Two years after his death at the age of 91, the voice of Christopher Plummer singing Edelweiss in The Sound of Music will finally be heard.
Plummer received vocal training for the part of Capt Von Trapp in the Oscar-winning 1965 movie but a singer, Bill Lee, was dubbed in for the famous Rodgers and Hammerstein numbers.
Almost six decades on, an expanded, remixed and remastered version of The Sound of Music soundtrack is to be released. Along with 40 previously unreleased tracks and alternative takes, it will include Plummer’s versions of Edelweiss, Something Good and other songs.
Plummer recalled in a 2018 interview with the Guardian that he was “furious they wouldn’t let me sing” on the film or its soundtrack.
“I’d worked on my singing voice for so long, but in those days they’d have someone trained who would sing through dubbing. I said: ‘The only reason I did this bloody thing was so I could do a musical on stage on film.’”
The film, which won five Oscars, was “the most popular role I’ve ever done”, he said. The obsession of fans “annoyed the hell out of me at first. I thought, ‘Don’t these people ever see another movie?’”
The Sound of Music tells the story of a widowed Austrian naval commander who hires an aspiring nun, Maria, as a governess for his seven children. The Von Trapps are forced to flee from the Nazis as the entire family falls for Maria’s charm and warmth.
Mike Matessino, a film historian who preserves and restores classic film music, remixed and remastered the soundtrack, the original version of which went head to head in the album charts with the Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
In the new version, “you will hear what you’ve heard before, famous songs with the mellifluous tones of Dame Julie Andrews leading the way,” Matessino wrote in an 30,000-word essay to accompany the release. “But the experience has been transformed beyond what the 1965 soundtrack album offered – with extensions to the songs … and even some segments not used in the completed version of the film.”
Speaking from Los Angeles, Matessino told the Guardian that Plummer’s voice was “not the polished professional sound it needed to be” for the movie.
“One of the reasons he took the role was to improve his singing, which he did, but not consummately enough to sit comfortably opposite Julie Andrews. Plummer was taking singing lessons all the way through [filming] and his voice is pleasing but not quite good enough.”
The Sound of Music broke box office records, selling out in cinemas for more than a year. In the UK, the soundtrack was ranked the bestselling album of 1965, 1966 and 1968. More than 25m copies have been sold worldwide.
Matessino said Rodgers and Hammerstein’s music was “genius”, and the film’s enduring success was due to its themes of family, healing and moral purpose. “There are issues hiding in there that you don’t associate with fluffy musicals.”
The film’s appeal “will never go away”, he said. “Each generation discovers The Sound of Music for themselves. There’s something indelible about it.”