The Sound of Music’: Ronald Reagan Thought 1 Famous Song Was the Austrian National Anthem

Despite critics panning it when it first came out, The Sound of Music is one of the most beloved musicals of all time. Julie Andrews (who played Maria) has wonderful memories, even if she was repeatedly knocked down by the helicopter. Although Christopher Plummer (who played Captain Von Trapp), initially disliked the film, fans’ love of the movie won him over. “He has come to embrace it. He’s such a sweet patsy, according to Julie Andrews.

According to IMDb, it won many honors, including five Oscars and two Golden Globes. According to Broadway, “Adjusted for inflation, it’s one of the highest-grossing films ever made, right behind Gone With the Wind and Star Wars.” But one famous song stands out from the film; where did the song Edelweiss come from, and how did the song fool an American president?

(L-R) Nicholas Hammond as Friedrich, Kym Karath as Gretl, Angela Cartwright as Brigitta, Julie Andrews as Maria, Christopher Plummer as Captain Von Trapp, Charmian Carr as Liesl, Heather Menzies as Louisa, Debbie Turner as Marta and Duane Chase as Kurt singing, in black and white
(L-R) Nicholas Hammond as Friedrich, Kym Karath as Gretl, Angela Cartwright as Brigitta, Julie Andrews as Maria, Christopher Plummer as Captain Von Trapp, Charmian Carr as Liesl, Heather Menzies as Louisa, Debbie Turner as Marta and Duane Chase as Kurt | Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

‘The Sound of Music’ told an important story

The story takes place in the 1930s as the Nazis are slowly attempting to annex Austria. Georg Von Trapp has seven children who need a nanny after his wife’s death. He hires ex-nun Maria who eventually bonds with the children. Maria and Von Trapp clash on how to raise the children, with Maria preferring a gentle and fun approach and Von Trapp selecting military discipline. It appears he will send Maria away for their difference in opinion until he hears that she taught the kids to sing. He is so enchanted that he allows Maria to stay.

Von Trapp is due to marry Baroness Elsa Schraeder. While Captain von Trapp was falling in love with Maria, he didn’t want to admit it. After his fiancé sees Von Trapp dancing with Maria, she realizes that they are falling in love. The Baroness confronts Maria, and, being embarrassed, Maria runs back to the abbey. The children visit the abbey, and between them and the Mother Superior, they convince Maria to return and marry Georg. After getting married, Von Trapp finds out that the Nazis have occupied Austria. The family quickly realizes they must escape, and they disappear into the hills of Austria at the movie’s end.

What is the song ‘Edelweiss’?

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Theodore Bikel played Von Trapp in the stage version. After being cast, Oscar Hammerstein II learned Bikel was a folk singer. Bikel wrote a folk song called “Edelweiss” as a patriotic song about Austria. According to Legends Revealed, composer Richard Rogers based it on Austrian folk songs. Hammerstein based the lyrics “on the German myths about the Edelweiss flower — a beautiful flower that young suitors would climb the Alps to get to prove their love for their sweethearts.”

Plummer sang it with such resonance that he succeeded in the intended illusion that it was an actual Austrian folk song. The Atlantic said Rogers was so good at capturing the feel of Austrian folk, people outside of Austria believed it was really an authentic Austrian anthem.

How did Edelweiss fool a president?

Ronald Reagan was a massive fan of The Sound of Music. Reagan assumed that they had used the Austrian national anthem, “Edelweiss,” to put in The Sound of Music. Of course, not only wasn’t “Edelweiss” the national anthem, it wasn’t even a real Austrian folk song! According to The New York Times, when the Austrian ambassador visited the White House, he was perplexed to hear “Edelweiss” playing. Austria’s actual national anthem is called “Land der Berge, Land am Strome,” which translates to “Land of Mountains, Land on the River.” To this day, many people assume the “Edelweiss” is authentically Austrian.