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The Sound Of Music Actors You May Not Know Passed Away

The adored movie musical "The Sound of Music" has been making audiences feel better about life for more than 50 years. Part wartime epic, part musical love story from Rodgers and Hammerstein, "The Sound of Music" spawned many timeless numbers that many fans likely learned in school while growing up. The 1965 film adaptation starring Julie Andrews is a stone-cold classic, beloved across many generations. Whether you're rewatching "The Sound of Music" or catching it for the first time, there's always something new to appreciate in this wonderful film.

The movie might be on your mind, too, if you remember that in 2021, we lost legendary actor Christopher Plummer. He was the male lead of "The Sound of Music" but not the only member of that legendary film's cast to have died in the recent past. In fact, many "Sound of Music" stars have now passed away. Here are all the ones you may or may not know about. 

Christopher Plummer

You might have heard of Christopher Plummer's passing, as the legendary Canadian actor died at 91 in February 2021, per Bloomberg. Plummer had a boost in recognition at the end of his career, becoming the oldest best supporting actor Academy Award winner for his work in "Beginners" and appearing in Rian Johnson's murder mystery hit "Knives Out." However, in 1965 he played Captain Von Trapp in "The Sound of Music," a role that helped make the actor a household name.

Plummer had an all-time great performance under his belt at a young age for his turn as the hardened Captain Von Trapp, who is unable to connect with his family after the death of his wife. His performance is a lynchpin in making the great romance work. To be convincing as the strict man the children are so afraid of, only to soften as he falls in love with Maria, is a feat of acting that Plummer pulls off perfectly.

Heather Menzies

In 2017, Heather Menzies-Urich, who played Louisa in "The Sound of Music," died of brain cancer at the age of 68, as reported by The New York Times. The actress was just 15 years old when she was cast as one of the precocious middle daughters of the Von Trapp family. After her teenage breakthrough in Robert Wise's musical epic, Menzies-Urich went on to have an active TV and film career up until she retired in 1990. Her biggest starring roles were in the original "Piranha" movie and the 1970s "Logan's Run" TV show, which was based on the classic dystopian sci-fi novel.

After retiring from acting, Menzies-Urich turned her attention to philanthropy and dedicated the rest of her life to improving quality of care for cancer patients. In 2002, her husband, actor Robert Urich, passed away, inspiring the actress to start the Robert Urich Foundation, which provides funding for cancer research and patient care.

Charmian Carr

Charmian Carr was best known for her performance as Liesl in "The Sound of Music." The love-struck eldest daughter of Captain Von Trapp, Liesl is one of the movie's primary characters, getting significantly more solo screen time than the other children. Most memorably, she appears in a sequence with telegram delivery boy and aspiring Nazi, Rolf. Despite not acting or being in the public eye for very much longer after "The Sound of Music," Carr was the voice behind some of the most iconic songs in cinema history. Liesl's "Sixteen Going on Seventeen" is a classic musical theater love song. 

After "The Sound of Music," Carr's only other film and TV acting credit was in an ABC broadcast of a short Stephen Sondheim musical entitled "Evening Primrose," where she starred alongside Anthony Perkins. This aired in 1966, a year after "The Sound of Music." After living a long and mostly private life, Carr passed away at age 76. The New York Times reports that Carr died in 2016 from complications from dementia.

Eleanor Parker

Before her understated performance as the Baroness in "The Sound of Music," Eleanor Parker was already an award-winning film actress and prominent celebrity. She was nominated for three best leading actress Academy Awards in the 1950s, once for the 1950 prison drama "Caged," again for the 1951 Kirk Douglas noir "Detective Story," and one last time for the 1955 biographic drama "Interrupted Melody." Parker was one of the few stars of the film for whom "The Sound of Music" did not constitute a breakout role. After all, Julie Andrews appeared in "Mary Poppins" barely a year before "The Sound of Music" arrived, meaning that her status as an icon was still on the rise.

Following "The Sound of Music," Parker soon transitioned to a career in television acting. This earned her a Golden Globe nomination in 1970 for the TV drama "Bracken's World." She went on to guest star in such classic series as "Murder, She Wrote" and "Hawaii Five-0." Parker stopped acting in the early 1990s. The New York Times reports that she passed away at 91 in 2013.

Anna Lee

Anna Lee was a very prolific actress before she appeared as Sister Margaretta in "The Sound of Music." While most modern audiences will recognize her from "The Sound of Music," rather than the many 1940s movies and 1960s TV shows she appeared in, the legendary Robert Wise production was no more than a single step in Lee's long, successful career path.

