at the nuns behind their gate and turns to walk into the church and start her new life. It's as if she still can't believe all this has happened to her.

    She's definitely said yes to a fabulous dress. As she walks down the long aisle, there's a reprise of the song "A Problem Like Maria."

    But this time? Problem solved.

    The Good Wife

    Marriage changes Maria. She comes back from the honeymoon and seems to have a new serenity and seriousness about her. No more frolicking or falling out of rowboats. She's wearing a tailored suit and looks every bit the grownup. It's as if she's learned a lot about life and love in just a few weeks. When Liesl confides in her about the problems with Rolfe, she says,

    MARIA: Gone are your old ideas of life. The old ideas grow dim.
    Lo and behold, you're someone's wife, and you belong to him.

    (Listen, it's 1938. Get over it.)

    This completes Maria's character arc. For the rest of the film, she's the loving wife and mature, steady presence who stands by her man and comforts her children. When Max begs her to talk the captain, for his own good, into cooperating with the new regime, she just replies,

    MARIA: Max, I can't ask him to be less than he is.

    Maria calmly talks her way into the music festival to help the family escape Austria. When the captain's overwhelmed with emotion while singing "Edelweiss," she steps forward to accompany him. She comforts and reassures the children as they hide in the abbey and start their trek over the mountains into Switzerland.

    The music she's brought to the family ultimately saves their lives.

  • Captain von Trapp (Christopher Plummer)

    Captain Georg von Trapp finds himself in a kind of Brady-Bunch-meets-the-Partridge-Family scenario.

    He's lost his wife several years earlier and is stuck trying to figure out how to raise his seven children. When Maria arrives, he's been through a bunch of governesses, all driven away by his children's misbehavior. He's pretty gruff and unfriendly at first, but it doesn't take long for him to expose his soft underbelly—and beautiful singing voice—proving once again that love conquers all.

    Well, almost all. There's still those Nazis.

    Captain Marvelous

    Georg von Trapp is quite the catch for the kind of woman who's interested. He's handsome, witty, rich, a high-ranking naval officer, and very sophisticated. Everyone seems to admire him, particularly his friend Max and a certain glamorous widow from Vienna. Even though he's a country boy (in a sprawling villa, sure, but it's in the country), he holds his own with the charming and uptown baroness.

    BARONESS SCHRAEDER: You're much less of a riddle when I see you here, Georg.

    CAPTAIN VON TRAPP: In my natural habitat?

    BARONESS SCHRAEDER: Yes, exactly.

    CAPTAIN VON TRAPP: Are you saying that I'm more at home among the birds and the flowers and the wind that moves through the trees like a restless sea?

    BARONESS SCHRAEDER: How poetic.

    CAPTAIN VON TRAPP: Yes, it was rather, wasn't it? More at home here than in Vienna in all your glittering salons, gossiping gaily with bores I detest, soaking myself in champagne, stumbling about to waltzes by Strausses I can't even remember? Is that what you're saying?

    BARONESS SCHRAEDER: Yes.

    CAPTAIN VON TRAPP: Now whatever gave you that idea?

    How's that for snappy repartee? He doesn't at all seem like the kind of guy who'd ever be interested in a naïve, inexperienced, totally un-ironic girl like Maria—a nun, no less. He's on track to marry the baroness, someone who's in the same social class as he is and is just as jaded and cynical about things.

    Captain von Grumpus

    It's not too surprising that the captain has his guard up with pretty much everyone, including his children. Losing his wife left him with, as Baroness Schraeder observed, "a terrible heartache." That whole trauma seemed to short circuit the captain's fatherly/family instincts, and he ended up keeping his kids at a distance and treating them more like employees than children.

    FRAU SCHMIDT: Ever since the captain lost his poor wife, he runs this house as if on one of his ships. Whistles, orders. No more music, no more laughing. Nothing that reminds him of her. Even the children.

