My heart is absolutely broken right now. The sad news came through on Friday night that the actor Christopher Plummer had died. He was 91 and passed away at his home in Connecticut with his wife of 53 years, Elaine Taylor, at his side.It’s reported that he had suffered a fall.
He’s long been one of my favourite actors. He was also my earliest screen crush as Captain Von Trapp in The Sound Of Music.Not only has Christopher played some of my favourite screen characters, but I also greatly admire how he managed to give his many varied characters such great emotional depth. Whenever Christopher showed up on screen I knew I was about to be in for a treat. Even if the film or series he was in wasn’t that good, I always knew that he at least would be good and make it a worthwhile watch.
His career spanned seven decades and he was remarkably still working up to his death. He not only worked on both stage and screen but also on several video games as well. He made Oscar history in 2010 when he became the oldest actor to ever win an Academy Award, this was for his performance in the lovely film Beginners, in which he plays a closeted older man who comes out to his family as gay following his wife’s death.
In 2018 he became the oldest actor to be nominated for an Oscar, this was for his role as John Paul Getty in Ridley Scott’s All The Money In The World. Christopher was brought onto that project after the film had been completed in order to replace Kevin Spacey in the role of Getty.
Christopher Plummer was born Arthur Christopher Orme Plummer in Toronto, Canada, on the 13th of December, 1929. He was an only child and was the great-grandson of Canada’s third Prime Minister, Sir John Abbott. He grew up in Quebec and spoke both English and French fluently. Before becoming an actor he trained as a concert pianist and he never lost his love for music or his skill at the piano.Christopher was also the second cousin of the actor Nigel Bruce, most famous for playing Dr. Watson to Basil Rathbone’s Holmes. Years later Christopher would play Sherlock Holmes in the films Silver Blaze(1977)and Murder By Decree(1979).
After leaving school he joined the Montreal Repertory Theatre where he received his first leading role as Hal in Henry V at the 1956 Stratford Festival in Ontario. More stage roles quickly followed, including leading roles in the Royal Shakespeare Company productions of Much Ado About Nothing and Richard III in 1961.
In 1958 he appeared on the big screen for the first time in the films Stage Struck and Wind Across The Everglades. In 1964 he played Commodus in The Fall Of The Roman Empire. But it was his casting in a Rogers And Hammerstein film musical the following year that would truly turn him into a worldwide star.
He was cast as real life Austrian Naval hero, Captain Georg Von Trapp, in The Sound Of Music. The story told the true story of how the Captain found love again with his children’s governess Maria, and how he refused to serve the Nazis, choosing instead to escape with his family out of Austria on foot through the mountains. His touching performance as the bereaved man who learns to love and laugh again ensured he stole the hearts of millions. It’s not hard to see the appeal of the Captain, after all not only is he incredibly smouldering and sexy but he’s also unafraid to stand up to bullies and tyrants. The Captain is a badass. If you look past the romance and sex appeal of the character, Christopher does such a great job of showing us the morality of the man and his building anger at the growing rise of Nazism in the country he loves so much.There’s so much more to this film than singing nuns and pretty scenery.
Christopher however famously hated the film for many years and was annoyed at the focus on that one film/performance out of all his work.He was also angry to discover his singing voice was dubbed in the finished film. In later years he softened and seemed to finally accept and embrace the reaction to the film and his role in it. He and co-star Julie Andrews remained friends and reunited on screen in 2001 for the live CBS TV film version of On Golden Pond.
Other key films during the rest of the sixties include Inside Daisy Clover(in which he delivers one of the sexiest screen kisses ever seen on film), Triple Cross, Battle Of Britain. Key films of the seventies include Waterloo, Return Of The Pink Panther, The Man Who Would Be King, International Velvet(one of my favourite films and favourite performances of his),The Silent Partner, Murder By Decree(one of his best screen performances).
Key films of the eighties and nineties include Somewhere In Time, Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country, Dolores Claiborne, Malcolm X, The Insider, Wolf. Key films of the 2000’s include A Beautiful Mind, Inside Man, Up, Closing The Ring(very touching performance as a haunted war veteran trying to help the damaged widow of his friend), The Last Station(brilliant performance as Leo Tolstoy), Man In The Chair(hidden gem), Beginners, Elsa And Fred, Danny Collins(scene stealing supporting performance), Knives Out, All The Money In The World.
One of my favourite performances from Christopher is found in the 1980’s miniseries The Thorn Birds. Christopher is superb as the kind, fun loving and worldly Archbishop Vittorio, who is my favourite character in the whole thing and I love his friendship with Ralph. Christopher is also great in the underrated Canadian TV series Counterstrike, as well as in the miniseries The Scarlet And The Black, Crossings and the TV film Secrets.
I will miss this man so much. He was a brilliant actor and always came across as being a class act in real life too. I will treasure the incredible film and TV legacy he leaves behind him for us to enjoy. R.I.P, Christopher and thanks for so many happy film and TV memories.
Christopher Plummer was married three times and his only child, daughter Amanda, followed her father into the acting profession. My heart goes out to his family and friends.