I was saddened this morning to learn of the death on Saturday of actress Charmian Carr, ‘Liesl’ of the iconic 1965 movie, “The Sound of Music.” She was 73. She died of complications of a rare form of dementia.
I, and many young men of my generation, ‘fell in love’ with the beautiful eldest daughter of the singing Von Trapp family. I was 17 when the movie debuted and Liesl was “16 going on 17.” (She was actually 21 when the movie was filmed).
Ironically, it was Charmian Carr’s first and last movie. (Her younger sister, Darleen, had a longer acting career – most notably as ‘Jeannie Stone’ in the TV series “Streets of San Francisco.”)
Charmian Carr was born on December 27, 1942 in Chicago as Charmian Farnon. Her name came from the name of one of Cleopatra’s maids in Shakespeare’s “Antony and Cleopatra.” Her family moved from Chicago to California when Charmian was 13.
She was a cheerleader and played basketball and volleyball at San Fernando High School. But she had never acted nor did she have a singing lesson until she landed the part of ‘Liesl.’
She was working as a doctor’s assistant when a friend of her mother’s suggested she audition for a part in “The Sound of Music.” (Director Robert Wise didn’t like the name ‘Farnon’ and gave Charmian a few names to choose from. She picked ‘Carr.’)
My Favorite Movie
At least from a count of viewings, “The Sound of Music” was my favorite movie. I have seen it, conservatively, about 400 times. Others must have agreed. The movie won five Academy Awards. While I have many other movies on my ‘top’ list, none approach those viewings.
An Insider’s View
Unlike some of the cast, Carr embraced the movie. (Christopher Plummer, who played Georg Von Trapp, Liesl’s father, for years referred to the movie as ‘the sound of mucus.’ Only later did he admit that the movie was one of his crowning achievements as an actor.)
In her 2001 book, “Forever Liesl,” Carr talks about filming in Salzburg, Austria. She was the only one of the ‘children’ who was of legal age, so she often went out on the town with the older actors. She also revealed that she had a ‘mad crush’ on Christopher Plummer.
She also remained close with Julie Andrews, who played her step-mother. But Carr’s closest alliance from the movie was with Nicholas Hammond, who played her younger brother, ‘Freidrich.’ She maintained a close relationship with him until her death. She often said that she considered him to be her actual brother. (Hammond later played ‘Spiderman’ on TV.)
Carr spent a considerable amount of time promoting the movie, and later appeared in retrospectives with other cast members. While on one promotion tour in 1967, she met and married Jay Brent. They had two daughters but were divorced in 1991.
Carr became an interior designer in Encino, California. Her company was called Charmian Carr Designs. She had many famous clients including Michael Jackson, Heather Menzies (who played Liesl’s younger sister Louisa and was married to actor Robert Urich), and screenwriter Ernest Lehman. Carr considered Michael Jackson one of her closest friends.
16 Going on 17
Charmian Carr sprained her ankle filming this scene early in the production. If you look carefully in later scenes, you can see the flesh colored bandage on her ankle.