    He makes the kids wear matching sailor suits (he was a navy captain, natch) and summons them with a whistle. Yeah, we know—not exactly screaming "Father of the Year" material, right? And just in case the children have any ideas about actually having fun on their summer vacation from school:

    CAPTAIN VON TRAPP: Drill them in their studies. I will not permit them to dream away their summer holidays. Each afternoon, they march, breathing deeply. Bedtime is to be strictly observed.

    MARIA: When do they play?

    CAPTAIN VON TRAPP: You will see to it that they conduct themselves with the utmost decorum. I am placing you in command.

    He seems like the exact opposite of Maria, who's as warm, loving, and musical as he's cold and silent. He admits to the baroness that he's been searching for some meaning in his life; he says her company has helped with that.

    Maria's sweetness breaks through the Captain's defenses, and in practically no time she has him connecting and even singing with his kids—which is a big deal, considering that music has been banned in the house since his wife's death.

    Once his walls start coming down, it's not too long until he realizes he's in love with Maria. Unfortunately, he's already engaged to the baroness by the time these feelings surface. Georg's fiancée quickly realizes that his heart belongs to another and graciously removes herself from the equation.

    Awfully accommodating of her, don't you think?

    Once all those obstacles (emotional shutdown, fiancées, etc.) are gone, Maria and Georg get married. The captain looks drop-dead gorgeous in his formal navy uniform at the wedding.

    Occupation Preoccupation

    The captain's a man of principle. He's known the Germans are planning to invade and annex Austria. Max thinks he should just park his principles out back and pretend to get along with the new regime, but the captain won't have it.

    MAX: I have no political convictions. Can I help it if other people do?

    CAPTAIN VON TRAPP: You can help it. You must help it!

    Maria and the captain don't get to enjoy wedded bliss for too long. The Germans invade Austria while they're on their honeymoon. When they come back, they immediately receive word that he's been commanded to take a post in the German navy. He tells Maria what he has to do:

    CAPTAIN VON TRAPP: They've offered me a commission. I've been requested to accept immediately and report to their naval base at Bremerhaven tomorrow. I knew this would happen. I didn't think it would be so soon. To refuse them would be fatal for all of us. And joining them would be unthinkable. Get the children all together. Don't say anything to worry them. Just get them ready. We've got to get out of Austria and this house... tonight.

    Say what you will about that streak of stubbornness that we saw early in the film, but it serves him well here as he he refuses to play ball with the Nazis. That alone makes him a pretty solid guy in our book. Everything we know about his principles and courage is on epic display when, looking down the barrel of a gun, he calmly tries to talk Rolfe out of betraying the family. After that close call, he's able to get the entire family out of town safely before he's forced to take that commission.

    We last see the captain trekking up a mountainside carrying a child on his back, leading the family to freedom.

  • Liesl von Trapp (Charmian Carr)

    Newsflash: There were teenagers even in 1938.

    Liesl, the oldest of the von Trapp children at 16, is at that weird stage where she's looking forward to being an adult but doesn't quite know how to pull it off. She's flighty and high-spirited, in the throes of a great romance. Or so she thinks. She lets Maria know as soon as she meets her that she does definitely not need a governess.

    That said, she's perfectly happy to play young and naïve when she's around her love interest, Rolfe. When he offers to clue her in about love and romance, she coyly admits she's so naïve:

    LIESL: Totally unprepared am I
    To face a world of men.
    Timid and shy and scared am I
    Of things beyond my ken.
    I need someone older and wiser
    Telling me what to do.
    You are 17 going on 18.
    I'll depend on you…

    Apparently womanhood is all about going from having your dad bossing you around to getting a boyfriend to do it.

    After a downpour rains out the rest of her evening with Rolfe, she sneaks back into the house through Maria's window. When she sees that Maria will keep her secret, it's the beginning of a great relationship.

    You know how it is when your boyfriend joins the Nazi party—he just doesn't have time for you anymore what with all the meetings and propaganda-spreading. When Rolfe shows up to the house with a telegram for the captain, he's curt and cold with Liesl. She turns to Maria for advice and reassurance.

    LIESL: Mother, what do you do when you think you love someone? I mean, when you stop loving someone or he stops loving you?

    MARIA: Well, you cry a little. Then you wait for the sun to come out. It always does.

