Many talented actresses hail from Chicago, but few have influenced me in both childhood and adulthood.
Today is International Women's Day, a global day that celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.
Dozens of talented and successful women in film and TV call Chicagoland home, including
Each of these women is worthy of celebration in her own right. But today, I’d like to recognize an actress I've watched so many times on the big screen that, well, you probably wouldn't believe my count if I told you: Charmian Carr.
Born in Chicago in 1942, Charmian Carr is best known for her role as Liesl, the eldest Von Trapp daughter in The Sound of Music (Robert Wise, 1965).
This onscreen appearance, Carr's first, garnered glowing reviews. Reporters across the U.S. called her "wonderful," "aptly named," and a newcomer audiences should definitely "watch out for."
Even Hedda Hopper, the gossip columnist known as the woman who scared Hollywood, praised Carr's debut as "brilliant" and further gushed that she's "never seen more personality packed into a small human parcel."
It's exactly these characteristics — charm, full personality, and ingenue status — that made my childhood self want to watch Charmian Carr play Liesl over and over again. As my brother can attest, I virtually wore out our family's VHS tape of The Sound of Music because of my obsessive viewing habits.
Also perfect in my 10-year-old mind — and in my adult mind, if I'm being honest — are the pink dress Carr wears during the gazebo scene with (the good-for-nothing Nazi soldier) Rolf and the way she looks at Christopher Plummer's Captain Von Trapp when he first sings "Edelweiss."
For someone who'd never acted in the movies or had even sung or danced professionally, Carr made many young girls believe a Hollywood dream was attainable.
The Sound of Music and Carr's character also affected me professionally. Because of my fondness for them — along with the musicals Annie (1982), Grease! (1978), and Popeye (1980) — I would eventually register for a graduate course on the film musical.
It was during this class that I fully discovered and began to appreciate Gene Kelly, the classic Hollywood musical star who became the primary subject of my academic research.
After leaving show business, Carr continued to be successful. She owned an interior design firm, Charmian Carr Designs, and wrote two books, Forever Liesl (2000) and Letters to Liesl (2001). Way too young, Carr died in 2016 from complications relating to dementia.
So, thank you, Charmian Carr, for your onscreen and offscreen achievements, and for inspiring young girls — and a few older ones — to seek out their own aspirations.
Image: Charmian Carr with Anthony Perkins. Christopher Plummer and Julie Andrews filming The Sound of Music. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
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