Christopher Plummer - Three Great Performances

Classy and Charismatic

Christopher Plummer - Three Great Performances
Christopher Plummer, oldest competitive Oscar winning actor, dies at 91. (Source: Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television)


We have lost three acting legends in less than two weeks: Cloris Leachman (94), Cicely Tyson (96) and most recently the great Christopher Plummer (91). All three artists worked, doing interesting things, until late in their lives-astonishingly, sometimes, near their last breath.

Ms. Tyson conducted an interview for her memoir the day before she died-her autobiography just coming out. Her last acting credit was less than a year ago in How to Get Away with Murder.

Cloris Leachman, also worked up until the end, she has two films completed, but not yet released: High Holiday and Not to Forget.

Plummer not only worked until the end of his long productive life, he had a genuine hit a few years ago with Knives Out (2019)- Plummer had just completed voice work on the animated film, Heroes of the Golden Mask (2021)-one last performance we can look forward to – being released later this year.

These three actors have been around so long, perhaps we thought they would always be here, because of this, we might find ourselves reflecting on our own mortality, and our own lives. Most of us are counting the days until we retire, but what if we could be as lucky as these artists; loving our career so much we want to work until we die, and healthy enough to do so. We might find inspiration in their lives.

I have a confession: I have never liked The Sound of Music, it was just too saccharine and overlong for me. I couldn’t understand how such a Hollywood, glossy, harmless movie-despite having Nazi’s as villains – could be so popular and critically acclaimed during one of our nation’s most tumultuous decades. Recently I watched most of the movie through the entire grueling length for the first time – most of it. Although I still cannot understand its massive appeal, I admit it was handsomely made and well performed. Plummer brings a credible edge and gravitas to a role that could have been one note. There is something warm and glowing behind Plummer’s eyes, no matter how evil, or stern the character he is playing.

Here are three Plummer films that clearly demonstrate his “weight” and charisma on screen.

Dolores Claiborne (1995)

Plummer plays the heavy here as the dogged, relentless small town detective who is convinced that Dolores Claiborne (the magnificent Kathy Bates) is guilty of murder. Call it hunch, call it machismo, call it tenacity, he is a formidable foe. This is Plummer at his most charismatic and dangerous. This is also my favorite Stephen King novel adaptation, with a very famous line-”sometimes being a bitch, is the only thing a woman has to hold onto.”

The Insider (1999)

Plummer plays the real life Mike Wallace in this exciting film about exposing the tobacco industry’s covert machinations to hide the damage that cigarettes can do. Plummer was overlooked by the Academy, and unfortunately didn’t receive a much deserved Oscar nomination for this film. However he did receive several critics’ awards. Plummer was just so good, so often, that his talent was taken for granted.

Beginners (2011)

Plummer deservedly won the Oscar (and just about every other award invented) for his beguiling, charming, almost whimsical turn here. His performance as a septuagenarian who finally comes out of to his baffled, unlucky in love, son (Ewan McGregor) is incredibly nuanced and layered. Once again he transfixes the screen with the glint in his eye and that heaven sent voice. This is a terrific, enchanting film.

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