Robert Temple - Author of The Sphinx Mystery

I met the actress Charmian Carr shortly after the release of the film The Sound of Music, when she came to Philadelphia briefly, and she gave me this photo of herself, and signed it. We were never friends, but we chatted alone for a couple of hours in someone’s office. Charmian played the eldest child, Liesl, in the film. I have rarely met such a ‘breath of fresh air’ as she was. In person she had even more charm and created even more delight than she did in the film. She had a very sweet voice and completely sweet nature. Really, if anyone was ever born to play in The Sound of Music, she was it. She out-did even Julie Andrews in natural ‘sweeetness and light’, and it was all perfectly innate and unaffected. By a strange coincidence, I had known Nicky Hammond, who played the eldest boy in the film, three years before I met Charmian. So I have met and chatted with both of the eldest children of that fascinating film which I have seen six times. I worked with Nicky for a week or two when he was in a summer stock play as a child actor. I was the assistant prop man. I didn’t have much opportunity to talk with him about the meaning of life, because he was very closely minded, and was very actively discouraged from getting friendly with anyone by whoever was travelling with him, which may have been a mother, I don’t remember. I think he was only about ten years old, so it is hardly surprising. However, we managed a few brief conversations in various moments before he was whisked away to his dressing room and safely cocooned. I always like talking to children, but the parents often don’t like it. When Charmian realized I had known Nicky and met him before she did, she became extremely enthusiastic and friendly. She talked to me a lot about her uncle. He was a film composer named Robert Farnon, and he seemed to be very important to her. She also talked about her parents, but I don’t recall the details. Her real name was Charmian Farnon, and the director Robert Wise gave her the name of Carr, she told me. Even though Charmian is older than I am, when I met her I did not know that, and I was convinced that she was a couple of years younger, because she seemed to me such a completely childlike and innocent creature. If I had been told that she was a ten year-old who was large for her age, I would almost have believed it. She also seemed so freshly scrubbed, as if someone had had a go at her with scented soap for half an hour at least. She was really glowing, as some young girls do at that age, when flesh and skin still seem wholly surreal and seem to have light shining out of them. I often wished I could meet her again, to see how she had developed as an adult, but the opportunity never arose. I chiefly wanted to see whether all the sweetness had survived, because one of my favourite hobbies is seeing what happens to people. I had a feeling it would last and never leave her. I hope so.


© Robert Temple 2009-2022