How Was “The Sound of Music” Received by German Audiences Upon Release?

For an anti-Nazi movie that was released 20 years after the end of World War II, you may imagine the film was received poorly. And you would be correct.

The Sound of Music was a success in almost every market across the globe upon its release. But not in Germany. Or Austria. To this day, it’s never been much of a hit in either country.

When the film was first released, there were already two widely popular German films about the Von Trapp family: Die Trapp-Familie (1956), which provided the original inspiration for the Broadway musical, and its sequel Die Trapp-Familie in Amerika (1958).

Austrians reportedly didn’t appreciate The Sound of Music‘s Broadway show tunes representing themselves as Austrian folk songs (namely Edelweiss). They also disapproved of the film’s costuming, as it didn’t reflect traditional Austrian style.

As one would expect, the film’s Nazi theme was especially unpopular in Germany. There is a known story involving the Munich branch manager for 20th Century Fox approving without authorization a different cut of the third act of the film. Everything after the wedding was removed, as that act highlights the Nazi influence and shows the Von Trapps planning their escape. This version, which was shown in German theaters upon release and was rather incoherent, was eventually replaced with the original edit once the studio and director Robert Wise got wind of what had happened.

Nazi and Holocaust films often receive mixed reviews in Germany due to their historical innaccuracies and their stereotypical portrayal of German people as a whole (Schindler’s List, Valkyrie and The Reader, to name a few). However, this is not to suggest that Germans are opposed to all World War II based films. When Quentin Tarantino was questioned about the German reception of his revenge against the Nazis film Inglourious Basterds (2009) upon its release, Tarantino commented that after Jewish people no one has taking down the Third Reich fantasies more than the Germans do. Tarantino’s comments are supported by the rave reviews and big box office success Inglourious Basterds received in Germany.