You may have noticed that three very notable elderly performers died in the last couple of weeks without my writing obituaries of them. This is because I had already covered them for Celebrating the Living. Somehow, Christopher Plummer wasn’t even on the schedule. I’m not sure why not; I’ve long admired his work, and he’s certainly someone of note. But it isn’t just me; I’ve been taking suggestions from friends, and they haven’t suggested him, either. We all admire him, and I’m pretty sure he’s on the list—but I stopped using the list a while ago and have just scheduled people instead in the hopes that they’d live until I got to them.
I suppose you could be forgiven for thinking he’d live forever. Not just because he was 91, though goodness knows that’s part of it, but because he just had that sort of “death had to take him sleeping” feel to him. He was delightfully tough-seeming, and that came across even when he was working in the most saccharine movie of his career, one he himself denigrated for years. (He did eventually befriend Julie Andrews, but so far as I know he never really reconciled himself to The Sound of Music.) I suppose he was supposed to, in that role.
But let’s remember that his film career was so long that it’s got its own Wikipedia page. Even in this year of plague 2021, he has a movie listed as in production. Okay, so it’s voicework, but still. His penultimate completed movie is also the penultimate movie I saw in the theatre in the Before Times. (A few months before lockdown. I don’t get out much at the best of times.) He’d also been doing TV almost that long—his first TV performance was the 1953 General Motors Presents episode of Othello, where he’s not even listed as being a specific character. And that’s long enough ago that Lorne Greene was playing Othello himself.
He is also one of those actors who played everyone. Tolstoy and Kipling and Nabokov. Archduke Franz Ferdinand and Field Marshall Rommel and Kaiser Wilhelm II. Mike Wallace and John Barrymore. Scrooge and Prospero and Oedipus. General Chang and Charles Muntz and Doctor Parnassus. Along the way working with Spike Lee and John Huston, Blake Edwards and Michael Mann. Really a phenomenal career—his Oscar may have been basically a lifetime achievement award, but what a lifetime.
Also, I was somehow today years old when I realized that he was Amanda Plummer’s father. She was his only child, and her mother prevented him from seeing her for much of Amanda’s early life. I don’t know why and of course it’s none of my business. However, they did have a friendly relationship as adults, so that’s nice?