"Gretl, You're Not Singing!"
by Greg May
Kym Karath Looking Back On 'The Lonely Goatherd'
When we watch our favorite movie musical with Julie Andrews and The Children singing as they run across the mountaintops and riding bicycles around Salzburg their on-screen talents seem almost effortless, don't they?
We delight in watching Liesl and Rolf as they sing and dance to 'Sixteen Going On Seventeen' in the gazebo and as 'Maria' and The Children manipulate puppets as they sing 'The Lonely Goatherd' but to obtain the quality of sound expected of a motion picture of this caliber certain production techniques had to be utilized.
Now this writer cannot sing or dance much less walk and chew gum at the same time but for those stars who can getting a decent sound recording is crucial in the making of a motion picture musical.
So the musical numbers or songs are pre-recorded prior
to filming. During production of 'The Sound of Music' all of the songs from the Rodgers & Hammerstein score were recorded on a 20th Century Fox soundstage with the Irwin Kostal Orchestra before the very first scene was photographed. When principal photography began, the musical numbers or songs were played back over a tape recorder as the actors sang along or 'lip synched' to them.
Lip-synch is an art, and it's not easy to do. Recording artists are often criticized for lip-synching during their live performances but when complicated dance steps are combined with singing it becomes necessary to use a back-up track for the benefit of the audience.
In 'The Sound of Music' it would have been almost impossible to get a decent recording of Julie Andrews and The Children as they were running across the Alps and riding bicycles. Before the cast and crew flew to Salzburg in April 1964, choreographer Marc Breaux spent hours with The Children as they rode bikes around the Fox lot singing along to the recording of 'Do Re Mi' from a tape recorder.
On location filming in Salzburg, producer/director Robert Wise more than once had to yell "Cut!" and say, "Gretl, you're not singing!" It would have looked peculiar on film for young Kym Karath not to be opening her mouth as 'Gretl' was singing on-screen.
'The Sound of Music' is an excellent example of near-perfect lip-sync and Julie Andrews was right on cue. However, at the beginning of the movie as she finishes the title song she closes her mouth while she is still heard singing on-screen.
Look for it.