Study Guide

The Sound of Music Captain von Trapp (Christopher Plummer)

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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?


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?


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?


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.

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