To criticize a universally beloved 89-year-old titan of stage and screen – possibly best known as Captain Von Trapp from The Sound of Music, a role he famously detests –  is a thing not easily done.

This is the man they brought in to save Ridley Scott’s All The Money In The World after Kevin Spacey’s heinous deeds were exposed at the height of #MeToo. (He will not be the last Canadian on our list that acted as a calming force during that period of justified outrage.) Spike Lee trusted him enough to cast him in two of his films. He played a Klingon with a hilarious eyepatch and “The Emperor” in a schlocky Star War ripoff, Starcrash, with the same grace and aplomb as his many, many Shakespearean turns – Henry V, Hamlet, Caesar, Mercutio, Lear, and, yes – Prospero.

But as Christopher Plummer himself will readily admit, his life has been a charmed one, mostly free of the struggle and want common to most actors. Plummer’s easygoing yet authoritative presence, his capability and durability, and above all his magical ability to project order cannot be truly understood unless you know that he was born to the cream of Canadian society, the great-grandson of Canada’s third Prime Minister, John Abbott.

This is what separates Plummer from other beloved longtime thespians like Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen. Sir Patrick was born to a poor family and abusive father, and Sir Ian spent his early years living through World War II. You would not ask Plummer to depict the defiant rage of Gandalf, standing against the Balrog, or the fury of Captain Picard, insisting that the line must be drawn here, for Plummer is a being of almost pure light. Even when pitted against fellow Canadian William Shatner in the aforementioned Star Trek VI, it is Plummer who seems more at ease, facing his onscreen death with little more than a quiet “To be, or not to be.” (Maybe that’s not a fair comparison, as practically anyone could be more restrained than James T. Kirk, but recall that Shatner is the child of a Jewish immigrant family, while Plummer is as blue-blooded and Upper Canadian as they come.)

It’s very hard to hate Plummer despite being such an obvious child of privilege. You can level the charge, but it’s almost pointless to do so. His personal conduct is almost beyond reproach, save for the requisite divorces (and even that may be explained somewhat by his own parents’ split early in his life). When he finally won an Oscar in 2012, quipping, “Darling, where have you been all my life?” was it really possible to do anything but laugh and clap?

Plummer may never be as well known or remembered as his contemporaries, but when he finally drowns his book of magic and breaks his staff, shuffling off this mortal coil, we shall not see his dignified like again.

Next week: We cover another living legend, Donald Sutherland, his famous family, and introduce a new Canadian province – New Brunswick – the place where he was born.


See the previous installments in the series:

Part 1 on Heroes: ‘Scott Pilgrim Vs The World’ Vs Terrance Denby and ‘Sidequest’

Part 2 on “Humour”: The Libertarian Fantasy of ‘Letterkenny’

Part 3 on Graphic Novel Nihilism: The Harsh Truths of ‘Essex County’

Part 4 on Spawn and Wolverine: Banished From The Promised Land: A Tale of Two Canadian Anti-Heroes

Part 5 on Science Fiction Dystopias: Inside Quebec’s – and Canada’s – Replicant Culture

Part 6 on Animation: The Garrison Mentality: More Than Meets The Eye

Part 7 on Pop Music: How To Build A Successful Canadian Musical Act

Part 8 on Anne of Green Gables and The Traumatized Artist: Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Treacherous Alpine Path

Part 9 on Avoiding the Serious: Mordecai Richler, Montreal, And Gritty Realism

Part 10 on Southern Ontario Gothic: The Marriage of the Mundane and the Fantastic

Part 11 on Margaret Atwood’s Reign of Terror: Literary Tyranny and The Handmaid’s Tale

Part 12 on the First Nations Fraud: Whitewashing Genocide: Truth, Lies, and Joseph Boyden

Part 13 on the inventive Esi Edugyan: A Novel I Cannot Recommend Enough

Part 14 on Generation X Origins: Douglas Coupland And The Hopeful (?) Future Of Canadian (?) Culture

Part 15 on Jordan Peterson Rising: Canadian Culture Creators And The Intellectual Dark Web

Part 16 on The Awkward Quiet: David Cronenberg’s Silent Hell

Part 17 on The Saddest Music In The WorldGuy Maddin’s Surrealist Madness

Part 18 on Ararat: Atom Egoyan’s Stammering Grief

Part 19 on Paul Haggis’ Superficial Gloss: Promising More Than He Delivers

Part 20 on the Reitman Family’s Blissful Ignorance: Space to Laugh an Easy Laugh

Part 21 on Mark Pickford: The Archetypal (Canadian) Actress


Photo by GabboT