Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Forever Liesl - Book Review

A few months ago, I bought the book Forever Liesl A Memoir of the Sound of Music. The Sound of Music is my favorite family film and I've always loved Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer. Now that I am back into a regular reading schedule, I figured I would browse my bookshelves to find something interesting. And this certainly was it.

Forever Liesl is written by the actress who played the oldest daughter Liesl in The Sound of Music--Charmian Carr, with Jean A.S. Strauss. It talks about her experiences on the set of this famous musical--how she got the part, what the actors were like, how the role of Liesl changed her life--and had letters from fans all over the world who shared with Carr how The Sound of Music impacted their lives. It is also filled with over 25 photos from the movie and Carr's personal life.

From the back cover text, I had high hopes for this book.

"It's all here: from how she got the role (and why she almost didn't) to romances on the set and wild nights in Salzburg; from the near-disaster during the gazebo dance to her relationships--then and now--with her six celluloid siblings. Charmian also reveals why she left acting, what she learned when she met the real von Trapp children, and how The Sound of Music has helped her get through stormy times in her own life."

Carr shares a great deal about the people involved in The Sound of Music. And by that I don't mean she gossips about them. She talks about the actors, Robert Wise, Saul Chaplin, Ernest Lehman, Richard Rodgers, and Oscar Hammerstein with the respect due them for being a part of a wonderful film that has touched so many lives. But I think when you love a film like I do The Sound of Music, you tend to have greater expectations of how things were than what reality was. I didn't want to know that Christoper Plummer didn't really want to do the film but took it because he felt a musical would be good for another role he was interested in. I also didn't want to believe that Plummer didn't like acting with children or that he was just as stand-offish with the children on the set as Captain von Trapp was at the beginning of the movie. And then when I found out the songs which I thought Plummer had always sung in the movie were actually dubbed with someone else's voice, I was almost afraid to read any more.

But, let's face it, we have a more glamorous version of what acting is like than the people who act in these films do.

I liked the letters that Carr used from fans around the world as an opening for each new chapter. Some seemed better fitted to their chapters than others, but it was a nice transition into each new section. I have to admit, however, that the closest thing I read to a romance on the set was Nicholas (Friedrich) Hammond's infatuation with Carr. And while the back cover told me I could expect to hear of wild nights in Saltzburg, I didn't really think drinking in the lobby of the Bristol Hotel was very wild. But, I didn't buy the book to hear gossip. I bought it to learn more about my favorite film, so these things didn't take anything away from my enjoyment of the book.

What I can say ruined it a bit for me, was the way Carr's personal life was woven into the chapters. Perhaps it is because her personal life is so evident in the book that I am turned off by it. I expected to hear about how The Sound of Music helped Carr through the difficult times in her life, but I didn't expect so many things from the film to be related back to her life. I thought perhaps there would be one chapter dedicated to this topic, but it is present from beginning to end.

Sometimes you pick up a book and it entertains you, but you would probably never read it again. That's how I feel about this memoir. I liked learning more about The Sound of Music through all the behind the scenes information only someone from the film would be able to share; but I know it now, so why would I ever pick it up off my book shelf again? The rest of the story just didn't pull me in enough to make me want to dive into it a second time.

1 comment:

Mary said...

When AM was a baby, we were out for a walk and Charmaine was giving a book talk at a nearby bookstore. When I saw the name on the book on the marquee outside, I had to go in. There must have been 100+ people there so I could barely see her but it was neat to hear her speak. I should have bought her book and asked her to sign it but I think that AM started to get fussy so I went ahead and left. Guess it was just as well. Those "tell-all" things tend to let you down.