Not taking anything away from Bradley Cooper, who was just named People magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive, but if you ever want to see women from age 8 to 80 get giddy, just watch Dan Truhitte enter a room. Dan played Austrian heart throb Rolf Gruber in The Sound of Music 47 years ago, and today, he’s the only man I know who’s just as popular in elementary schools as he is at nursing homes. After all, he wooed Liesl (Charmian Carr) with “16 Going on 17,” the romantic “coming-of-age” song (at the time, she was actually 22,and Dan was 20). Truhitte is also the only member of the cast who is still singing professionally. His CD Gazebo Love is a cult favorite, and he’s just released an original holiday classic titled Christmas is Bustin’ Out Again.
I first met Dan in 2006 when he was a guest on “Triad Today.” My first reaction was, “YOU can’t be Rolf. You have dark hair.” Truhitte quickly explained the tonsorial ordeal he endured when filming The Sound of Music DT: They bleached my hair white, and then added ash color to it. Then I had to go once a week to have my hair and eyebrows dyed for that Aryian look.
Even so, he almost missed out on the role of a lifetime.
DT: They were having trouble casting Rolf.
The singing part they could dub, but they needed someone who could dance, and someone who could believably play that last scene where Rolf gives up the Von Trapps. My agent went to a party and ran into the casting director. He showed her a photo of me, and she told him to have me come over to 20th Century Fox the next day.
Dan, who had been singing and dancing since he was six years old gladly went to the studio and did well on his audition.
DT: Bob Wise, the director liked it, so he sent me over to dance for the choreographers who had a rating system, and I got an A. Then I was sent to make-up where they sprayed my hair blonde, put me in a costume and did a personality test. At that point I asked Mr. Wise if I could sing for him. “I didn’t know you could sing,” he said. So I sang “16 Going on 17” for him, and two days later I was cast as Rolf.
Despite Dan having to transition from telegram-delivering loverboy into a nasty Nazi, he has remained one of the most popular characters from the Oscar winning film. Truhitte has fond memories of his director and co-stars, and of their three months in Austria together. After returning to Los Angeles, the crew worked for another three months at the studio.
DT: The gazebo scene was shot on a soundstage where we could have a controlled environment. The gazebo had water pipes installed so we would have “rain” running down the panes of glass. But we had technicalproblems and water would come in on the floor, and it was very slippery. Charmian slipped, and put her foot through a pane of glass, so we had to stop shooting for the day.
As it turned out, “16 Going on 17” was the last sequence shot before everyone dispersed and went their own separate ways. Earlier this year, though, Oprah announced she was reuniting the “entire” cast for the first time since 1964. But her producers screwed up and didn’t invite Dan. Their explanation was that Rolf was not part of the Von Trapp family. Afterwards, TMZ reported that Dan was upset by the snub, but that story was false. Sure he was dissapointed not to be able to see his old friends again, but it is not in his nature to harbor ill will about anything or toward anybody. Also, he’s too busy these days recording, performing, and teaching to worry about such things. Today he and his lovely wife TJ live in Concord, where Dan still receives dozens of emails and fan letters every day. And while he doesn’t dwell on his contribution to the most beloved film of all time, he is proud of what The Sound of Music has meant to millions of people, and of its universal appeal to all age groups throughout the generations.
DT: As long as we have the family, we will have Sound of Music, which uplifts the family. It has the music, the conflict, the love, and the principals, and those are things that hold our society together. As long as we have that, the The Sound of Music will be there for us.
So will Dan. Dan’s CDs are available at www.dantruhitte.com
Jim Longworth is the host of “Triad Today,” airing on Fridays at 6:30 a.m. on ABC 45 (cable channel 7) and Sundays at 10 p.m. on WMYV (cable channel 15).