The Real Maria von Trapp -
What Was She Really Like?
Maria von Trapp, who was born Maria Augusta Kutschera, was immortalised in The Sound of Music movie by Julie Andrews, but are there any similarities between the real Maria and her movie character?
Well, the real Maria was born on January 26th 1905 in Vienna, Austria, and yes, she was training to be a nun. Yes she did go and work for Captain Georg von Trapp, who was recently widowed, and yes she arrived at the von Trapp house young, intelligent, full of energy, and with a very strong character. Maria had fun by creating her own adventures with the children and yes, Maria and the Captain did end up marrying.
Their wedding however took place at Nonnberg Abbey on November 26th 1927, when Maria was 22 years old and Georg was 25 years older. They had three children of their own, Rosemarie, Eleonore and Johannes. Maria was also stepmother to Georg’s seven children from his first wife Agathe Whitehead, Rupert, Agathe, Maria, Werner, Hedwig, Johanna and Martina. At this time, the von Trapps needed her and she needed a family.
Maria was, according to her family, nothing like the sweet character that Mary Martin or Julie Andrews portrayed, but has been described as a very powerful woman.
“She (Maria) regimented us, and we did what we were told”
Rosemarie von Trapp
Yes, Maria and the von Trapp family did leave Austria after the Nazi occupation, but they did not cross the Alps on foot to escape, they actually crossed the street to the railway station, where they took a train to Italy. They then traveled on to England and boarded the ship ‘The American Farmer’ and started a new life in America. Maria was always very determined and it was during this voyage that she asked the other passengers to help teach her English.
Even when they arrived in America with very little money, Maria looked upon it as another adventure, getting the children to make Austrian crafts to sell in New York City.
The family were encouraged to sing and tour throughout America, and with Maria’s determination they became very successful. And yes, the von Trapp family did wear matching sailor suits, which they all loved to wear.
When the war was over, the Trapp family founded an organization called The Austrian Relief Inc. with Maria and Georg as chairpersons and Franz Wasner as treasurer. During performances on stage Maria von Trapp would say:
"The country that gave to the world Haydn, Schubert, Mozart, and Silent Night will perish if we do not help them. Everybody knows about the situation the greater European countries are in. But few people can imagine what is happening in Austria, whose citizens are about to lose courage and hope."
As a result of this plea, the von Trapps accepted generous donations of food and clothing from people.
These items were then sent on to Austria which was in desperate need of provisions.
In the early 1940’s the family bought what is now known as The Trapp Family Lodge and turned it into a successful business under Maria’s strong guidance. Later, in 1956, Maria and three of her children, Johannes, Rosemary, and the young Maria, became missionaries and went to work in the South Pacific, accompanied by Father Wasner. Here she detailed her life in a book that she wrote, called ‘My Own Story'.
Maria von Trapp was a woman of very strong faith and received numerous awards from the Roman Catholic faith. Later she returned to Vermont where a friend insisted that Maria should write a book about her life, before her story was forgotten. So Maria tried putting down her thoughts on paper, and found that she was a natural writer, going on to write her first book called ‘The Story of the Trapp Family Singers', which was first published in 1949. It is a wonderful account of her life and is beautifully written. I would highly recommend reading it, as it is the true story of Maria von Trapp.
Quickly following this book came the German Movies, the Broadway stage production and then the most famous movie of all, 'The Sound of Music'.
Did you know that the real Maria von Trapp made a fleeting appearance in the film? She is seen crossing the road, under the archway, with her daughter Rosemarie and grand-daughter Barbara, as Julie Andrews (the Sound of Music Maria) is singing 'I must stop these doubts....' in 'I Have Confidence'. Maria was returning from a holiday in Italy when she found out that they were filming in Salzburg. Robert Wise took the opportunity to introduce Maria to the cast and include her in the film.
Because of her success as an author, along with her name becoming famous through the movie, she became a popular figure on television. The photo on the right shows her appearing on the popular TV Game Show To Tell The Truth.
Maria carried on writing other books which included:
Yesterday, Today and Forever: The Religious Life of a Remarkable Family (1952)
Around the Year with the Trapp Family (1955)
The Land Without a Sunday (1955)
A Family on Wheels: Further Adventures of the Trapp Family Singers (1959)
Die Trapp-Familie (1970)
Maria Von Trapp: My Own Story (1974)
Trapp Fam Bk Xmas Sn (1988)
Let Me Tell You About My Savior - 25th Anniversary Edition of 'Yesterday, Today and Forever' and 'When the King Was Carpenter'(2000)
On March 28th 1987 Maria died of heart failure at the age of 82 years. She was buried alongside her husband Georg, in the family cemetery at the lodge. After her death, one of the von Trapp family members said that Maria was a strength to the family, which was what they had all needed, but now it was time to venture out and follow their own direction.
It was, however, Maria von Trapp’s story that was the total inspiration for The Sound of Music, and for that we must be truly thankful.
Return to von Trapp Family page from Maria von Trapp
Return to The Sound of Music Home Page
Bookmark & Share