With a career that spans seven decades, Christopher Plummer is one of the most important actors of our time. Plummer was born on December 13, 1929 in Toronto, Ontario to Isabella Mary and John Orme Plummer. Through his mother, Plummer is a great-grandson of the third Prime Minister of Canada, Sir John Abbott. Before developing a love for acting, Plummer has been studying to be a concert pianist. But after watching Laurence Olivier’s film Henry V (1944), Plummer began to develop a love for the theater and began to act in high school.
Before going into film, Plummer made his name known on the stage, gaining experience travelling with the Canadian Repertory Theatre from 1948-1950, appearing in 75 roles. Beginning in 1952, he began acting in the Bermuda Repertory Theater. Plummer made his Broadway debut in 1953 with the play The Starcross Story. Unfortunately for him, it was a flop and closed after one night. Plummer would go on to appear in 15 other Broadway plays, the highlight being Elia Kazan’s production of Archibald Macleish’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, J.B. Plummer would go on to be nominated for his first Tony Award as Best Actor in Play.
1958 marked the year where Plummer first appeared on the big screen in Sidney Lumet’s film Stage Struck as a young writer. During that year, he also appeared in Nicholas Ray’s Wind Across the Everglades as Walt Murdock, which would be Plummer’s first leading role. After this, he did not appear in film again for six years until Anthony Mann’s The Fall of the Roman Empire, which Plummer played the Emperor Commodus. With his next film, Plummer became a household name that everyone would know, as he would star as Captain Von Trapp in The Sound of Music.
It’s important to note that Plummer’s first preference would always be the theater. In an interview with NPR, Plummer says,
“You see, I loved the theater and I stayed in the theater most of my life and I was a bit snobbish about it. I made a lot of movies through the ’60s and ’70s which were pretty awful, but then most of the movies in the ’60s and early ’70s were pretty awful. The quality wasn’t always there, unfortunately, but the money was. And I was grateful for that because I could afford to then do what I wanted to do in the theater.”
While he may have not enjoyed The Sound of Music (often referring to it as The Sound of Mucus), Plummer does say that he is grateful for the film “because it certainly was famous and put me in the public eye and I could help fill a theater when I was doing the great works.”
Josh Kaye for Classic Movie Hub