Lifestyle & Human Interest

Julie Andrews Shares Harrowing Story of Near-Drowning on Set of 'The Sound of Music'


Over 50 years have passed since audiences fell in love with the musical von Trapp family in “The Sound of Music,” which premiered in 1965.

As time goes on, fans of the musical still love listening to stories from the cast members about what it was like to be on set in Salzburg, filming alongside stars Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer.

One of the most memorable moments for actress Kym Karath, who was 5 years old when she played the youngest von Trapp child, Gretl, came during the infamous rowboat scene.

Karath could not swim, but told director Robert Wise she would participate in the scene instead of deferring to a stunt double, even though she would end up in the water.

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“Robert Wise liked things to be extremely authentic, so they asked if I would be a trooper, and I said yes,” Karath said in a 2010 interview with

At the end of the scene, Maria and the seven children were supposed to stand up, lose their balance, and fall out of the boat.

Andrews said that on a moment’s notice, she was assigned to helping Karath get out of the water as quickly as possible.

“We were filming on the water in a row boat,” Andrews said in an appearance on The Graham Norton Show. “I was supposed to stand up and we would all fall out.”

“At the very last minute, just before the scene, the assistant director said, ‘The little one can’t swim, so when you fall out of the boat, can you get to her quickly?”’ Andrews said.

Andrews was supposed to fall forward into the water, in the same direction as Karath, so that she could readily assist the child out of the water.

“Well, of course, I fell back instead of forward and I had to swim like mad to get to her, the poor kid. I could see her flailing away. She went under at least twice, came up and then threw up!” Andrews said.

Karath confirmed the story during a 2010 von Trapp cast reunion with Oprah.

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“I went under, I swallowed a lot of water, which I then vomited all over Heather (Menzies-Urich),” she said, referring to the cast member who played her sibling Louisa.

In the end, Karath emerged from the water unscathed, though frightened.

Karath went on to learn how to swim, according to the official Sound of Music Facebook page, though she said it never became a favorite activity.

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A graduate of Grand Canyon University, Kim Davis has been writing for The Western Journal since 2015, focusing on lifestyle stories.
Kim Davis began writing for The Western Journal in 2015. Her primary topics cover family, faith, and women. She has experience as a copy editor for the online publication Thoughtful Women. Kim worked as an arts administrator for The Phoenix Symphony, writing music education curriculum and leading community engagement programs throughout the region. She holds a degree in music education from Grand Canyon University with a minor in eating tacos.
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