Before starting out for work late one morning I went to the bar for a pick-me-up. There was no Bruno. That was most unusual—there was always a Bruno. In fact, the bar was empty except for Festitic in a corner, puffing away on his cigarette holder. Fritz and Karl came over to me and, as always, Fritz spoke for Karl. "Bruno has not come to vork for two, sree days." "And Frau Hübner?" I asked. "She has taken to her bed; ve don't know ven she vill come down." I knew they missed the Englishman, but I had not realized how deeply.

The unit car picked me up and drove me to Bavaria, where we were to shoot the last scene of the picture in which the von Trapp family escapes the Nazis by climbing over the Alps to Switzerland, neutrality and freedom. It was now afternoon, and the sun was casting long shadows across the breathtaking hill they had chosen. A normal camera would have made it all look much too pretty and cute, like a picture postcard. But Ted McCord, our brilliant D.P., had taken care of that by inventing a special lens that gave back to the countryside all its natural beauty, just as one views it with the naked eye. I have always thought that last scene amusingly ironic, for over the brow of that hill supposedly lies sanctuary. In reality, at the top of our particular hill lay the ruins of a terrace, all that remained of Hermann Göring's home, called the "Eagle's Nest." A little way below was an empty plot where Herr Goebbels's house had stood, and farther down the hill the huge empty fish tanks of the Berghof overlooking Berchtesgaden itself—a last reminder of Adolf Hitler's private lair. So it would appear that instead of "freedom" for the von Trapps, they had inadvertently wandered straight into the hornet's nest.

Finally, the moment had come for the unit to move back to the States—time to bid farewell to our beautiful Austria. The film company threw a "wrap" party that was anticlimactic to the point of redundancy as we would all meet soon again in Los Angeles to shoot the remaining interiors. Trish and I had made another attempt at temporary reconciliation, so as I had a fortnight free, I would join her in the south of France for a brief holiday at the luxurious Hotel du Cap, Eden-Roc. I spent the last two days, overcome with nostalgia, wandering through Salzburg whispering secret good-byes to my favourite haunts. Back at the hotel I bumped into a busload of "blue-rinsed" ladies from mid-America. They had just had lunch and were standing in the lobby waiting for their transportation. Fritz and Karl were going quite spare answering a barrage of impossible questions. The noise was deafening. Festitic was hovering in the background being his usual charming self—all the old ladies had instant fantasies about him, I'm quite sure. In the midst of the fracas, I heard one woman, who was standing right next to Festitic, shout out to Fritz and Karl in a particularly harsh twang, "How much do I tip the Count?!"

Well, I knew what I was going to give Fritz, Karl and Bruno as a parting gift—money! Which was easy and which they would surely need. But the Count? What on earth would I give him? "Ach! He doesn't expect anything," said Gretl when I asked her. "But if you must, gif him a cigarette case; he doesn't own one." I went to the best shop in town and had them engrave his initials inside a very smart dark brown leather case. He bowed stiffly when I presented him with it and though he seemed grateful, I had the distinct impression that he would have preferred money.
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.


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