We all fell in love with the charm of the von Trapp family from The Sound of Music. But what happened to the actors who portrayed the family? For some, the answer seems predictable, but others pursued very different things. Sadly, some members of the on-screen von Trapp family have passed away, but what they accomplished in their lives is so memorable.
Christopher Plummer – Captain von Trapp
Christopher Plummer was a legendary actor who starred in many roles over the course of his seven-decade career. One of his most famous roles was as Captain von Trapp in The Sound of Music, but he was at first apprehensive to take the role when looking at the script. He said this was “because it was so awful and sentimental and gooey. You had to work terribly hard to try and infuse some minuscule bit of humor into it.”
Plummer would act well into his old age, appearing in television and film roles as recently as 2019. He was nominated for three Academy Awards in his career, and won the Best Supporting Actor award for his role in Beginners in 2012. He was 82, making him the oldest actor at the time to ever receive an Oscar.
Plummer passed away in February 2021 at the age of 91.
Julie Andrews – Maria von Trapp
Equally as legendary was Plummer’s co-star and love interest in The Sound of Music, Julie Andrews. With her own shining acting career spanning seven decades, she has an impressive collection of awards to show for it, including an Academy Award, a BAFTA, five Golden Globes, three Grammys, and two Emmys.
When she took the role of Maria von Trapp, she too was nervous about it. Her reason was that she’d just finished her role as the “wholesome nanny” in Disney’s Mary Poppins and didn’t want to be type-cast at the young age of 29. Hindsight tells us that her nervousness was not warranted, as she went on to have an illustrious career despite back-to-back nanny roles.
Taking a step away from on-screen appearances in her older age, Andrews has switched over to voice acting, which she says she is enjoying. “I don’t have to get hair and makeup anymore. I just go into the studio and do my voiceovers,” she explained in an interview with Vanity Fair. These days, she narrates the Netflix series Bridgerton.
Charmian Carr – Liesl von Trapp
Before she became Liesl von Trapp, Charmian Carr had absolutely no theatrical training whatsoever. She was 21 at the time and working as a physician’s assistant. Her mother set up an audition with the casting agent, saying, “She’s 21, but she could pass for 16.”
The film was her breakout role, but her acting career would be overshadowed by her role as the eldest von Trapp child. “It was hard to have your first role as the high spot of your career. I felt smothered by Liesl. She began to feel like my evil twin, the perfect one that everyone loved,” Carr once said.
She starred in the musical Evening Primrose in 1966 but struggled to get any work after that. Instead, she dedicated herself to being a wife and mother, while also working as an interior designer for stars like Michael Jackson. Following her divorce in 1991, she wrote two books about her experiences on set as Liesl. Carr passed away in September 2016 at the age of 73, after complications from a rare form of dementia.
Nicholas Hammond – Friedrich von Trapp
Nicholas Hammond played Friedrich von Trapp, the eldest brother, at the age of 15. He’d already had a successful acting career, featuring in the 1963 film adaption of Lord of the Flies. As it turns out, it was actually Julie Andrews who inspired him to become an actor. “I saw her onstage in ‘My Fair Lady’ when I was nine and I made a decision that night that I wanted to do what that lady does,” Hammond said.
After The Sound of Music, Hammond went on to become the first actor to play Spider-Man in a live-action adaptation of the comic book. These days he works in Australia as a screenwriter, director, and actor. He says all of the von Trapp children stayed close after the film’s production.
“We bonded because, for all of us, and particularly the seven kids, it was an extraordinary experience as a young person to go through — where one day you’re an unknown child actor and literally the day after the film opens, we were the seven most famous children in the world,” he explained.
Heather Menzies – Louisa von Trapp
Heather Menzies was also 15 years old when she played Louisa von Trapp. From a young age, she had taken an interest in ballet and was able to show her dancing chops in the iconic “So Long, Farewell” number in the film. However, after The Sound of Music, she continued to pursue an acting career for another 25 years, with one of her more notable roles being Jessica 6 in the sci-fi television series Logan’s Run (1977-1978). Somewhere along the way, she appeared in a Playboy photo spread.
Menzies eventually married actor and producer Robert Urich and together they had three children. In December 2017, she passed away from brain cancer at the age of 68.
Her son, Ryan Urich, made a statement following his mother’s death: “She was an actress, a ballerina, and loved living her life to the fullest.”
Duane Chase – Kurt von Trapp
Duane Chase starred as Kurt von Trapp but was already used to being in front of the camera, as he’d been cast in several commercials before moving on to film. After The Sound of Music, he had only two more acting credits – in the 1966 film Follow Me, Boys!, and the television series The Big Valley (1966). Unlike many of his movie siblings, Chase chose to stop acting and switched career paths entirely.
Chase earned a degree in geology. For a brief stint, he helped to fight forest fires that were spreading across Southern Oregon and California, and volunteered to drive supply trucks to where the outbreaks of forest fires were occurring.
After this, he turned to software development. He now works as a computer systems analyst and designer for oil and mining companies.
Angela Cartwright – Brigitta von Trapp
Brigitta von Trapp was played by Angela Cartwright, who was at the time already working on The Danny Thomas Show. “Thousands were interviewed to play the parts of the von Trapp children and when I got word I had been cast I was so excited,” she said on her website. Thankfully, Danny Thomas was willing to let her go early for the Sound of Music.
“Danny Thomas released me from the last show of the ‘Danny Thomas Show’ season so I could begin working on this movie. For that, I am so grateful because he didn’t have to do that,” she explained. After The South of Music, she landed another major role in the iconic cult classic Lost in Space (1965-1968), and then featured again in the film adaptation that was released in 1998.
She has plenty of other acting credits under her belt and also worked as a professional photographer.
Debbie Turner – Marta von Trapp
When Debbie Turner showed up to the casting call for Marta von Trapp, the producers found her “so adorable” that they almost cast her for the role on the spot. As a young child, she had plenty of acting gigs under her belt, having worked in numerous commercials and television shows as well as print modeling.
Turner stepped away from acting to go to school, where she became a pretty serious skier, becoming the west coast ski racing champion.
She became a wife and mother to four daughters. She also opened her own freelance floral design company, where she’s worked for over 30 years.
Kym Karath – Gretl von Trapp
The youngest sibling, Gretl von Trapp, was played by Kym Karath when she was just five years old. She was so young that at the time she did not know how to swim, which proved to be problematic for the boat-flipping scene. The directors asked Julie Andrews to make sure she was okay during the scene, saying, “The little one can’t swim, please fall to the front of the boat so you can get to her quickly,” Andrews explained. However, Andrews ended up at the back of the boat, and one of the other von Trapp children had to make sure little Karath was safe.
Following the release of the film, Karath had several appearances on television shows. As she got older, she stepped away from Hollywood to move to Paris and pursue an education in Art History. While there, she modeled for a while, but eventually returned to the US where she dedicated herself to raising her son. She also founded the Aurelia Foundation, dedicated to helping adults with disabilities.
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In recent years, Karath said she was looking to restart her career in acting.