    LIESL: There are so many things I think I should know but I don't. I really don't.

    MARIA: How can you?

    LIESL: Sometimes I feel the world is ending.

    MARIA: Then you feel it's just beginning?

    LIESL: Yes!

    MARIA: It was that way with me. And for you it will be just as wonderful.

    Liesl doesn't have much time to ponder her relationship with Rolfe. She also has more important things to worry about, like escaping and surviving. Any hopes she might have about Rolfe are dashed when he ends up holding the family at gunpoint while they're hiding in the abbey.

    Compared to that, aren't your relationships in great shape?

  • The Von Trapp Family

    We've got character analyses for the Captain and Liesl, but what about the rest of the gang?

    Obvious ancestors of the Partridge Family, Captain von Trapp's other children all seem very pleasant and amusing in their own right, but they don't get nearly as much character development as Liesl. Like Liesl, they start out being skeptical of Maria's role in the house and play tricks on her. They can't resist her for very long, though; they warm up to her big time and are devastated when she runs back to the abbey.

    Oh, and by some amazing coincidence, they can each sing very well.

    Here's what we know about each of the non-Liesl von Trapp kiddos:

    Gretl von Trapp

    She's the adorable youngest child, and very sweet. She takes to Maria right away and warns the new governess not to believe the other children's lies. She's five years old at the beginning of the film and sometimes doesn't like being the littlest.

    Her voice sounds like the love child of a kitten and a unicorn.

    Marta von Trapp

    She's almost seven when we meet her, and she wants a pink parasol for her birthday. Talk about character development.

    Brigitta von Trapp

    She seems to be a bit of a bookworm, since she has trouble tearing herself away from her reading when Captain von T summons the children to meet Maria. She compliments Maria for not falling for one of Louisa's tricks, but then insults Maria's dress as the ugliest ever.

    Not gonna lie: we kinda agreed with that one.

    Louisa von Trapp

    Louisa's the main trickster of the bunch. When she's introduced to Maria, she pretends that she's Brigitta (Maria doesn't fall for it). Also, we learn that she's able to climb up to the governess's room with a jar of spiders in her hand. She apparently honed that skill while hazing one or more of Maria's predecessors.

    Kurt von Trapp

    Kurt is the younger of the two von Trapp boys, and announces that he's "incorrigible" when he first meets Maria. He doesn't know what that means, though, so it seems that someone else called him that.

    Freidrich von Trapp

    Freidrich is the oldest boy, and apparently is "impossible" according to a previous governess. It's unclear what he did to deserve that title. Maria feels he's trying hard to learn to be a man but isn't getting any help from his father.

    At least before Maria comes to town.

  • Mother Abbess (Reverend Mother) (Peggy Wood)

    Nuns tend to get a bad rap in movies as strict, hand-slapping taskmasters who love to torment schoolkids.

    Not our Reverend Mother.

    We don't really get backstory on Maria's family, but she doesn't appear to have any around when we meet her. As far the movie is concerned, Reverend Mother takes on that maternal role for our heroine.

    In many ways, she's the perfect parent. She doesn't want to force Maria to be someone she's not. When Maria doesn't seem to be cut out for the nun's life, Reverend Mother pushes her to try being a governess. She's not at all judgmental about Maria's behavior:

    MARIA: Which brings me to another transgression, Reverend Mother. I was singing out there today.

    REVEREND MOTHER: Only in the abbey do we have rules about postulants singing.

    MARIA: I can't stop wherever I am. Worse, I can't seem to stop saying things. Everything I think and feel.

    REVEREND MOTHER: Some call that "honesty."

    When Maria tries to run away from her budding romance with Captain von Trapp, the Reverend Mother pushes her to face her fears/uncertainties and really figure out what she wants.

    REVEREND MOTHER: Maria. The love of a man and a woman is holy. You have a great capacity to love. You must find out how God wants you to spend your love.

    MARIA: But I pledged my life to God. I pledged my life to his service.

    REVEREND MOTHER: My daughter, if you love this man, it doesn't mean you love God less.

