Tony and Oscar Winner Christopher Plummer, Captain Von Trapp in The Sound of Music, Dies at 91

Obituaries   Tony and Oscar Winner Christopher Plummer, Captain Von Trapp in The Sound of Music, Dies at 91
 
The Canadian-born Shakespearean actor won Tony Awards for his performances in Cyrano and Barrymore.
Christopher Plummer obit graphic_HR

Academy Award and two-time Tony winner Christopher Plummer, most recently on Broadway in a Tony-nominated turn in the 2007 revival of Inherit the Wind, passed away February 5 at his home in Connecticut following complications from a fall. He was 91.

Born December 13, 1929, in Toronto, Mr. Plummer was raised in Montreal and started acting while in high school. "My mother took me to every play that came to town, and ballet, and music," he told Playbill in 2012. An early influence was seeing Laurence Olivier in the 1944 film of Henry V. "I was still at school and went to see the film and thought...this was terrific stuff. And glamorous."

Christopher Plummer in <i>Cyrano</i>
Christopher Plummer in Cyrano Carl Byoir & Associates

The young actor spent time learning his craft in repertory companies. "That's the way you should start," he said, "playing hundreds of different roles." Mr. Plummer later made his Broadway debut in 1954 in Diana Morgan's The Starcross Story, which also featured Eva Le Gallienne but only lasted one performance. "I thought it was the end of my career," he admitted, "but at least I'd got there. And soon afterward I was working again. I never looked back."

He would go on to win two Tony Awards, for his work in a musical version of Cyrano (1974) and a tour-de-force performance in the title role of Barrymore (1997), William Luce's play based on the life of John Barrymore. (A film version, also called Barrymore and starring Plummer, premiered in 2012.) The famed actor was also Tony-nominated for his work in the aforementioned Inherit the Wind as well as King Lear (2004), No Man's Land (1994), Othello (1982), and J. B. (1959), while his other Broadway credits included Home Is the Hero, The Dark Is Light Enough, The Lark, Night of the Auk, Arturo Ui, The Royal Hunt of the Sun, The Good Doctor, and Macbeth.

On the London stage, he was a member of both the Royal National Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company, winning the Evening Standard Award for Best Actor in Becket; he also led Canada’s Stratford Festival under Tyrone Guthrie and Michael Langham.

Although Mr. Plummer won the Academy Award and a Golden Globe for his work in Beginners, he is perhaps best remembered for his performance opposite Julie Andrews in the 1965 film version of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic The Sound of Music, playing Captain Von Trapp.

Among his numerous other film credits included Oscar-nominated turns in The Last Station (2009) and All the Money in the World (2017, replacing Kevin Spacey after initial production) plus roles in Knives Out, Danny Collins, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Tempest, Beginners, The Last Station, Caesar and Cleopatra, Man in the Chair, The New World, National Treasure, Nicholas Nickleby, A Beautiful Mind, Lucky Break, Blackheart, The Clown at Midnight, 12 Monkeys, Malcolm X, Impolite, Liar's Age, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, Souvenir, Shadow Dancing, Dreamscape, Ordeal by Innocence, The Amateur, Eyewitness, Murder by Decree, The Silent Partner, International Velvet, The Disappearance, The Assignment, The Man Who Would Be King, Conduct Unbecoming, The Return of the Pink Panther, The Royal Hunt of the Sun, Oedipus the King, Triple Cross, and The Fall of the Roman Empire.

A LIFE IN THE THEATRE: Christopher Plummer, From Stratford to The Sound of Music to Barrymore

Christopher Plummer_Barrymore_OVERRIDE
Christopher Plummer in Barrymore

Mr. Plummer's television work began with his debut in 1953 in The Gathering Night, an adaptation of Kipling’s The Light That Failed, about a painter who loses his eyesight. He was subsequently nominated for seven Primetime Emmy Awards, winning two: Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series for playing Roscoe Heyward in Arthur Hailey's The Moneychangers (1977) and Outstanding Voice-Over Performance as the Narrator in The New Adventures of Madeline (1994).

Mr. Plummer worked his magic in several solo shows, including Shakespeare with Music, created by Plummer and Michael Lankester, where he performed excerpts from four Shakespeare classics—Hamlet, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Henry V, and The Tempest—while the music of Tchaikovsky, Mendelssohn, Walton, and Lankester played; and A Word or Two. The latter, written and arranged by Plummer and directed by Tony winner Des McAnuff, offered his personal take on such literary giants as Ben Jonson, George Bernard Shaw, Shakespeare, Rudyard Kipling, A.A. Milne, Lewis Carroll, Lord Byron, Dylan Thomas, W.H. Auden, and Stephen Leacock.

Mr. Plummer was the first artist to receive the Jason Robards Award, in memory of his late friend. He was also honored with the Edwin Booth Award and the Sir John Gielgud Quill Award. In 1968 he was invested as a Companion of the Order of Canada, an honorary knighthood. In 1986 he was inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame at the Gershwin Theatre, and in 2011, he was presented with the Stratford Shakespeare Festival's first Lifetime Achievement Award. (A recording of the Stratford Festival production of The Tempest, starring Plummer, was screened in movie theatres in 2014.)

Mr. Plummer was 82 when he won the Oscar. He told Playbill at the time, "It kind of rejuvenates your career, makes you feel very young," adding, "I've won all sorts of awards, which I'm just as grateful for. Particularly in the theatre."

Mr. Plummer is survived by third wife, Taylor, and a daughter with his first wife Tammy Grimes, Amanda Plummer.

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