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British Expat Newsletter:
23 August 2006

Hello, and welcome to those who have joined up since our last newsletter.

In this issue

  • This week: Nuns, goats and Nazis
  • Virtual Snacks
  • Bizarre Searches
  • Quotation and joke

This week

Nuns, goats and Nazis – the film. It’s otherwise known as The Sound Of Music and it has reached cult status. Is there anyone who hasn’t seen it?

Of course, it was a Broadway stage show before Robert Wise produced the film. Apparently Andrew Lloyd Webber’s producing a West End revival later this year. Fortunately, as far as we know he’s not rewriting it, just staging it.

Lloyd Webber’s one of those people whose work you either love or loathe. I like this joke – can’t remember who first told it:

I was working in Burger King when Lloyd Webber came in and asked for two Whoppers.
I replied, “You’re good looking and your musicals are great.”

Anyway, the revival has spawned a reality show on BBC. Rather than choose his own leading lady, Lloyd Webber’s got the British public to do the choosing for him. The show’s appropriately called How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria? after the song in the musical, and is hosted by the intensely annoying Graeme Norton. Ten finalists were chosen out of the thousands who applied for the programme. Every Saturday over the next few weeks they get the chance to sing on television, followed by a televote. The two losers then have a sing-off before Lloyd Webber decides who’s fired. We’re down to eight already, apparently – when they reach four, there’ll be a grand finale.

What is it about the film that makes it so popular? Well, for starters there’s Julie Andrews’s voice, which is pretty awesome. The songs are mostly really catchy singalong songs, which gives the film buckets of feelgood factor. And, of course, the story’s got a lot of hooks to it; the romance of the postulant nun who wins the captain’s heart over the competition of a glamorous baroness, the suspense of the Austrian patriot confronted with the takeover of his country, the humour of Maria’s relationship with the children, and so on. And of course, it’s even better because it’s based on a true story. Except that it’s only very loosely based on the truth…

It’s true, for instance, that Maria was a postulant who was asked to help Captain Georg von Trapp. But they met and married in 1927, not “in the last golden days of the Thirties”. There were seven children (although Maria and Georg later had children of their own) but the children’s names were changed, not least because one of the original children was also called Maria (and the eldest child was a son, not a daughter). Although “Edelweiss” appears in the film to be a well-known song, it was written for the musical – and, contrary to widespread belief, is certainly not a national anthem. And the von Trapps’ escape was much less dramatic than in the film; they left openly by train to Italy, saying that they were going on a climbing holiday, and simply failed to return (although the border was closed the following day).

In Austria itself the film’s had little exposure outside the town of Salzburg, and even there mostly to visitors. Possible reasons for this ambivalence include the Hollywood picture-postcard impression given of Austria and the Austrians; another is that the Austrians are uncomfortable of being reminded of the Anschluss – although, as one of the assistant directors of the film points out, the film puts Austria in a far more favourable light than the events merit; many more Austrians welcomed it than the film suggests.

So where are the actors now? Both Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer are still going strong – Julie Andrews very notably as Queen Lilian in Shrek 2, Christopher Plummer as baddies in several recent films. Many of the children remain friends, and some of them still have showbiz connections, although none of them became big stars.

As you’d expect, there’s loads of trivia on the net about the film. One of our favourites is a story which gets a mention in Stephen Pile’s Book Of Heroic Failures: the world’s most pointless film editing. Allegedly one Korean cinema owner shortened the film by cutting out all the musical numbers. Various versions of this story exist, one of them suggesting that he cut the songs because musicals weren’t part of Korean cinematic tradition, another that Korea went Sound Of Music crazy and he did it to increase the number of showings per day. Sadly, there’s no way of nailing down this story as true; it seems to be just another urban myth. We might have a go at watching the film without the songs some time, though, and see how it turns out…

Do you have anything to say about this topic, or do you have some suggestions for other issues we might discuss in our weekly email? Why not comment and tell us about it?

Virtual Snacks

Just a few suggestions if you have a little time to spare:

Facts, quizzes and more about The Sound Of Music:
BBC: Maria: Fun stuff

Salzburg tourist information (the film was shot in Salzburg):
Tourismus Salzburg: The Sound Of Music

Biography of Julie Andrews:
IMDb: Julie Andrews

Biography of Christopher Plummer:
IMDb: Christopher Plummer

Bizarre Searches

Some strange search terms which have led people to visit British Expat recently:

  • pottering in france
  • goth shop poland
  • doggie s name
  • what does cetostearyl alcohol make from
  • usa with criminal record forum
  • constable boat building
  • british barge art
  • greese explanation
  • judo tattoo
  • worst garden pictures
  • sexy wellies
  • web

Till next time…
Happy surfing!

British Expat Magazine


“The devil is more interesting than God.”

– Christopher Plummer, Canadian actor (1929- ), on why he prefers playing evil characters.


A hippie gets onto a bus and sits next to a nun in the front seat. The hippie looks over and asks the nun if she would have sex with him.

The nun, surprised by the question, politely declines and gets off at the next stop. When the bus starts again, the bus driver says to the hippie, “If you want, I can tell you how you can get that nun to have sex with you.”

The hippie of course says that he’d love to know, so the bus driver tells him that every Tuesday evening at midnight the nun goes to the cemetery to pray to the Lord. “If you went dressed in robes and some glowing powder,” says the bus driver, “you could tell her you were God and command her to have sex with you.”

The hippie decides to try this out. That Tuesday, he goes to the cemetery and waits for the nun. Right on schedule, the nun shows up. While she’s in the middle of praying, the hippie walks out from hiding, in robes and wearing a glowing mask of God. “I am God, I have heard your prayers and I will answer them but you must have sex with me first,” he says.

The nun agrees but asks for anal sex so she might keep her virginity. The hippie agrees to this and quickly sets about having sex with the nun.

After the hippie finishes, he rips off his mask and shouts out, “Ha ha, I’m the hippie!”

The nun replies by whipping off her mask and shouting, “Ha ha, I’m the bus driver!”

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