Charmian Carr, the eldest Von Trapp daughter in The Sound of Music, passed away at the age of 73. She died of complications of a rare form of dementia, as detailed by the homepage of her website.
Carr was best known for her role as Liesl in the film version of The Sound of Music, which was released in 1965 to initially mixed reviews but was finally commercial success both locally and internationally. The film would receive five Academy Awards.
Carr was born Charmian Anne Farnon on December 27, 1942, in Chicago, Illinois. Her parents — who eventually divorced in 1957 — were the musician Brian Farnon and vaudeville actress Rita Oehman. She was the second daughter, outlived by her older sister Shannon Farnon and younger sister Darleen Carr.
How she became Liesl Von Trapp
Carr worked as a model in a store, getting some extra cash while she studied in the San Fernando Valley State College. She wished to become a speech therapist, and in spite of having lived in Los Angeles since she was ten, never had much of interest in the movie business, unlike her two sisters.
As revealed in a newspaper article from The Times Recorder dated November 9, 1964, a girl who worked with her in modeling had heard that the producer and director of the film had been in a four-month search for the person who would play the role of Liesl.
The girl, without the consent or knowledge of Carr — presented him with Carr’s picture and a note that said she could sing and dance.
“I received a call from Mr. Wise to come for a tryout. It took me completely by surprise” stated the actress years after.
And as the world knows, Carr won the role, and at the behest of the director-producer Robert Wise picked the other surname of “Carr,” as he thought her last name of “Farnon” was too long when paired with her name. She was 21 by the time the movie was filmed.
During the filming of The Sound of Music
Carr had always wished to go to Europe. She was saving money just for that. However, being cast for the role more or less solved that. The movie was filmed in Salzburg, Austria. She described on her website that the experience was “like a fairytale.”
While a mostly positive experience, she told The Telegraph nine years ago that “wardrobe forgot to put nonslip pads” on her shoes for her number in the gazebo with the actor that played Rolf, so she suffered horribly while filming that part.
After The Sound of Music
Carr married in 1967 to the dentist Jay Brent and left acting. They had two daughters, Emily and Jennifer. Eventually, she became the grandmother to four children, William, Tucker, Derek, and Emma. She divorced in 1991.
Before retiring from acting, Carr had a role in Stephen Sondheim’s Evening Primrose (1966) and worked with Van Johnson in the pilot for a TV show, Take Her, She’s Mine.
Carr was involved in three different books: Forever Liesl: A Memoir of The Sound of Music published in February 2000, the 25th anniversary of the movie and it was written alongside Jean Strauss. In Spring 2001, a second book titled Letters to Liesl was released, which describes the impact the film has had, inspired by the fan mail she received from fans. The last book was published in Spring 2012, titled The Sound of Music Family Scrapbook. It details the inside stories of the actors and actresses who played the Von Trapp children.
After retiring from acting and her children getting older, she started her interior design business, aptly named Charmian Carr Design.