“Chris was an extraordinary man who deeply loved and respected his profession with great old fashion manners, self-deprecating humor, and the music of words,” Pitt said in a statement.
Christopher Plummer could have played anyone, and he certainly did. Whether it be Sherlock Holmes, author Rudyard Kipling, or acclaimed actor John Barrymore, Plummer inhabited a role and lent it a level of gravitas that was unparalleled. Plummer starred as the aristocratic widower Captain Georg von Trapp opposite Julie Andrews in “The Sound of Music,” the beloved 1965 cinematic tale of a musical family and their mischievous governess in Austria on the eve of World War II. Despite its enormous worldwide success, Plummer publicly despised the film, calling his role “gooey” in The Hollywood Reporter in 2011. But he later softened, telling the same publication in 2015 that the production was “the last bastion of peace and innocence in a very cynical time.”
The 10 features here are just a brief encapsulation of an actor who refused to be confined to just one character.
THE SOUND OF MUSIC (1965)
The role that made Plummer a star, “The Sound of Music” remains the gold standard for roadshow musicals. Plummer’s Captain Von Trapp is introduced as a quasi-villain, a man whom the kind-hearted nun Maria (Julie Andrews) changes with her love. Once Plummer transitions into the romantic figure for Maria the true swoon goes into effect. On top of that, he plays Von Trapp as a man determined not to see his home ravaged by the Nazis. His rendition of “Edelweiss” never fails to bring tears.
INSIDE DAISY CLOVER(1965)
There will be those who may claim Inside Daisy Clover is based upon the true-life story of an actress who rose to shining blonde stardom. Alan J. Pakula and Robert Mulligan focus their sights upon a teenage beach gamin who becomes a Hollywood star of the 1930s. Covering a two-year period, the outcome is at times disjointed and episodic as the title character played by Natalie Wood emerges more nebulous than definitive.
THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING (1975)
This John Huston-directed feature isn’t necessarily Plummer’s picture at all. His role, as author Rudyard Kipling, is generally that of narrator and sounding board for the story of two English military officers stationed in India (played by Michael Caine and Sean Connery). But this feature is a great example of Plummer’s ability to make meals out of minor roles. He’s inquisitive and a solid presence for the unbelievable story that unfolds.
THE SILENT PARTNER (1978)
This is an imaginative plot, yet one with which the viewer can readily identify. A bank teller (Elliot Gould) is held up at gun point in his bank. Luckily for him he receives a clue that this is going to occur and diverts most of the cash into his own safety deposit box, leaving only a nominal amount for the crook (Christopher Plummer). The ruse works well, but for the fact that the crook resents the fact that he has been outsmarted. There ensues a terrific battle of wits involving the clever but basically “moral” teller, and the cunning and totally uninhibited bank robber, which involves several other people in ways which cannot be revealed here
MURDER BY DECREE (1979)
Christopher Plummer, James Mason, David Hemmings, Anthony Quayle, Genevieve Bujold, Frank Finley, John Gielgud, Susan Oliver, Donald Sutherland. Jack the Ripper is the subject of this chilling Sherlock Holmes thriller which suggests that the prostitute slayer was a member of a Royal household. Christopher Plummer is Sherlock Holmes, James Mason is Dr. Watson, and Donald Sutherland plays a psychic (based on a real person who assisted Scotland Yard during the actual Ripper case).
SOMEWHERE IN TIME (1980)
This cult classic romantic period feature puts Plummer in the role of antagonist and romantic foil. His William Fawcett Robinson is the manager of the beautiful model Elise McKenna (Jane Seymour). When the lovestruck Richard (Christopher Reeve) travels back to 1912 to woo Elise, William is concerned for her career but also harbors a love for her as well. It’s not the stereotypical role of the scorned man. The audience sees that he does care about Elise and cares about her happiness, despite standing in the way of the couple’s love.
STAR TREK VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991)
TaH pagh taHbe! That, of course, is the Klingon for “To be or not to be” and one of the many lines delivered with snarling perfection by Christopher Plummer as General Chang in “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.” A war hawk who believes conflict with the Federation is inevitable and conspires to set it in motion, the eyepatch-wearing Chang is one of the best “Trek” villains ever. Filled with an overwrought sense of grandeur, he quotes Shakespeare throughout, using the Bard to make the case that the people of Earth naturally gravitate more toward conflict than peace. His turn under all that prosthetic makeup shows that, whether in blockbusters or indies, Plummer’s acting ability was constant as the northern star.—Christian Blauvelt
Plummer did several prominent voiceover and narration roles throughout his career, but if we had to pick one that stands out it’s his role as the villainous Charles Muntz in this Disney/Pixar classic ,”Up” is a wonderful film, with characters who are as believable as any characters can be who spend much of their time floating above the rain forests of Venezuela. They have tempers, problems and obsessions. They are cute and goofy, but they aren’t cute in the treacly way of little cartoon animals. They’re cute in the human way of the animation masterHayao Miyazaki. Two of the three central characters are cranky old men, which is a wonder in this youth-obsessed era. “Up” doesn’t think all heroes must be young or sweet, although the third important character is a nervy kid.
Plummer was nominated three times for an Academy Award in his lifetime, but it was with the 2010 Mike Mills-directed feature “Beginners” that he’d take the statue home. Based on Mills’ own life, Plummer plays Hal, a man nearing the end who realizes that he’s gay and is determined to live on his own terms. Oliver meets the irreverent and unpredictable Anna only months after his father Hal has passed away. This new love floods Oliver with memories of his father who – following 45 years of marriage – came out of the closet at age 75 to live a full, energized, and wonderfully tumultuous gay life. The upheavals of Hal’s new honesty, by turns funny and moving, brought father and son closer than they’d ever been able to be. Now Oliver endeavors to love Anna with all the bravery, humor, and hope that his father taught him.
KNIVES OUT (2019)
One of Plummer’s last features puts him at the center of a fantastic ensemble. As thriller writer Harlan Thrombey in this murder mystery, Plummer plays the character as a puzzle in himself. When renowned crime novelist Harlan Thrombey is found dead at his estate just after his 85th birthday, the inquisitive and debonair Detective Benoit Blanc is mysteriously enlisted to investigate. From Harlan’s dysfunctional family to his devoted staff, Blanc sifts through a web of red herrings and self-serving lies to uncover the truth behind Harlan’s untimely death.