    MARIA: No.

    REVEREND MOTHER: You must find out. You must go back.

    MARIA: You can't ask me to do that. Please let me stay. I beg—

    REVEREND MOTHER: Maria. These walls were not built to shut out problems.

    Really, isn't that what good parents do—push their kids toward paths that suit them, and make sure they don't shy away from challenges that will make their lives better in the long run? We think so, and that's why Reverend Mother is definitely a mother figure to Maria, even beyond her role as "mother" to the abbey's nuns.

  • Rolfe (Daniel Truhitte)

    Fascist-in-training Rolfe is a telegram delivery boy who flirts with Liesl. He seems like a nice enough boy at first, and it looks like he and Liesl are headed toward hot and heavy romance. In the charming duet "Sixteen Going on Seventeen," he offers to share with Liesl his worldly advice on matters of love.

    ROLF: You are sixteen going on seventeen.
    Fellows will fall in line.
    Eager young lads and roués and cads
    Will offer you food and wine.
    Totally unprepared are you
    To face a world of men.
    Timid and shy and scared are you
    Of things beyond your ken
    You need someone older and wiser
    Telling you what to do.
    I am seventeen going on eighteen.
    I'll take care of you.

    Condescending much?

    It doesn't seem to matter to Rolfe that he's only a year older than Liesl. Maybe this is a subtle warning that he thinks a little too highly of himself and might be susceptible to people who make him seem powerful. Sure enough, his interest in Liesl goes on the back burner after the Germans invade and he becomes involved in "more important matters"—that is, being a loyal assistant to the local Nazi party.

    LIESL: Rolfe! I'm so glad to see you. It's been so—

    ROLF: Good afternoon. Give this to your father as soon as he's home.

    LIESL: He's on his honeymoon.

    ROLF: I know.

    LIESL: You do?

    ROLF: We make it our business to know all.

    LIESL: Who's "we"?

    ROLF: See that he gets it. […] It's a telegram from Berlin.

    LIESL: Don't you want to deliver it yourself?

    ROLF: I'm occupied with more important matters. And your father had better be too.

    Ouch.

    Captain von Trapp refuses to believe that Rolfe has gone completely over to the dark side. When Rolfe comes upon the von Trapps hiding in the abbey, the captain tries to convince him to run away with them, insisting that Rolfe isn't really like them.

    And it turns out, the captain is right… kind of. Even though Rolfe threatens to shoot the captain, he doesn't. In fact, he lets the captain get close enough to disarm him. He's clearly scared, far from the hardened Nazi soldier he's pretending to be. He even lets Maria and the children go. You can practically see the angel and devil on each shoulder.

    However, the captain ticks him off when he says that Rolfe will "never be one of them," and he alerts the rest of the search party that he's found the von Trapps. When he blows his whistle, it's the scariest sound in the whole movie.

    Being allied with the Nazis is now giving Rolfe the sense of manliness and authority that he seemed to need back when he was courting Liesl and sang that she needed "someone older and wiser, telling [her] what to do."

    We're not sure what we're supposed to think of Rolfe's fate. Since he went from bossing around teen girls to joining the Nazis to feel like a man, it doesn't look like he's going to end up in a great place.

    Our verdict? Worst. Boyfriend. Ever.

  • Max (Richard Haydn)

    Remember when Max sings to Georg, "Compromise and be wise. […] You won't have to bow your head [to the Germans], just stoop a little"?

    No? Oh, sorry—they cut that song from the film version.

    Max Detweiler is a close friend of the von Trapp family; the kids call him "Uncle Max." He's a total opportunist, looking to make a buck or insinuate himself with important people whenever possible. He admits this completely. There's not much cynicism and irony in this film, but what is there comes from Max.

    When it looks like Captain von Trapp and Baroness Schraeder are going to get hitched, Max very openly muses about how the match would benefit him, saying that he wants to make sure "all that lovely money" remains "in the family"— that is, in his vicinity, since he considers both Georg and the baroness like family.

