Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Angela Cartwright Talks with the Café about Danny Thomas, Lost in Space, The Sound of Music, and Her Artwork

Danny Thomas' stepdaughter on The Danny Thomas Show, Penny Robinson in Lost in Space, and Brigitta von Trapp in The Sound of Music--Angela Cartwright may have been the most successful young actor of the 1960s. Born in Cheshire, England, but raised in Los Angeles, Angela and her sister Veronica entered show business at a young age. In fact, Angela was just three-years-old when she appeared in Somebody Up There Likes Me starring Paul Newman. Over the years, she has modeled, acted on stage, and opened an "eclectic store" called Rubber Boots. However, she is best known as an accomplished photographer and artist. She took time out of her packed schedule to drop by the Café for a chat.

Angela as Linda Williams on
The Danny Thomas Show.
Café:  The rapport between your character, Linda Williams, and her stepfather (played by Danny Thomas) seemed incredibly natural on The Danny Thomas Show. How would you describe your real-life relationship with Danny Thomas while making the series?

Angela Cartwright: I thought Danny was hilarious and he was always cracking me up. He was loud and gregarious, nothing like my real Dad who is far more reserved than that. So, it was fun to be able to make smart remarks and get away with it. I would never have talked to my real parents that way, but in the make-believe world of the Williams family I got away with that.

Café:  Your web site includes some delightful photos of Angela Cartwright toys, such as a jigsaw puzzle, a "Buttons 'n Bows" game, and a doll that came in three sizes. What was your first reaction when you saw the "Angela Cartwright" dolls?

AC:  I was pretty young to remember my exact reaction, but what little girl wouldn't want a doll made in her likeness? I never thought the Linda doll looked an awful lot like me though, but it was cool that the Linda doll came in three different sizes. One was even big enough that she walked with you. Madame Alexander also made two Brigitta, Sound of Music dolls and they were also favorites of mine. I especially liked the one in the sailor suit carrying a book.

Café:  What was it like to be reunited with The Danny Thomas Show cast when you returned six years later for Make Room for Granddaddy (1970-71)?

AC:  I loved it. The Danny Thomas Show had ended six years prior. In the interim, I made The Sound of Music, I played Penny in Lost In Space, I made various TV guest appearances and commercials, and modeled in Europe. I returned home to appear on the Granddaddy show. Life was good…I loved the fantastic guest stars we had on the show and I was older now, so I learned from the experience. Even though we were plagued with the Writer’s (Guild) strike in 1970, it was still a good year.

Angela as Brigitta in The Sound of Music.
Café:  How did you come to be cast in The Sound of Music?

AC:  I went on an interview for the part of Brigitta. I was still filming The Danny Thomas Show, but I knew the series was coming to an end. After several auditions, I was the first von Trapp cast. I asked Danny Thomas if he would let me out of my contract so I could be in the movie and he was very gracious to let me out of the last show of the season. He didn’t have to do that and I am very grateful he did.

Café:  What are some of your favorite memories of making The Sound of Music?

AC:  I was thrilled to get the part of Brigitta and I totally enjoyed making The Sound of Music. Singing and dancing and playing with other kids while running around Salzburg, Austria, with Julie Andrews was a fantastic experience. How could you not enjoy that? Being turned over in a rowboat was certainly a memorable experience…I can just remember wanting to get out of the water as soon as I could because there were leeches on the bottom of the pond. The sights, the sounds and the foods of Salzburg made the whole experience magical. It is an honor to be in a film that has touched so many people.

Café:  What were some of the challenges of making a science fiction series like Lost in Space in the 1960s?

AC:  I did enjoy playing the part of Penny Robinson. I thought how exciting it would be to portray a family in space exploring new worlds and encountering aliens. The challenge was trying to make an hour show in eight days with special effects and long scenes. It was grinding work, but we must have done something right to have such a following and love of the show decades later.

As Penny Robinson in "My Friend,
Mr. Nobody" (Season 1, Ep 8).
Café:  What was your favorite Lost in Space episode and why?

AC:  "My Friend, Mr. Nobody" was my favorite episode. I love the black and white film noir feel to it. I loved the message it had...though I remember it was challenging to talk to "no one" through the whole episode.

Café:   You seem to have maintained enduring relationships with the real-life performers in your TV and film families:  the Williams’s, the Robinsons, and the von Trapps. That's unusual in show business. What is the secret to your success?

AC:  Friendships need to be nurtured. It was important to me to maintain the close relationships I had forged while working in film and television. I nurtured those relationships as I have in my personal life, and made it a point to keep in touch.

Café:  What led to your interest in photography? When did you open the Angela Cartwright Studio?

AC:  I love photographs and have since I was a small child and it was my Dad who started taking photographs. I always loved fashion and design. I would take photos of my friends in their latest outfits and then develop the photos and print them in my Dad’s darkroom in the garage. That love of photography has stayed with me all my life and I carried it into my art. The art I create is by taking my black and white photographs and hand painting them with oil paint or watercolors and other mediums. I also wrote a book about these techniques called Mixed Emulsions: Altered Art Techniques for Photographic Imagery. You can see my artwork here: 

I opened Angela Cartwright Studio a couple years ago when I designed my art wear line. Finally the technology was available for me to take my hand-painted photographs and transform them onto natural fabric to create art wear. Every piece is made to order here in the USA.  It’s all very exciting and the possibilities are endless.

