- Always Liesl
Who did she play in The Sound of Music?
Charmian Carr is best known for her part as Liesl, the oldest Von Trapp child in The Sound of Music movie. She felt honoured to have played Liesl, one of the principal characters in the film.
She had never taken singing or dancing lessons and was not particularly interested in becoming an actress. A friend sent a picture of her to the casting director of The Sound of Music. After three interviews her charm won them over and she was given the part.
“She was so pretty and had such poise and charm. We liked her immediately.” - Robert Wise, Director
Liesl has been described as a ‘breath of fresh air’. She was the perfect one, the one everyone loved. On screen, Rolf, the telegram boy falls in love with her. It is in the gazebo where they sing ‘Sixteen Going on Seventeen' which is Daniel Truhitte (Rolf) and Charmian’s most important scene together. It is a song about ‘transition, growing up, accepting responsibilities and limitations in life.’
During this song they dance a routine that Charmian said they spent hours practicing with choreographer Dee Dee Wood. The dance becomes quite complex and involves them jumping on the benches in the gazebo. However, before the filming of the scene, the wardrobe department forgot to put non-slip pads on Liesl’s shoes, which resulted in her sliding straight through a glass pane during the dance sequence. Fortunately there was no serious injury, apart from a severely sprained ankle. A camouflaged bandage was used, the same color as Charmian’s tights to help support her sprained ankle. If you look closely at Charmian’s right ankle you will see it looking slightly thicker than the left one (in the more recent DVD’s the bandage has been digitally erased)!
Charmian did not have to go to school during filming, but she was given guitar lessons so it would look realistic when playing the guitar and singing ‘Edelweiss” with Christopher Plummer. She was also given daily coaching with Pamela Danova to practise vocals and dialects.
Liesl von Trapp had become Charmian’s identity:
“If I played other parts though, I wouldn’t be just Liesl. I would have spoiled that and I would prefer people to think of me always as her”
- Charmian Carr
Before The Sound of Music
Charmian Carr, born Charmian Farnon was born on 27th December 1942 in Chicago, Illinois. Her mother, Rita Oehmen, had been a vaudeville actress and her father, Brian Farnon, was a musician. Charmian’s name came from a character in the Shakespeare play Anthony and Cleopatra. She was one of Cleopatra’s servants. Director Robert Wise thought Charmian Farnon was too long, so her gave her a few shorter names to choose from. In the end she chose Charmian Carr. Her nickname is “Charmy’.
When Charmian was thirteen years old, they moved from Chicago to California where she later got a job working as a doctor’s receptionist having only thoughts of saving enough money to travel. The only acting she had done was in High School plays.
After The Sound of Music
In 1966 Charmian starred in a one-hour musical on television called ‘Evening Primrose’. She then married dentist Jay Brent in 1967, had two daughters, Jennifer and Emily, and decided to give up acting.
“I wanted children and a career I could control” - Charmian Carr
She later started her own business of interior design, Charmian Carr Designs, living in Encino, California. She has been referred to as ‘the mannequin room lady’, after working for Michael Jackson. He wanted a room designed in his house to make it look as if there was a party happening. So Charmian filled a room full of mannequins all dressed as if they were at a party!
She divorced Jay in 1991, but her work of being a global ambassador for the movie carried on.
“Originally I kept thinking that the popularity of The Sound of Music would die down……….finally at the 25th anniversary, I realised that the Sound of Music will be going on forever and ever, and that I will be forever Liesl in the public eye” - Charmian Carr
The photo on the right shows Carr with The Sound of Music Director Robert Wise on his 86th birthday.
She worked for 20th Century Fox and was often seen at the Singalong evenings. She has said that she was the one Fox always go to because Julie Andrews won’t do it! She was a great believer in these fun events :
“I believe singalongs fulfill a basic human need. We humans need to congregate, to join together, to sing and laugh out loud together. Opportunities to do that are sorely missing from our high-tech insulated lives. It’s good for the soul” - Charmian Carr
In the year 2000, Charmian turned to writing and had her first book published called 'Forever Liesl'. This is not only about the making of The Sound of Music but about her life as well. A second book followed in 2001 called ‘Letters to Liesl’. Charmian said of her writing:
“So many people want to know about the film, about the experiences of it. It was too much to write back in a letter to all the different fans, so part of the reason I wrote the book was to answer questions.”
Charmian Carr died on September 17th 2016 in Los Angeles, California.
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