Maria von Trapp
Thanks to the movie, "The Sound of Music", the story of the origins of the Trapp Family Singers is well known to the post World War II and succeeding generations. The music, movie and, to a lesser extent, the Trapp Family Ski Lodge in Vermont have kept their name in front of us for the past few decades. But they were also a well known and popular singing group during the 1940s when they came to the U.S. after the Nazis overran their native Austria. Maria's 1949 account of the family and their early years, entitled "The Trapp Family Singers", continues to be popular and, thanks to additional printings, new copies can still be obtained today.
"The Trapp Family Singers" was the basis for the German movies Die "Trapp-Familie" (1956) and "Die Trapp-Familie" (1958) as well as the Broadway musical and movie "The Sound of Music". All four of these enjoyed enormous financial success and were popular the world over. However, we learn in "Oh Maria", that the family received very little, financially, from the movies and musical. As she admits in this book, due to both her ignorance and desire to control how the story was used led her to foolishly sell the rights to "The Trapp Family Singers" to a German film producer for a few thousand dollars and no royalties (she was told, wrongly, that it was illegal for a German to pay royalties to a foreigner).
Unlike "The Trapp Family Singers", "Oh Maria" is a more complete account of her life and includes negative as well as positive aspects. Her mother died when she was two and her father left her in the care of a rather stern and dour aunt and uncle. She rebelled and remained rebellious almost until she was an adult. She readily admits that she had all the characteristics of a juvenile delinquent in her teens and could just as easily have turned out bad as good. The turning point came when she entered a church expecting to hear a concert and, instead, heard a lecture by a Jesuit priest which caused her to turn away from the atheism of her socialist aunt and uncle and to embrace Christianity.
As in the movie, she was assigned by the convent to take a temporary position as a governess for the children of Baron von Trapp. But she naively entered into marriage with Baron von Trapp believing that she was to be the mother of his children and not his wife. At the time of her marriage she had the mistaken notion that the marriage, like her term as a governess, was a temporary leave from the convent and, when she became pregnant and finally realized that marriage, not the convent, was to be her vocation she stomped into the family's empty chapel and vented her rage at God. However, she did make peace with God and reconciled herself to the marriage. She then went on to be a good wife as well as good mother. She makes it clear that Georg always had and displayed a great deal more love for her than she did for him. But her love for him grew and was genuine as demonstrated by her breakdown following his death and her unsuccessful efforts to make the producers of "The Sound of Music" portray him as less stern and authoritarian.
The book contains more detail than its predecessor and includes about two more decades of her life beyond the end of "The Trapp Family Singers". Like "The Trapp Family Singers", "Oh Maria" is upbeat and very readable. Unlike "The Trapp Family Singers" which was about the family and their singing career, this book is about Maria. "The Trapp Family Singers" is a feel good, inspirational book written to provide more detail about a popular singing group. "Oh Maria" is a biography written from the heart and is as much an honest attempt by the author to analyze her life for herself as to present her life to her readers. In this book the angelic Maria of "The Sound of Music" is replace by a more human Maria with faults, weaknesses and failures as well as strengths, virtues and successes. This book is neither a "tell all" nor a trumpeting of the author's vices. Rather, it is an attempt by a public figure to share with her public a chronicle of how she has dealt with the challenges of her life to date a what lessons she has drawn from her life so far.
Unfortunately, this book is out of print and only available from used book outlets.
This report prepared by Chuck Nugent