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Maria von Trapp 'The Sound of Music' Nun Dead at 99: Was Last Surviving Singing von Trapp Family Member

Maria von Trapp familyThe singing von Trapp family

Maria von Trapp dead at 99: 'The Sound of Music' character played by Heather Menzies was last surviving member of the singing von Trapp family

Maria von Trapp, the last surviving member of the singing von Trapp family portrayed in The Sound of Music, died in her sleep at her Vermont home on Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014. Baron Georg von Trapp's second-eldest daughter, Maria Franziska (born in Zell am See, Salzburg, Austria, in 1914) was 99.

Heather Menzies played Baron von Trapp's second-eldest daughter, renamed Louisa von Trapp, in 20th Century Fox's 1965 blockbuster directed by Robert Wise, and starring Julie Andrews as singing nun-to-be Maria Kutschera (later Baroness Maria von Trapp) and Christopher Plummer as the Baron. (See Heather Menzies, Charmian Carr, Kym Karath, and Angela Cartwright at 2008 Academy event.)

Financially ruined during the Great Depression, Baron von Trapp and his family began performing as a family choir in the mid-'30s. In 1938, the Baron, his wife Maria, and his children from a previous marriage left their home in Salzburg for a singing tour of the United States. Once in the U.S., von Trapp chose not to return to Nazi-occupied Austria.

According to a family friend, Maria von Trapp had always suffered from a weak heart, and it was for that reason that the Baron hired Maria Kutschera as a tutor for the von Trapp children.

Von Trapp Family movies and 'The Sound of Music'

Based on Baroness Maria von Trapp's memoir, The Story of the Trapp Family Singers, two West German movies were made about the von Trapp family: Wolfgang Liebeneiner's The Trapp Family (1956) and its sequel, also directed by Liebeneiner, The Trapp Family in America (1958). Both films starred Ruth Leuwerik as Baroness Maria von Trapp and Hans Holt as the Baron.

With book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse, and music by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, The Sound of Music opened on Broadway in 1959. Mary Martin and Theodore Bikel starred under the direction of Vincent J. Donehue. Kathy Dunn played Louisa von Trapp.

Besides Christopher Plummer, Julie Andrews, and Heather Menzies, The Sound of Music film cast features Eleanor Parker, Richard Haydn, Peggy Wood, Anna Lee, Portia Nelson, Marni Nixon, Ben Wright, and, as the other von Trapp children, Charmian Carr, Angela Cartwright, Nicholas Hammond, Duane Chase, Debbie Turner, and Kym Karath. The Sound of Music won five Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. Julie Andrews lost the Best Actress Oscar to Julie Christie (Darling); Andrews had won the year before for another blockbuster, the Walt Disney release Mary Poppins.

'The Sound of Music' box office

One of the biggest box office hits in history, in North America alone The Sound of Music collected $158.67 million – or approximately $1.18 billion adjusted for inflation. As found on Box Office Mojo's inflation-adjusted chart, The Sound of Music remains the third biggest domestic blockbuster in history, following Victor Fleming's Gone with the Wind (1939), starring Vivien Leigh, Clark Gable, Olivia de Havilland, and Leslie Howard, and George Lucas' Star Wars (1977), starring Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, and Alec Guinness.

Rounding out the top five are Steven Spielberg's E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982), featuring Henry Thomas and Drew Barrymore, and James Cameron's Titanic (1997), with Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, and Gloria Stuart. (In case you're wondering, Cameron's Avatar is no. 14 on the chart.)


         
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