The six of us here today had all been working together for a week or two at Twentieth Cenbtury Fox before we met Charmy. Because her role was so much more important than ours, the director saw many young women before choosing exactly the right one. He and he chose exactly the right one.
We had been rehearsing the first scene we knew we’d shoot, the thunderstorm scene where we hear Julie sing “My Favorite Things.” There was a pillow fight, which we’d been rehearsing with a stand-in for Liesl. Then one day, this amazing girl walked onto the sound stage and joined us.
She had a smile that melted you and those crystalline blue eyes that looked into your soul. I threw her the pillow on cue, and I was hooked. We all were. Our big sister had arrived and we adored her on sight. From that moment there was a new and wonderful person in our lives, who has always been there for over fifty years. Like those old movies where they show time passing by the calendar pages turning and the leaves falling off the trees Charmy was there - through college years, lean years, flush years, girlfriends, wives, and of course dogs. Always dogs. From Salzburg to Sydney, New York to London, Ed Sullivan to Oprah, Charmy was our lynch pin for us Von Trapp children, the big sister, the one who brought us back to earth. She was always the crowd favorite, and so she should be. She’s the one who had the songs and danced in the gazebo, the one the audiences adored. In fact Angela was in Salzburg a few days ago, she took a photo of Charmian and placed it in the gazebo, and immediately the visitors starting placing flowers at its base, as now doubt they will do from now on. We were the children, but she was Liesl. Forever Liesl.
For those of us lucky enough to meet her on that sound stage, you could never ask for a truer friend, a greater support, or a more down to earth no-nonsense sounding board. Charmian didn’t need to chase after high profile people. They gravitated to her. As did everyone. Despite the public recognition that soon came to us from that film, a true mark or Charmy’s character is that her great and constant friends from the movie, other than her siblings, were two people the public never saw, the writer Ernest Lehman and his wife Lori, and the script supervisor, Betty Levin, and her husband Saul Chaplin.
I know I speak on behalf of her film siblings when I say we were all made better simply by being with her. We’ve been at each other’s sides, clinging tight to each other during some dips in the road as well as the exhilarating parts of the journey. There was a light inside of Charmy, a bright light of promise and excitement and beauty and style, and we always felt more special just by being in her presence. We’ve loved her since that pillow fight, and we will love her forever.