Christopher Plummer, Actor From Shakespeare to ‘The Sound of Music,’ Dies at 91


He played Hamlet, Macbeth, Richard III, Mark Antony, and others of Shakespeare’s towering protagonists on prominent stages, and he starred in “Hamlet at Helsingör,” a critically acclaimed 1964 television production directed by Philip Saville and set in Kronborg Castle The film was shot in Denmark, where (under the name Elsinore) the play is set.

But he also accepted roles in a whole series of clinkers, in which he brought some clichés to life – like the evil fanatic who hides behind religiosity in “Skeletons” (1997), for example in one of his more than 40 television films. or as the gloomy emperor of the galaxy, who appears as a hologram in “Starcrash”, a rip-off of “Star Wars” from 1978.

A measure of his stature were his leading actresses, which included Glenda Jackson as Lady Macbeth and Zoe Caldwell as Cleopatra. And even leaving Shakespeare aside, one measure of his reach was a list of the well-known characters he played fictional and non-fictional on television and in the films: Sherlock Holmes and Mike Wallace, John Barrymore and Leo Tolstoy, Aristotle and F. Lee Bailey, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Alfred Stieglitz, Rudyard Kipling and Cyrano de Bergerac.

Mr. Plummer’s television work began in the 1950s, during the heyday of live drama, and lasted for half a century. He starred as archbishop in the popular 1983 miniseries “The Thorn Birds”, appeared regularly as an industrialist in the 1990s action-adventure series “Counterstrike” and won the Emmy Awards – 1977 for portraying a sensible banker in miniature Series “Arthur Hailey’s The Moneychangers” and in 1994 for the narration of “Madeline”, an animated series based on the children’s books.

In the films, his appearance in “The Sound of Music” as von Trapp, a strict widower and father whose heart was warmed and won over by the woman he hires as governess, triggered a parade of distinctive roles, more character changes than main roles across an impressive range of genres. These included a historical drama (“The Last Station” about Tolstoy and “The Day That Shook the World” about the beginning of the First World War); historical adventure (as Kipling in John Huston’s boisterous adaptation of The Man Who Would Be King, starring Sean Connery and Michael Caine); romantic comedy (“Must Love Dogs” with John Cusack and Diane Lane); political epic (“Syriana”); Science Fiction (as Chang, the Klingon general, in Star Trek VI); and Crime Farce (“The Return of the Pink Panther,” in which he played a retired version of the Debonair jewel thief originally portrayed by David Niven to Peter Sellers’ incompetent Inspector Clouseau).

Mr. Plummer won a belated Oscar in 2012 for the role of Hal, a man who enthusiastically emerges as gay in the bittersweet father-son story “Beginners” after decades of marriage and the death of his wife.



Robert Dunfee