Forever Liesel: A Memoir Of The Sound Of Music, by Charmian Carr with Jean A.S. Strauss
This book is a somewhat strange memoir, but it’s a very enjoyable one and the author comes off very well, even if she is really only famous just for the role of being Liesel, the oldest daughter of the Van Trapp family in the move “The Sound Of Music.” What makes this book a strange memoir is that while the author talks a lot about her life, the main focus of the work is on the movie itself, at least insofar as the author herself experienced it. And this makes for a complex work, because it is really only of interest because The Sound Of Music is of interest, and is structured in a way that is mostly chronological but also filled with a lot of notes and comments that demonstrate the way that the movie has been loved far beyond its expectations. One of the more striking aspects of the movie is how often some people have seen it, as many of the sections between the main chapters comment on people who have seen the movie over and over and over again, which is something that the author herself cannot really understand. But the author is an honest commentator and that makes for a lovely and touching book about a beloved movie.
This book is a bit less than 250 pages and consists of numerous relatively small chapters that can be said to tell three stories simultaneously, often intercut within chapters telling other threads. One of the threads is the life story of the author herself, coming from a broken family with an absent father and a drama queen mother and a loving relationship with her two sisters, both of whom made their own careers in show business like herself, also including her own marriage and children and the breakup of that marriage. The second story is the making of the film The Sound Of Music, with an insider’s account into the casting, choreography, and filming of the work, where the author discusses her ambivalent position as a young adult hanging out with the adult stars while playing the sixteen going on seventeen oldest child of the Van Trapp family, and it is a loving and detailed account of the struggles of filming on budget and dealing with the weather and mishaps on the set. The third thread of the story is the discussion of the importance of the film and the relationship that the author and her fellow actors and actresses had with the actual Van Trapp family, which was somewhat different than portrayed on film, as well as the marketing of the film and its promotion throughout the years and its status as a beloved classic.
One of the more unusual aspects of this book is the fact that it exists at all. The author herself would not necessarily be famous enough for a memoir of her own personal life to be a big seller, but the fact that she was a principal actress in a classic movie gives her story a certain amount of weight that it might not normally have given her rather low profile as a person. Yet this is a memoir that is complicated by its contents, and the fact that it is viewed as a memoir of the movie and presumably was written with the blessing of the producers of the movie itself suggests that the author is winsome enough that her discussion of the struggles of the author and her fellow actors to get paid for their promotion work for the film bore fruit, not least in being paid as an author to promote the film through telling her story about the filming and what the film has meant to her through the years. I happen to like the movie, but nowhere near to the extent that some people have, although I have sung Edelweis on at least a few occasions, one of the occupational hazards of being a singer, I suppose. The author, I suppose, could relate.