Café:  In addition to photography, you've painted, drawn sketches, and worked in other forms of art. If you could only work in one media and style, what would it be?

AC:  I would have to say give me a pen and paper and I will be very happy. My Dad was a terrific artist and I always wanted to sketch like he did…but his style was more realistic and mine is more "unruly." I break rules all the time. Art is one place you can do that with delightful consequences. 

"3 Portals."
Café:  You're incredibly busy with your artwork and web sites and somehow even found time to contribute to last year's publication of The Sound of Music Family Scrapbook. What's on your horizon that you'd like to share with Café readers?

AC: There is an exciting new project I am working on that I can’t talk about yet. Let’s just say it has been a phenomenal experience.  It is due for release in 2014 and as soon as I can spill the beans I will on Facebook, Twitter, and my blog. Better yet, sign up on my mailing list on my website if you want to be the first to know all the latest. 

I would like to tell all the Sound of Music fans that we have some limited editions of The Sound of Music Family Scrapbook that are signed by the seven film von Trapp kids. If you are a fan of the movie, you will love this book because it tells our story about making the movie. We have filled the book with never-before seen photographs from our personal photo albums and included some of our home movies taken on location in Austria. You can buy the signed version at our website. We also have a Facebook page. With the 50th Anniversary of The Sound of Music on the horizon, I am sure there will be some exciting events on the horizon so I hope you will visit us.

You can "like" Angela Cartwright on Facebook and follow her on Twitter You can also visit her web sites:

art studio:.........
art wear:...........


  1. Rick, I thoroughly enjoyed reading your fascinating interview with Angela Cartwright. Her passion for the arts stands out to me as does her admiration for her father and his gifts of photography and art. Art is intensely personal and I admire Angela's willingness to defy convention and its rules. I truly admired both "Bustling" and "3 Portals"; her use of color delights me!

    It was fascinating to learn more about "The Sound of Music" and "Lost in Space." I also believe that relationships must be nurtured and respect Miss Cartwright for doing so. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with everyone at the Classic Film and TV Cafe, Angela, and thank you, Rick, for a most excellent interview!

  2. What a fun and interesting interview, Rick. I always loved Angelia Cartwright, so I sure loved reading this.

    As a child of the 1960's, I grew up on "Lost in Space," and "The Sound of Music" has been one of my favorite movies since seeing it at the theatre back in 1965. I just enjoyed a re-watch of that beautiful film on Mother's Day evening.

    Angela's artwork is beautiful! "Busting," especially spoke to me. I'd love to be enjoying such a lovely, tranquil scene in person.

    Looking forward to learning what Miss Cartwright's upcoming project is.

    Thanks to Angela for taking part in the interview and sharing a bit about herself.

  3. Marvelous interview with the creative and lovely Angela Cartwright. This is a keeper.

  4. One of my girlfriends! Wonderful interview!!!!

  5. My favorite Angela Cartwright performance, was when she played Penny Robinson in the classic TV show, Lost in Space.

    It also was interesting to learn that she is an amazing artist.

    Thank you Rick for spotlighting Angela Cartwright.

  6. Thank you Angela, for sharing your fond memories of your film work from your childhood. I loved all the shows you were in as a child. True entertainment at it's best. The "Sound of Music" will always hold a special place in my heart as being the best film ever made, by far. Perfection can never be duplicated! Best wishes to you for your future success. Andrea Lee Rizzi Occhionero

  7. I have always loved Angela from The Danny Thomas Show but was never aware that she is such an accomplished artist! My goodness, she must lead a busy life. I wonder if her sister Veronica is involved in the arts as well. Thank you for interviewing her...and especially thanks to Ms. Cartwright!

  8. I have met you angela and been following lost in space, and your career for years here am 56 years old now, and I feel you still look the same.
    thank you for keeping in touch with your fans because we all do care about your new interest in life.
    as they say you go girl....

  9. I admire Angela's art work and her endurance as an actress and friend of costars through the decades. That's admirable staying connected and caring. I never knew Angela played a stepdaughter to Danny Thomas' character. I was too young to pick up the nuance I suppose!

  10. Oh gosh - Make Room For Daddy was my most favorite show. The Williams family was my make believe family and I, of course, was Linda. She will always hold a special place in my imagination. Thanks so much for this, Rick.

  11. Great interview! When I was a kid, Brigitta was always my fave in "The Sound of Music" - much better than that simpering Liesl.

    Her artwork is beautiful! Thanks for posting her websites.

  12. I was a big fan of "Make Room for Daddy" - one of the best of that era's family sitcoms. So nice to learn more about Angela, particularly her artwork - which I was unaware of.

  13. I had the biggest crush on you! I swore to my self even as a child someday, somehow id get to see you face to face! Hasn't happened yet, but who knows!

  14. Always wanted to meeet Angela,she looks adoreable with her Dollies,so pretty & sweet.