After decades of Hollywood work from the early '30s through the '60s, including a role in "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?" Lee moved to TV. She made appearances in hit programs like "Gunsmoke" and "Mission: Impossible," which is the show that the Tom Cruise franchise of the same name is based on. Lee was acting until the end of her life, bringing back a "General Hospital" character she had played over the years to the limelight, doing dozens of episodes between 2000 and 2003. The New York Times reports that Lee passed away at the age of 91 in May 2004.

Richard Haydn

Richard Hadyn's incredible turn as a charming family friend of the Von Trapp's, Max Detweiler, is one of the more underrated performances in "The Sound of Music." According to History, the character was based on Father Franz Wasner, the family's priest and musical director. Changed for the film to be more of a questionable family friend, the English actor was perfect for the new role. However, this was neither the beginning nor the end of Haydn's esteemed career.

You may not recognize Hayden from one of his most widely known roles, as he provided the voice for an iconic animated character. In 1951, Richard Haydn played the Caterpillar in Disney's "Alice in Wonderland." Later roles included appearances in "The Twilight Zone" and "The Dick Van Dyke Show" as well as appearing as Herr Falkstein in Mel Brooks' classic parody "Young Frankenstein." The Chicago Tribune reports that Haydn died shortly after this role, in 1985. He was 80 years old. 

Ben Wright

A stage actor in his early career, the British actor Ben Wright turned to film in the 1950s and starred as Herr Zeller in 1965's "The Sound of Music." The villainous Nazi is portrayed perfectly by Wright, in a way that even today comes across as not too frightening for children but not too cartoonish for the serious subject matter. His believable embodiment of the antagonist is part of what makes the movie's final act so tense.

Before "The Sound of Music," Wright's TV credits included "The Twilight Zone," "Perry Mason," and Westerns like "Have Gun — Will Travel." After 1965, Wright continued to act in TV Westerns like "Gunsmoke" and was working on all sorts of TV programs well into the late 1970s. His final role before his death in 1989, per the Los Angeles Times, saw him lend his voice to a Disney movie. Fans can hear Wright in "The Little Mermaid," where he plays Grimsby, Prince Erik's elderly caretaker.

Norma Varden

If you grew up watching "The Sound of Music" as a child, you surely have fond memories the Von Trapp's housekeeper, Frau Schmidt. Played by Hollywood veteran Norma Varden, the housekeeper has the children's best interests at heart and, at the start of the movie, is the most welcoming to Maria (Julie Andrews). She confides in Maria from the start, and Varden's performance ensures Frau Schmidt remains a warm character despite her strict demeanor. 

Before "The Sound of Music," Varden had a long, storied acting career in film and television. In 1951 she had a role in Alfred Hitchcock's "Strangers on a Train" and made a guest appearance on "I Love Lucy" two years later, in 1953. Varden stopped acting in 1969, with one of her final roles being an appearance on "The Beverly Hillbillies," but lived for another 20 years, eventually passing in 1989, as reported by The New York Times. Varden was 90 years old when she died. 

Marni Nixon

You may remember Marni Nixon from the opening moments of "The Sound of Music," where she played Sister Sophia, one of the nuns attempting to teach Maria. Nixon was an incredible soprano singer, but she never got too many official roles in movies. In fact, most of Nixon's work over the course of her career was uncredited at the time, and only retrospectively has she been given her proper due. According to Classic FM, Marni Nixon was one of the greatest ghost singers ever to grace Hollywood, meaning you've probably heard way more of her voice than you think. 

When lead actresses could not sing the parts that were required, ghost singers like Nixon were brought in to complete the performances, often without credit. She stood in for leading ladies like Natalie Wood in "West Side Story" and Audrey Hepburn in "My Fair Lady." Some time after the release of "The Sound of Music," Marni's ghost singing days came to an end. Her final credited movie role was as the singing voice of Grandmother Fa in Disney's "Mulan." 

The New York Times reports that Nixon passed away in 2016. She was 86 years old. 

Portia Nelson

Portia Nelson was an American singer and actress best known for her songwriting and theater work. However, she also played the stern nun, Sister Berthe, in Robert Wise's adaptation of "The Sound of Music." In the film, she contributes her voice to the second number, "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?" You might remember Berthe as the nun who was not particularly fond of Maria. 

Nelson's acting career took off after "The Sound of Music," and she appeared in a handful of movies and television episodes in the years following the film's success. In 1967 she had a starring role in "Doctor Dolittle" as Sarah Dolittle. She also played a recurring character in a handful of episodes of "All My Children" in 1983, where she took on the role of the nanny, Mrs. Gurney. The New York Times reports that Nelson passed away in 2001 at 80.