Misunderstood Film Characters #1 Uncle Max & The Baroness (The Sound of Music)

Click here to read my review of The Sound of Music

Click here to read Misunderstood Film Characters #2 Jenny (Forrest Gump)

The Sound of Music is a very famous film. I am sure you have probably heard of it. Julie Andrews is the nun-in-training, Maria, sent to be a governess to seven unruly children. Christopher Plummer plays their widowed father, the naval Captain Georg Von Trapp. Maria and the Captain become closer, as the beginning of World War Two approaches, and the rise in power of the Nazis in Austria ascends.

Warning: Spoilers are contained below!

The Sound of Music first opened on Broadway in 1959, and featured original songs by Rodgers & Hammerstein. Based on a true story, the film was released in 1965 as a musical with many of the songs from the stage production remaining. It is often credited as the film which saved 20th Century Fox from bankruptcy, and is now the third highest grossing film ever from the US Box Office, and one of the highest grossing films worldwide.

Perhaps the film is quite sugar coated, and it is very sentimental with catchy songs, but it cannot be said that the acting is not a perfect addition to the film. Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer are especially excellent in their roles, and apart from the seven children, they are the main focus of the film, and carry it very well.

However, there are two actors that I feel are much underrated in The Sound of Music; Richard Haydn as ‘Uncle’ Max Detweiler, and Eleanor Parker as Baroness Elsa von Schraeder. Both actors, excellent in their roles, bring to the film more realism and allow for the cheesy aspects to be slightly diminished.

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Richard Haydn is an excellent actor who often played eccentric characters. Apart from this role, he is most well known as the voice of the Caterpillar in Disney’s Alice in Wonderland. However, in The Sound of Music, he is eccentric in a way which counterparts with the strict characteristics of the Captain. Although Christopher Plummer is perfect in the role of a strict father who softens over time, Richard Haydn plays Uncle Max as a fun and silly character, but who can also be serious as the threat of war looms. He is a much underrated character, but manages to steal the scenes he is in, and also has some of the best lines in the film;

“I like rich people. I like the way they live. I like the way I live when I’m with them.”

But I am a child. I like toys, so tell me everything. Oh come on, tell Max every teensy, weensy, intimate disgusting detail.”

Eleanor Parker, playing Baroness Schraeder, is perhaps not as underrated as Richard Haydn as Uncle Max, but is certainly misunderstood. I have heard, from people attending sing-along screenings of The Sound of Music, that The Baroness receives more ‘boos’ than the Nazis in the film!

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Let’s just take a moment to look back on the character of The Baroness…

  • It is established very early on in the film that she likes the Captain for his company, and not just for his money, as she is very wealthy herself.
  • Upon realising that the Captain and Maria are getting closer, she tells Maria the truth that the Captain notices her, and that he thinks Maria is in love with him. Maria realises she has to leave, without the Baroness telling her to do so (although yes, she is secretly delighted that her competition for the Captain’s affections is leaving).
  • She attempts to connect with the children, and only slips up when she says, half-jokingly to Max; “Darling, haven’t you ever heard of a delightful little thing called boarding school?”
  • When Maria returns, and the Captain and the Baroness are engaged, she realises she cannot win the Captain’s heart, and departs with dignity and grace and without a hint of tantrum.

Did I mention she has some amazing outfits in the film? Well, she does. She keeps her dignity throughout the film, and is very enjoyable to watch. When The Baroness is on screen, and in many scenes with Uncle Max, they are perfect to watch together and provide the crucial aspect of humour in the film. There is more to The Sound of Music than Nuns and Nazis (and cheese). Next time you watch The Sound of Music, look out for how wonderful Uncle Max and The Baroness are.

All images courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox.

Read the piece at readwave.com

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About writingsuzanne

History graduate. Freelance writer and reviewer. Passionate about film, theatre and music (film soundtracks!).
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7 Responses to Misunderstood Film Characters #1 Uncle Max & The Baroness (The Sound of Music)

  1. Pingback: Golden Oldies #5: The Sound of Music | Writing Suzanne

  2. Pingback: The Sound of Music: Uncle Max & The Baroness | Tinseltown Times

  3. Pingback: Misunderstood Film Characters #2 Jenny in Forrest Gump | Writing Suzanne

  4. The Vern says:

    I never understood why the Baroness got so many boos when I watched this with a crowd either. She really never was manipulative in any way possible, and she did look damn good too. Uncle Max did indeed have some lines

    Liked by 1 person

  5. johnrlovett says:

    Great post, in the stage musical the Baroness gets two songs and a bit more fleshing out. I think those being cut from the film are part of why she is misunderstood.

    Liked by 1 person

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