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On-screen von Trapp children remain close

The Columbian
Published: March 22, 2015, 12:00am

LOS ANGELES — Seven young actors became part of cinematic history when they were cast as the von Trapp children in Rogers & Hammerstein’s “The Sound of Music” — and they also became lifelong friends. Known as “The SoM 7,” they formed their own sort of family over the months of making the musical. Their parents befriended one another as the young performers traveled to Austria for filming, and the actors themselves have remained close for decades.

“We’re beyond friends. We’re second family,” said Kym Karath, who played the youngest von Trapp, Gretl. “As adults, we were deeply bonded, so our lives have really interwoven with each other.”

As “The Sound of Music” celebrates its 50th anniversary, here’s a look at what the “SoM 7” are doing now:

LIESL: Now 72, Charmian Carr played the eldest von Trapp daughter and has published two books about her experience making the film: “Forever Liesl” and “Letters to Liesl.” She maintains a website (charmiancarr.com) where she sells the custom furniture she designs, as well as autographed photos from her “Sound of Music” days. She lives in Southern California and regularly sees her “Sound of Music” sisters.

BRIGITTA: Angela Cartwright, who started performing at age 3, went on to star in the TV series “Lost in Space” and “Make Room for Granddaddy” after playing Brigitta in “The Sound of Music.” She traded acting for other artistic pursuits after having children. Now 62, Cartwright works as a photographer, painter and writer in Los Angeles. Her most recent book was released last year: “Styling the Stars: Lost Treasures from the Twentieth Century Fox Archive.”

KURT: Duane Chase, who played little brother Kurt von Trapp, continued acting until his teens, including an appearance in the 1966 Kurt Russell film, “Follow Me, Boys!” Chase switched gears in college, earning a bachelor’s and master’s degree in geology and working as a software engineer. Now 64, he recently went on sabbatical and is considering retirement. He lives near Seattle with his wife and their two cats.

FRIEDRICH: For Nicholas Hammond, who portrayed the eldest von Trapp son, “The Sound of Music” came early in a still-thriving entertainment career. Hammond continued to collect film and TV credits as he pursued an English literature degree at Princeton. Now 64, he lives in Australia and works as an actor, writer and director.

GRETL: Kym Karath was only 5 years old when she played Gretl von Trapp. She quit acting for high school and college at USC, and focused on parenting rather than performing to care for her disabled son. Along with other parents, Karath helped establish the Aurelia Foundation, which provides services for special-needs individuals once they finish high school. Now 56, Karath is returning to her entertainment career as an actress and writer.

LOUISA: “The Sound of Music” was Heather Menzies-Urich’s first movie. She continued acting after she wed actor Robert Urich, but stopped when their children were born. Now 65, Menzies-Urich runs the nonprofit organization she established after her husband died from a rare form of cancer. The Robert Urich Foundation provides funding for cancer research and to help families relocate for specialized treatment.

MARTA: Debbie Turner, now 58, was as much an athlete as an actress as a child, and she opted for sports after playing Marta von Trapp. Turner owns a floral-design business in Minnesota. She recently was called on to provide flowers for a wedding in Salzburg, Austria, at a palace that inspired the sets of “The Sound of Music.”