Do you think you know everything there is to know about the von Trapp family from the cult classic movie, The Sound of Music? As Hollywood is bound to do, the film took some liberties with the history of the von Trapp family when they transferred the members of the von Trapps to Hollywood blockbuster status. Surprisingly many Austrians haven’t even seen the The Sound of Music. Shocking!! I must have seen it at least a dozen times because it is one of the firm favourites of the Christmas television season.
The Hollywood Version of Baron von Trapp
One of the most successful movies of all time, The Sound of Music won 5 Oscars on its release in 1965. In the intervening years, the movie has earned billions of dollars if you adjust for inflation.
These 7 fascinating facts about the real Georg von Trapp, the patriarch of the family von Trapp, and the George von Trapp family, show how Hollywood embellishes the truth to create a better story. Engimatic and handsome as portrayed by Christopher Plummer, Georg was the ultimate dreamboat – loving husband, father and man of principle.
I was completely in love with Baron Georg von Trapp as a child but I also wanted to be the oldest daughter, Liesl von Trapp. In retrospect, I clearly had movie daddy issues. So, possibly did Maria von Trapp.
The von Trapp Love Story
How old was Maria von Trapp when she married Captain von Trapp?
Maria von Trap was 22 when she married Georg who was aged 47 in 1927.
What was the age gap between Maria von Trapp and her husband?
To clarify, that’s an age gap of 25 years between the real Baron von Trapp and Maria. Christopher Plummer brought out such a dishy-widower-Mr. Rochester vibe to the character, the age discrepancy seemed a minor footnote in the movie.
The Real Baron von Trapp
Were the von trapps real? Absolutely, but let’s separate Georg van Trapp, the man, from the Hollywood creation shall we?
The Georg Von Trapp House in Austria
The Villa Trapp, the original home of the von Trapp family is now a hotel. Georg bought the Villa Trap in 1924 for his family after his first wife died.
The family lived at the villa from 1923-1938 which was built in the mid 19th century. It never was the von Trapp ancestral family home as depicted in the movie.
After the von Trapp’s left in 1938, no less than Heinrich Himmler, one of Hitler’s most trusted men and leader of the SS Nazi secret police, used the Villa Trapp as his summer home. Georg would not have been amused.
The Hollywood von Trapp House
The Villa Trapp was in private use when the movie was being made and so the film makers had no access to it. The front and the back of the house used in the movie are two different houses, Schloss Frohnberg and Schloss Leopoldskron. The interiors were film sets created in Hollywood.
How Did Captain Von Trapp Make His Money?
The von Trapps were wealthy because Georg von Trapps’s first wife, Agathe Whitehead, inherited a substantial fortune. Her grandfather, James Whitehead, a British engineer, was the inventor of the torpedo. The von Trapp family wealth was made the traditional way – inheritance!!
When the British government turned down his invention, Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph took James Whitehead under his wing in 1864. Today the Georg and Agathe Foundation, (Georg von Trapp first wife) runs a nonprofit to promote peace and the arts.
The von Trapps, however, were not as wealthy or as aristocratic as the movie made them out to be. In fact, Georg technically wasn’t even a baron. He was possibly only just about a baronet if Austria hadn’t abolished titles after World War I.
Von Trapp Family Father Out of Sorts
After the end of the first World War, the Austro-Hungarian Empire was broken up. The new Austria was left as a land-locked country after they lost access to the Mediterranean va the north eastern part of Italy in 1918.
Despite having racked up lots of honours as a World War 1 hero, and having been the Austro-Hungarian’s most successful U-boat commander, Georg found himself unemployed. It’s hard to be a naval commander if your country doesn’t have a navy. Presumably he occupied himself churning out little von Trapps.
Was the von Trapp family wealthy?
Georg was indeed stuffy about his family singing in public. On the other hand, the Great Depression had decimated the fortune his first wife had left him.
How did the von Trapp family make their money?
After they ran into money troubles Maria von Trapp led the family on singing tours in order to keep them financially afloat.
In need of money, Maria sold the rights to the von Trapp memoir she had written for $9000 in 1955 which was more money than they had ever earned singing. The von Trapps never saw any royalties from the millions earned from the movies or the Broadway musicals.
Did the von Trapp family lose everything?
Yes, they did. But technically, in real life, the von Trapp net worth had dwindled long before they abandoned Austria.
Georg was tempted to join the Nazis who had made him an attractive offer in the German Navy long before the invasion of Austria by Germany. The Nazis needed someone with his naval experience and Georg had no other occupational skills.
In the end, though, he decided he couldn’t agree with Nazi ideology. Maria and the kids would just have to keep singing to keep a roof over their heads.
Why did the von Trapp family leave Austria?
Not only did Captain von Trapp refuse to join the Germany Navy, he refused permission for his family to sing at a concert in honour of Hitler’s birthday. It was definitely time for them to be on their way.
Although Austrian by ethnicity, Georg was born in what became Italy after World War I. As a result, the family were all Italian citizens. Technically he was born in Croatia if you go along today’s geographic lines.
When they left Austria in 1938, the took a day train to Italy from the station which was at the edge of their estate. Not nearly as exciting as being chased by Nazis through the cemetery at night as the movie depicts.
Where did the Von Trapp family live in America?
The family spent a short time in Pennsylvania, before settling in Stowe Vermont. They bought a farm that became known as the Trapp Family Lodge.
Did Von Trapp family return to Austria?
In 1939, the von Trapps did a musical tour of Scandinavia. During this time, they stopped by to visit Salzburg as well. They returned to the USA just as World War II was starting.
How many children did Captain von Trapp have?
Georg von Trapp and his first wife had 7 children together.
Did Maria von Trapp have children of her own?
Georg and Maria had 3 children together. Unlike the movie version, Georg and Maria had been married for years before the Anschluss (forced union of Austria into Germany) occurred.
Their first two children, Rosemarie von Trapp and Eleanore von Trapp, were born in Salzburg. Their youngest child, Johannes von Trapp, was born in Pennsylvania in 1939 because the family had settled in the USA by then.
So in total, Captain von Trapp had a grand total of 10 little von Trapps.
How many von Trapps are there in the movie?
There are 7 children and the Captain and Maria von Trapp in the movie.
Of course, there are plenty more things to do in Salzburg than stuff related to the Sound of Music but it’s a good place to start! We have booked both a Sound of Music tour as well as a visit to the original Villa Trapp itself. I had threatened to make them wear outfits made of curtains just to make the whole experience more authentic. The threat would carry more weight if only I knew how to sew.