    Of course, the fact that Max doesn't even try to hide his selfish motives makes him a little more likeable—self-awareness can go along way. We see that when he's trying to get Georg to let the children sing in the Salzburg folk festival. Max pleads with Maria to convince her new husband to agree, saying first that not participating would reflect poorly on Austria… but then admitting that it wouldn't "do me any good either." He's always trying to angle for more status or money, but he's kind of loveably aware while he's doing it, which means he doesn't come off as a jerk.

    As opposed to Georg, who's willing to sacrifice a lot in order to stand up to the Nazi regime, Max's attitude is that everyone should just try to get along with everyone and look out for oneself. He knows he doesn't have the captain's courage.

    MAX: Things will happen. Make sure they don't happen to you.

    CAPTAIN VON TRAPP: Max! Don't you ever say that again.

    MAX: I have no political convictions. Can I help it if other people do?

    When he can't persuade the captain, he goes to work on Maria:

    MAX: Maria, he has got to at least pretend to work with these people. You must convince him.

    MARIA: Max, I can't ask him to be less than he is.

    Of course, Max does help the captain and his family get out of town, at great risk to himself—not to mention losing out on all the money he hoped to make promoting the Von Trapp Family Singers.

    MAX: This strains my back and breaks my heart. . .when I think of the children missing the festival.

    CAPTAIN VON TRAPP: By your announcement we'll be over the border.

    MAX: Do you appreciate the sacrifice I'm making?

    CAPTAIN VON TRAPP: You have no choice.

    MAX: I know. That's why I'm making it.

    Underneath Max's materialistic, cynical persona is a layer of compassion. When push comes to shove, Max comes through for the family he loves. He helps the von Trapps push their car to the road so the Germans won't hear them leave. When the family ends up having to sing after they're waylaid by Herr Zeller on their way out of the country, Max does a brilliant acting job after the performance, making it look like the escaping family is just backstage waiting for the awards ceremony.

    But do we forgive him the occasional "Heil Hitler"?

  • The Baroness (Eleanor Parker)

    The Baroness Elsa von Schraeder is a glamorous widow living in high-society Vienna. She's smart, beautiful, wealthy, and sophisticated—but she still doesn't get the guy.

    Even worse, she loses him to a country bumpkin ex-nun.

    The baroness and Georg are dating when Maria arrives on the scene. She seems cordial and refined, if a little manipulative. She's pretty sure she has marriage to the captain all sewn up, but she's not really on board with the whole parenting business. The children don't like her, and she's definitely out of her element when she tries to spend time with them. She's probably worried they're going to mess up her hair.

    MAX: I get a fiendish delight thinking of you as the mother of seven. How do you plan to do it?

    BARONESS SCHRAEDER: Darling, haven't you ever heard of a delightful little thing called boarding school?

    MAX: Baroness Machiavelli.

    There's trouble in paradise, though. When the baroness tunes into the fact that Georg like likes Maria, she makes sure to bring that fact to Maria's attention. She knows that will freak the naïve young woman out.

    BARONESS: Now where is that lovely little thing you were wearing the other evening? When the captain couldn't keep his eyes off you.

    MARIA: Couldn't keep his eyes off me?

    BARONESS: Come, my dear, we are women. Let's not pretend we don't know when a man notices us. Here we are.

    MARIA: The captain notices everybody.

    BARONESS: There's no need to feel so defensive, Maria. You are quite attractive, you know. The captain would hardly be a man if he didn't notice you.

    When this little exchange has the intended effect, the baroness seems pleased and immediately offers to help her pack. Maria bolts. The captain proposes marriage, and the baroness assumes she dodged a bullet. But she has underestimated the persuasive power of Notorious T.R.M., who sends Maria back to the family to figure out her feelings for the captain.

    Once the baroness realizes that Georg's affections for Maria aren't going away, you can see her heart sink. Still, she removes herself graciously, in a way that spares the captain's feelings:

    CAPTAIN VON TRAPP: Elsa.

    BARONESS SCHRAEDER: Yes, Georg.

