I snuck in one day to take a look. I was curious to see if any of the old atmosphere still prevailed. How I ever imagined it would beats me; after all, this was all almost forty years ago. Gretl, Bruno, Fritz, Karl and the Count were all long gone and there was little hope that they had left anything of themselves behind. I stood for a moment in the lobby with my eyes closed and tried to conjure up the smallest trace of that past which had found such a permanent place in my heart. I suddenly missed my little family terribly; I had adored my stay there, living in a crazy Ruritanian dream. It was like being part of a play of Ferenc Molnár's with incidental music by Oscar Strauss and Franz Lehar. I opened my eyes. No, there was nothing of that anymore. I didn't recognize this place at all. The Bristol was now just another hotel, any ordinary hotel, cold and heartless. I turned away and walked out into the bustling life of Makartplatz and the air that comes down from the mountains—the familiar, comforting soft air that is still part of my memory and thankfully refuses to change.

About a year or so ago in Connecticut, I went to a children's Easter party. They were going to show "S & M" as an after-lunch treat. Oh, my God, I thought, how am I going to escape? My friends, the hosts, pleaded with me to stay. "It will be such fun for the kids to watch Captain von Trapp watching himself on the screen." Oh, sure, I thought, the monstrous little fiends! Well, I stayed. I had not seen the movie for years and the more I watched, the more I realized what a terrific movie it is. The very best of its genre—warm, touching, joyous and absolutely timeless. I suddenly could see why it had brought such pleasure to so many people. Here was I, cynical old sod that I am, being totally seduced by the damn thing—and what's more, I felt a sudden surge of pride that I'd been a part of it. How beautifully it had been shot, how natural the choreography, how rich the arrangements, how excellent the cast. And Robert Wise, with his innate good taste and judgment, had expertly held in the reins lest it all canter over the cliff's edge down into a sea of treacle.

But the picture belongs to Julie. Of that there is no doubt. It is her movie, her triumph. The familiar saying that the camera never lies is one I will gladly dispute anytime, anyplace. In Julie's case, no camera, true or false, could stem the flow of her particular genius. She thoroughly infused the story with her own spirit, her own enchantment. Of course, that glorious golden sound of hers still echoes in the shell, but her performance was the antithesis of a musical comedy turn. Banishing all artifice, she was real, true, funny and vulnerable. She had lit up the screen and spilt her blood. There was no turning back now; it was far too late, for before anyone could even whisper the name "Maria," a hopelessly infatuated world had already made her its hostage.

More about The Sound of Music
What it was like to make the film
Take The Sound of Music movie quiz!
How the movie changed people's lives
Excerpted from In Spite of Myself by Christopher Plummer. Copyright ?? 2008 by Christopher Plummer. Reprinted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc., New York. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


Next Story