Is ‘The Sound of Music’ Based on a True Story?

The Sound of Music is one of the most iconic movies of the 20th century. Starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer, it tells the story of a free-spirited nun who becomes a governess for seven children. She helps the kids hone their musical abilities, and the family ends up becoming well-known for their singing talents.

The film has captured the hearts of audiences everywhere, but some people might wondering: Is the story based on true events?

The Sound of Music cast singing in a black and white photo
The von Trapp family as shown in ‘The Sound of Music’ | Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

Is ‘The Sound of Music’ based on a true story?

The Sound of Music is, indeed, based on a true story. In fact, the movie came about after the real Maria von Trapp wrote a book about her own family, called The Story of the Trapp Family Singers, which was published in 1949.

The actual von Trapps were also a big family that lived in Salzburg, Austria during World War II. Their patriarch, Georg von Trapp, did marry a governess named Maria. The family’s singing talents did get recognition, and it allowed them to eventually leave Nazi-occupied Austria. They later settled in the United States in the late 1930s.

Are there differences between the real and fictional von Trapps?

Sound of Music scene with Julie Andrews and children singing in a field
Julie Andrews and the cast of ‘The Sound of Music’ | Getty Images

The movie has made some changes to the story of the real von Trapp family.

For one thing, Georg and Maria were actually married a decade before they left Austria. They ended up having three children of their own: Rosmarie (born 1929), Eleonore (born 1931), and Johannes (born 1939). Rosmarie and Eleonore were born in Austria before the family left for the United States in 1938. Meanwhile, Johannes was born in Philadelphia.

Additionally, the names of the seven original children were changed for the movie. A few even had their genders changed as well.

According to the National Archives, Maria and Georg had different personalities than how they were portrayed on the big screen. Maria apparently had a “terrible temper” and was known to react in violent manners when she was upset. On the other hand, Georg was gentle towards his children and encouraged their musical skills.

Are any of the real von Trapp children still alive?

The real von Trapp family in 1950
The real von Trapp family in 1950 | George Konig/Keystone Features/Getty Images

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The von Trapp family continued singing after settling down in the United States. They toured all over the country as well as internationally, and the family even released numerous records during this time. In 1957, they ceased their musical activities as a singing troupe.

Afterwards, the various von Trapp members pursued other careers. Some of them did missionary work in New Guinea. Others worked in everyday professions like teaching and medicine. Some also ran the family lodge, the Trapp Family Lodge in Vermont, as a resort for tourists.

Georg died in 1947, and Maria followed 40 years later in 1987.

The original seven von Trapp kids have all died—the last surviving one was Maria, who died in 2014. However, the youngest three children, who were born from Georg and Maria’s marriage, are all still alive. They are in their 80s and 90s.