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The kids assemble 'The Sound of Music Family Scrapbook'

'The Sound of Music' actors who played the Von Trapp children will be at the Hollywood Show and some at the L.A. Times Festival of Books with their new book.

April 21, 2012|By Susan King, Los Angeles Times
  • The seven child actors who played the Von Trapp kids in the "Sound of Music" are the subject of a new coffee table book. From left: Charmian Carr, Liesl; Nicholas Hammond, Freidrich; Heather Menzies, Louisa; Duane Chase, Kurt; Angela Cartright, Brigitta; Debbie Turner, Marta; and Kym Karath, Gretl.
The seven child actors who played the Von Trapp kids in the "Sound of… (Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles…)

The seven actors who played the Von Trapp children in Robert Wise's beloved 1965 Oscar-winning musical"The Sound of Music" are as close today as they were while they were in production in 1964 in Salzburg, Austria.

Though they live all over the globe, they have always been there for one another. A decade ago they rushed to be at the side of Heather Menzies (Louisa) when her husband, actor Robert Urich, died of cancer. And Menzies is the godmother to Kym Karath's (Gretl) special needs 20-year-old son, Eric.

The seven have a new coffee table book out that they wrote with Fred Bronson, "The Sound of Music Family Scrapbook," which is filled with behind-the-scenes stories and photos of the film. On Saturday, all seven will be autographing the book at the Hollywood Show at the Burbank Airport Marriott Hotel and Convention Center, and on Sunday four of the actors will be in conversation with Times writer Rebecca Keegan at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books at USC.


"The Sound of Music" children: In the April 21 Calendar section, an article about the seven actors who played the Von Trapp children in the 1965 film "The Sound of Music" said that only one, Nicholas Hammond, is still working in show business. In fact, another of them, Kym Karath, developed and hosted a program for cable channel JLTV, "Bouncing Back," about people overcoming adversity, and is working on a second episode. —

Earlier in the week, the seven gathered at the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills to reminisce. Only Nicholas Hammond (Friedrich) 61, who has been in Sydney, Australia, for the last 22 years, is still working in the business. Charmian Carr (Liesl), 69, lives in Encino, where she is a successful interior designer. Duane Chase (Kurt), 61, lives in Seattle. He holds degrees in geology and is in the software industry.

Angela Cartwright (Brigitta) 59, resides in Studio City. She had a boutique in Toluca Lake, Rubber Boots, for more than two decades. She is also an accomplished photographer, painter and art book author. Menzies, 62, retired to raised her three children. She now lives in Park City, Utah, and raises money for the Robert Urich Foundation for Cancer Research.

Debbie Turner (Marta), 55, lives in Chanhassen, Minn., where she is a florist and doll designer. Karath, 53, lives in Malibu and has spent the last two decades raising Eric. She also is the founder of the Aurelia Foundation for special needs individuals as they transition to adulthood.

Q: The popularity of classic films often ebbs and flows over the years, but that never seems to have happened to "The Sound of Music" — singalong screenings across the country, "Sound of Music" tours to Salzburg and now your book. Why are audiences still in love with this movie?

Angela Cartwright: Besides by being visually beautiful with great music and a wonderful script — all of those things make a good movie — I think there is an evergreen feeling about this particular film that people revisit.

Heather Menzies: It's good winning over evil.... It seems to me to have become almost cult-like, in that it's more popular today among multi-generations than it was in yesteryear.

Nicholas Hammond: It is such an ideal family and I think that everybody in your own life feels that there may be something lacking. I think for so many people they imagine that it is the perfect family. I think everybody would like to believe that might be possible in their life.

Charmian Carr: However, we were not the perfect family. These children did some very naughty things.

HM: We did get asked to leave one hotel in Salzburg. Rumor has it it was because of the music festival and they were overbooked, but I don't believe it.

Q: What did you do?

CC: They were trading shoes. (Carr was 21 when she made the film and stayed at a different hotel than the younger children)

HM: [The occupants] would put their shoes outside the hotel door to have them shined. We would start at one end and go to the other [and exchange the shoes].

NH: By today's standards, it was so incredibly innocent.

Q: You were making the film in Salzburg less than 20 years after the end of World War II. What was the reaction toward "The Sound of Music" there?

Kym Karath: It was so unpopular. The people didn't want to know about what happened.

Duane Chase: They didn't like the uniforms and the swastikas.

NH: I was in Salzburg in November and this documentary crew was going around with a microphone and stopping people on the street and saying, "Have you seen 'The Sound of Music'?" The only people who said "yes" were foreign tourists.

Q: You all must have had great parents because you don't seem saddled with the baggage of most famous child stars.

NH: We have all led lives. It is not like we felt trapped by having been in the most famous musical of all time and your life ends after that. Every single person here has lived a fulfilling life. I think [director] Robert Wise made a deliberate effort to pick seven kids he thought were real kids with real families.

Q: What was Wise like on the set?

Debbie Turner: Even after the film, he was a father figure to us.

NH: It was a very quiet set. He never raised his voice.

HM: The only time I saw him get very pale as a ghost and almost pass out, was when Angela and I walked on the set — it was during the dinner scene where [star Julie Andrews] sits on the pine cone. They had pixie bands back in the day and we tucked our hair under the pixie band to make it look like we had cut our hair. We walked in and said, "Do you like our new hairdos?"

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