‘Sound of Music’ actress, piano player Maria Campbell dies

By Bob Seavey, CNN • Updated 5th November 2017

How celebrities die

For the millions of “Sound of Music” devotees — who have delighted in German-born star Maria von Trapp’s irrepressible, ice-queen spirit as much as the music — word that von Trapp singer, actress and country singer Claude von Trapp’s daughter, Maria Schonfeld Campbell, had died has been greeted with tears, laughter and joy at a time when it is too often so rare.

“I was a very happy child. I loved music, loved everything about the performing arts,” Campbell recalled in a 2014 interview with Britain’s Sky News broadcaster, in the run-up to her 90th birthday.

The von Trapps’ songs, including “The Sound of Music,” “Edelweiss” and “My Favorite Things,” have graced movie soundtracks and stage shows from Broadway to opera, TV to commercials. They made a modest fortune on television specials and in movie theaters.

“She took our family, our art and our life seriously,” her brother, John von Trapp, said in a statement. “Her legacy will be the love and care given to our family by all of us and for all of the worldwide fans who follow her songs and performance.”

But like her father, she was less than charmed by the open-mouthed stage performance of their image-maker, Mimi.

“She saw me as crazy,” said von Trapp, who had leeringly kissed her stepmother, Elsa Schiaparelli, on the head. “Nobody has tried to please me in all his life. When you were sick, he didn’t want to give you anything. Nobody could figure out how to love me.

“I was too different. I didn’t look like any of my siblings.”

Born in Hamburg, Germany, in 1922, von Trapp Campbell spent her early years playing second fiddle to her father’s guitar in local nightclubs. Music was always her first love, her mother recalled.

She met von Trapp at a dance in 1946, and soon was singing with her family in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

The family later relocated to the United States and settled in Vermont, where von Trapp was founding director of the Vermont Folklife Center. He died in 1991.

In later years, von Trapp Campbell began her solo career, in films and with Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra, singing many of his songs, including “Blue Suede Shoes.”

Though her most famous role was a gun-toting, whistling grocery store checker in the 1973 hit Broadway musical “My One and Only,” her real passion was country music, which she dedicated to her family.

She often released her own albums of country songs written by Rodgers and Hammerstein, followed by her own singing albums of personal favorites, such as “Field of Dreams” by Bob Dylan.

“I know what people like, what people are listening to,” she said. “Sometimes they don’t realize that it’s good.”

She said being the daughter of Maria von Trapp changed her life “financially and spiritually, and I’ve never looked back.”

She wrote her autobiography, “Born into the Spotlight,” in 1980, her daughter said, so as to “lay out my life, really: What was it, from a financial point of view?”

“Marie” Kelly, the woman she portrayed in her film debut in “The Sound of Music,” said Saturday on Twitter that von Trapp Campbell was “a true icon of the great American musical theater.”

Funeral plans were not immediately known.

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