Hit Me With Your Best Shot: The Sound of Music (1965)

Screen shot 2015-02-24 at 1.10.19 a.m.

Hit Me Your Best Shot is back for its sixth season. The series, hosted over at The Film Experience by the fabulous Nathaniel Rogers, is a well for fun and insightful commentary on movies and filmmaking. This season kicks off celebrating the 50th anniversary of The Sound of Music. I just wrote an extensive article on why I think it is a greatly effective movie, so now I want to point out how the arguments I laid out in that article influenced my pick for the movie’s best shot.

First of all, you have Julie Andrews, an outstanding musical theater performer if there ever was one. A treasurable screen presence who got under the spotlight performing the role of Eliza Doolittle on Broadway and jumped into superstardom with her Oscar-winning turn as Mary Poppins. I wrote at length about her talent as a performer in the aforementioned article, so here I’ll just point out at her abilities as a stage performer, which are showcased whenever The Sound of Music indulges in a long, uninterrupted take. The example that comes to mind is the section in “I Have Confidence” where Maria walks from the bus to the entrance of the Von Trapp residence, and Julie delights with graceful comedy.

Second, I think of cinematographer Ted D. McCort, and how he used rather expressionistic shadows. The best example, I think, is the powerful moment in “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” where Sister Abbess stands silhouetted in front of a window while Maria is side-lit in the back of the shot.

Finally, there’s the editing. The Sound of Music holds the distinction of being an incredibly fun and well-paced musical despite being released in the mid-sixties, when a movie as boring and static as My Fair Lady could win 8 Oscars including Best Picture. The editing has a lot to do with that, but also director Robert Wise’s re-interpretation of certain numbers from the stage show. I’m talking most specifically about “Do, Re, Mi”, which remains, in my opinion, the best and most iconic number in the movie.

My favorite shot comes from “Do, Re, Mi”, and combines the abilities of Julie Andrews to radiate joy through facial expressions and movement in a long take, Ted D. McCort’s playful use of shadows and natural light throughout the movie, and the best adaptation decision in the whole movie. The one that turned a cute but unmemorable number in the stage show and turned it into the centerpiece of a two-hour-plus movie.

Anyway, here’s the shot:Screen shot 2015-02-24 at 2.30.38 a.m.

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