Why Rolf in The Sound of Music Made Such An Impression


The character Rolf Gruber played by Daniel Truhitte left a lasting impression on me the first time (1965) and last time/recently on AMC when I viewed The Sound of Music.  As a kid I truly enjoyed the musical talent of  Julie Andrews a.k.a. Maria and the amazing acting of Christopher Plummer who portrayed Captain Von Trapp.  As an adult I appreciate even more what the filmmakers were trying to say about the politics of the time.

Von Trapp was the patriarch of a family of gifted singers and also a distinguished naval commander for Germany during WWI.   Widower Baron Von Trapp was in need of a nanny who not only could take care of the needs of his seven children, educate and discipline them but also respect his style of militarized parenting.  Maria/Julie had other plans and garnered the love of not only the seven kids but their father due in part to her effervescent zest for life.

So with such star power like Andrews and Plummer - why did Rolf make such an impression on me?  Perhaps because he was also a youth rather than an adult who I could relate to.  He was a bit shy around girls - but like most young guys that didn't stop him from attempting to pursue Liesl - a beautiful girl - the oldest of Captain Von Trapp's daughters.  Rolf had a bit of a run-in with the Baron (who he was in awe of as a heroic submariner) when he drops by to connect with Liesl....his excuse, when confronted by the crusty Von Trapp, was that, "I'm here to deliver a telegram."  Von Trapp immediately dismissed the young man convinced that he had ulterior motives regarding his daughter...a move that many a young man can relate to knowing how fathers can be about their girls.


Rolf was basically a sweet young lad who fell in love with Liesl and she in turn with him.  But then Adolf Hitler came to power and the world was turned upside down.  The movie premiered some 20 years after the end of WWII.  That may sound like a long time but if we consider that for Americans living today - 911 occurred within the same time frame, (20 years) - a tragic event many remember as if it were yesterday.  The same could be said for the audience that went to that movie.

The telegram Rolf delivered to the Baron commanded him to return to active service as a naval commander for the Third Reich, a regime he absolutely abhorred, which unfortunately many of his contemporaries saw as a rebirth to make Germany great again.   In hindsight, we all now know how that ended.

It is Rolf, who in spite of being a Hitler Youth Cadet allowed the Von Trapp's to go undetected by the Gestapo looking for the Baron who had the nerve to publicly declare his displeasure with Hitler's regime.  Rolf still had a soft spot for Liesl and despite his fanaticism for the fuehrer realized that the Von Trapps were decent people that did not deserve the wrath of a regime that was morally corrupt.

The family escaped to Switzerland and via a broadway play turned cinematic marvel, became famous.

Perhaps you know or have known such a Rolf in your history.  Fortunately, in the end, Rolf still had a conscience that could distinguish between GOOD & EVIL - and chose to GO DO GOOD.  That's why Rolf made and still makes such an impression on me - as does The Sound of Music - classic cinema that decried and decries even today the tyranny of a mad man.




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