Famed for her role as Liesl von Trapp in  The Sound of Music, Charmain Carr died at the age of 73. We take a look back to the time she shared her fondest memories with us.

…I loved to dance 

I was good at it too, particularly ballet. I’d win competitions at school. My favourite teacher was Stan Kramer. He taught me to laugh and relax while I performed.

 

…My mum got me an audition for The Sound of Music without me knowing

The filmmakers were struggling to find someone suitable to play Liesl—she had to look young and innocent, but still be able to convince the audience in the romance scenes. So they’d asked the Hollywood agent Marian Garner to find someone. She was friends with my mum, who thought I could pass for 16 even though I was 21, and put me forward. I’d never acted, danced or sung professionally. I was at college and working part-time for a doctor.

I’ve no idea why the director Robert Wise thought I was right for the part. I could sing and dance well enough, but I think they’d just run out of options! And the rest of the cast were two weeks into rehearsals when I was hired, so I had a lot of catching up to do. I never really thought I was a good actor.

 

...Filming the “My Favourite Things” song in the children’s bedroom

It was exciting because it was the first scene we did. But doing “Do-Re-Mi” in Salzburg was fun because we were dancing to the music and, well, I loved to dance!

 

Von Trapp family

 

…Nearly breaking my neck while filming the “Sixteen Going on Seventeen” scene

At one point, during what’s supposed to be a tender dance number with Liesl’s suitor Rolf, I had to jump on a bench in the gazebo. The wardrobe department had put me in shoes without rubber soles and I skidded and went straight through a glass window. My ankle was cut and sprained, but rather than take me to hospital, the crew bandaged me up and gave me an injection of what they called “Vitamin B12”.  I suspect it was adrenalin because I carried on dancing for three days with very little pain and finished the scene. The crew gave me a standing ovation.

 

...Then almost putting my back out...

...having to lift Gretl, the youngest of my von Trapp siblings, at the end of “So Long, Farewell”. Kym Karath, the actress playing her, was only five, but she’d basically eaten all the food on the set. It’s been said that she doubled in weight, and that sounds about right. Christopher Plummer was supposed to carry her up the mountain at the end, but he had to use a stunt double.

 

…Being suddenly famous

After filming finished I was still under contract with 20th Century Fox, and they had me touring all over the world for the best part of two years, promoting the movie. I went to all these exotic places I’d never been, such as Asia and the Caribbean, and was given VIP treatment everywhere I went. The rest of the von Trapps and
I appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show in April 1965. It was amazing to be on a TV series I’d grown up with.

 

…Turning my back on acting for my family

I married a dentist called Jay Brent in May 1967, who I’d met when he fixed my teeth. Soon we had two daughters, Jennifer and Emily, and I wanted to stay at home with them. So I quit acting and just did the odd commercial. I guess my childhood had made me a more sensitive adult—I wanted to be the sort of parent my mother and father had failed to be.

 

The von Trapp family in a line

 

The Sound of Music inspiring a new career

I’d been hugely impressed by the sets on the film, such as the inside of the von Trapp house. The production designer Boris Leven had a terrific attention to detail. So, in the late 1970s, as my family got a little bit older, I decided to become an interior designer.

 

…A particularly interesting client

I worked for several Trapp sisters, including Brigitta and Louisa, but the best known was Michael Jackson. I worked for him for eight years, designing his homes before Neverland. He was eccentric—he wanted a whole lot of mannequins in his bedroom and no furniture. But he was warm, and I loved and respected him.

 

…Michael taking me and my daughters to Disneyland 

They were about 12 and nine at the time, and he treated them to all the rides. But he was like an older child to me, very playful and fun. In September 1984, he flew us in
his private plane to a Jackson Five concert in Philadelphia—part of the Victory Tour. We were right in the front row!

 

…Getting back together with my onscreen family on TV

There was this big cast reunion on The Oprah Winfrey Show back in October 2010, including Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer. It was the first time I’d seen all of them in years and it was brilliant to be reunited. They had certainly changed a lot since 1965, Kym Karath in particular. She isn’t a clumsy five-year-old any more—she is a sophisticated woman now.

 

...The really positive effect The Sound of Music has had on my life

I’ve been able to travel, write books, launch a successful design career…all the interesting things I’ve managed to do. It’s been a very happy life.

As told to Simon Hemelryk

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