    CAPTAIN VON TRAPP: It's no use. . .you and I. I'm being dishonest to both of us and utterly unfair to you. When two people talk of marriage—

    BARONESS SCHRAEDER: No, don't. Don't say another word, please. You see, there are other things I've been thinking of. Fond as I am of you, I really don't think you're the right man for me. You're much too independent. And I need someone who needs me desperately. . .or at least needs my money desperately. I've enjoyed every moment we've had together and I do thank you for that. Now, if you'll forgive me, I'll go inside, pack my little bags, and return to Vienna where I belong. And somewhere out there is a young lady who, I think will never be a nun.

    We forgive her for being such a schemer. She's vulnerable and humiliated, and this makes her more sympathetic.

    At this point, the captain knows his heart isn't in the relationship, but he doesn't know why. The baroness sees it more clearly than he does. And it makes sense that she knows exactly when to scram. After all, she's a gifted hostess, so it's her job to know when the party's over.

  • Herr Zeller (Ben Wright)

    When every sentence you speak starts and ends with "Heil Hitler," you're just not going to be the life of the party.

    Herr Zeller, the head of the local Nazi organization, is probably the least likeable character in the whole film—he even has the bad guy pencil mustache to go with his nasty attitude. He's written almost as a caricature of the superior, heartless, power-mad, mindless Nazi robot. His primary role in the story is to harass and threaten Captain von Trapp and his family about the need to cooperate with the Nazis as they become the ruling power in Austria.

    Zeller can't stand it when he attends a ball at Captain von Trapp's and sees the Austrian flag prominently displayed. He mocks the captain's refusal to admit that Austria is about to become part of Germany. Then, after the Anschluss (or annexation) has indeed occurred as predicted, Zeller takes it upon himself to hang the Nazi flag outside the captain's house while Georg and Maria are on their honeymoon.

    It's Extreme Makeover: Nazi Edition.

    HERR ZELLER: Heil Hitler. I've come from Captain von Trapp's house. The only one in the area not flying the Third Reich flag. But we have dealt with that.

    Zeller communicates the Reich's plans to have the captain take a commission in the German naval forces. He delivers the telegram with the good news, and makes sure it's clear that the captain doesn't have a choice in this decision.

    He's a step ahead of the von Trapps when they try to sneak out of Salzburg, and insists on being glued to them for the rest of the evening to ensure that the captain eventually makes his way to Bremerhaven to assume his duties. The captain convinces him that they're just on their way to the festival, and Zeller lets them go.

    HERR ZELLER: You will sing. You will all sing. But only because that's what I want. It will demonstrate that nothing in Austria has changed. And when you have finished singing, you, Captain von Trapp, will be taken to Bremerhaven. Now, if you will all get into your car. . .we will escort the von Trapp Family Singers to the festival.

    "But only because that's what I want." Just in case the captain gets any ideas that he changed Zeller's mind.

    Shmoop enjoys thinking about the look on Zeller's face when he hears the Austrian audience joining in as the von Trapp family sings "Edelweiss." We enjoy even more imagining what his superiors will do to him when they hear about how the family escaped on his watch.

  • The Nuns at the Abbey

    The sisters are stumped.

    How do they solve a problem like Maria? According to which of them you ask, she's a "flibbertigibbet, a will-o' the wisp, a clown." Basically, they don't know what to do with her, but they love her anyway. When the children try to visit Maria at the abbey, the nuns know something's wrong and run to get the Reverend Mother. They're thrilled when she finds her purpose in life and marries the captain.

    Plus, they're lifesavers: When Maria and the rest of the von Trapps come to the abbey to hide after fleeing the festival, the nuns hide them and even pull parts out of the Nazis' cars to prevent the soldiers from pursuing the family. You can see how deep their faith is; they stand up for their principles even though it's dangerous.

  • Franz and Frau Schmidt (Gil Stuart and Norma Varden)

    Franz and Frau Schmidt are servants in the von Trapp household. We don't learn too much about them, but we know that the von Trapps hide their eventual departure from them so they can (truthfully) claim ignorance.

    There's a shot of Franz peering out the window as the family sneaks out into the night. We're not sure why this shot was there. Is he sad? Suspicious? A rat?