Christopher Plummer, Has Sadly Died, at Age 91


Margaret Bingham, Writer

Christopher Plummer, the fantastic actor best known for portraying the role of Captain Von Trapp in The Sound of Music, alongside Julie Andrews, died on Friday, February 5, at age 91.

Plummer had a long and acclaimed career on stage, with two Tony Awards. In films, he was also known for “The Insider,” “12 Monkeys,” “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country” and “A Beautiful Mind,” and he contributed voices for “Up,” “An American Tale” and the “Madeline” TV series.

His first serious critical acclaim came for his interpretation of “Henry V” at the Stratford Festival in 1956. He triumphed alongside James Earl Jones in “Othello” on Broadway in the early ’80s, as well as in “Macbeth” opposite Glenda Jackson. Other high points included “The Royal Hunt of the Sun” and a revival of Harold Pinter’s “No Man’s Land” alongside Jason Robards. He won his first Tony Award in 1974 for the musical “Cyrano” and a second in 1996 for “Barrymore,” based on the life of actor John Barrymore.

In his later years, he scored, parts like. the part of newsman Mike Wallace in “60 Minutes,” and Franklin Delano Roosevelt in HBO telepic “Winchell,” directed by Paul Mazursky. He even acquired an Emmy for the miniseries “The Moneychangers” and narrating the children’s’ special adapting the book “Madeline”

Born Arthur Christopher Orme Plummer in 1929, in Toronto, he grew up in Montreal, where he attended the Jennings Private School. He made his stage debut in a 1948  production of “Cymbeline” at the Canadian Repertory Theatre in Ottawa. Not long after, he appeared in a CBC television production of “Olletho.”

His Broadway debut was in 1954’s “The Starcrossed Story” alongside actress, Katharine Cornell. 

Critics really started taking notice of him, however, when he starred in a Stratford Festival production of Shakespeare’s “Henry V” in 1956. He was the first Canadian chosen by Tyrone Guthrie to lead a production, he told the Los Angeles Times. Before Plummer’s turn, Stratford mainly featured English actors. 

He went on to interpret such roles “Hamlet” (1957) in an acclaimed British TV production and, at Stratford, Sir Andrew Aguecheek in “Twelfth Night,” Benedick in “Much Ado About Nothing” (1958) and Mercutio in “Romeo and Juliet” in 1960.

Plummer’s film debut came in Sidney Lumet’s “Stage Struck” in 1958. But 1965’s “The Sound of Music” was his most widely seen film. He played Captain Von Trapp, the widowed former Navy captain and father of seven children, alongside Julie Andrews. 

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In 1973 he conceived and directed an evening of Shakespearean love themes titled “Lovers and Madmen,” appearing opposite Zoe Caldwell, and the following year picked up a Tony for the musical “Cyrano.

When Plummer returned to Broadway in 1982, New York Times critic Walter Kerr it was “quite possibly the best single Shakespearean performance to have originated on this continent in our time.”

He rapped up the 20th century as TV journalist Wallace in “The Insider” with Al Pacino and Russell Crowe.

Plummer rang in the new millennium with a bevy of telepic appearances, including a 2001 revisiting of “On Golden Pond” on CBS in which he was paired with “Sound of Music” co-star Julie Andrews. There were also “The Dinosaur Hunter,” “Possessed,” “Leo’s Journey,” “Night Flight,” “Agent of Influence” and 2000’s “American Tragedy,” CBS’ recounting of the O.J. Simpson trial in which he played F. Lee Bailey.

Throughout the decade, Plummer appeared in “Cold Creek Manor,” “National Treasure,” “Must Love Dogs,” “Syriana” and “Inside Man,” but also flexed his acting muscles in period pics, including Terrence Malick’s “The New World” and “Alexander,” in which he played the philosopher Aristotle. He dabbled in romantic dramas such as “Closing the Ring” and “The Lakeside,” and received nods from critics as he took on the lead role of Flash Madden in 2007’s “Man in the Chair.” 

One of Plummer’s most memorable roles from the decade involved only his voice. In Pixar’s tear-jerking animated pic “Up,” he played Charles Muntz, a once famous explorer who turns bitter and villainous. 

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As the first decade of 2000 closed, Plummer appeared in “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus” as the doc himself, but it was his role as author Leo Tolstoy in “The Last Station” that earned him an Oscar nomination for supporting actor. Plummer dipped his feet in other genres and surprised and delighted critics as Hal, a cancer-stricken elderly man and father who had only recently come out of the closet, in 2010’s “Beginners,” for which he won an Oscar.

Plummer was nominated for a supporting actor Oscar for his role as J. Paul Getty in Ridley Scott’s “All the Money in the World.” He replaced Kevin Spacey, completely reshooting his scenes only one month before the film’s release in December of 2017. Plummer most recently appeared in Rian Johnson’s 2019 whodunit “Knives Out” and Peacock’s Canadian import series “Departure.”

Christopher Plummer was amazing, and lived a great life and career, and the world should keep his memory alive. “Blossom of snow may you bloom and grow Bloom and grow forever Edelweiss, Edelweiss…..”