Canadians mourn the passing of Christopher Plummer

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Photo: Wikimedia Commons - Public Domain

The curtain has finally come down for Christopher Plummer. When accepting a lifetime achievement award at the Canadian Screen Awards in March 2017, he jokingly said of his lengthy career, “The curtain hasn’t come down yet … it’s merely stuck.”

Canadian actor Christopher Plummer, legendary star of stage, screen and television, died at age 91 on Feb. 5 at his home in Connecticut. His wife of 50 years, actress Elaine Taylor, was at his side.

Born in 1929 in Toronto, Plummer grew up in Senneville, Que., near Montreal. He developed a love for theatre and began acting while attending the High School of Montreal. After watching Laurence Olivier’s film Henry V (1944), he learned the basics of acting with the Montreal Repertory Theatre, along with fellow Montrealer William Shatner.

Plummer made his Canadian television debut in the February 1953 CBC production of Othello, starring Lorne Greene as the Moor.

Plummer’s passion, however, was always for the stage. “I came to life as Henry V way back in 1956 at the Stratford [Shakespeare Festival] and the Edinburgh Festival. That’s how it started,” he told the Ottawa Citizen in 2016. “Henry V made my name go up above the title on Broadway.”

Over the course of his 65-year career, Plummer appeared in hundreds of stage and screen productions. He is best known for his role as Captain von Trapp in The Sound of Music (1965).

In 1970, he was named a companion of the Order of Canada “for his contribution to the performing arts at home and abroad.”

Plummer is one of the few performers and the only Canadian to have received the Triple Crown of acting – an Academy Award along with a primetime Emmy and a Tony Award (two each). He has also received a Golden Globe Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award and a British Academy Film Award.

He won the Academy Award for best supporting actor at the age of 82 for Beginners (2010), becoming the oldest person to win an acting award, and he received a nomination at the age of 88 for All the Money in the World, making him the oldest person to be nominated in an acting category. His last role was as the patriarch in the 2019 American film Knives Out.

In a message to Canadians after Plummer’s death, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stated, “Whether performing on stage, in film or on television, Mr. Plummer showed gravitas, dignity, and heart throughout a career that spanned over six decades. A longtime pillar of Canada’s Stratford Festival, he also performed on Broadway and starred in over 150 feature films, television movies and miniseries. He gave life to so many characters we grew to love and cherish, from Captain von Trapp to Richard III and Star Trek’s General Chang.”

Lou Pitt, Plummer’s longtime friend and manager of 46 years, told Deadline, “Chris was an extraordinary man who deeply loved and respected his profession, with great old-fashioned manners, self-deprecating humour and the music of words. He was a national treasure who deeply relished his Canadian roots. Through his art and humanity, he touched all of our hearts and his legendary life will endure for all generations to come. He will forever be with us.”