The Last Cavalier: Christopher Plummer’s Mildly Wicked Life

“As T.S. Eliot measures his life with espresso spoons, so I measure mine by the performs I’ve been in,” Christopher Plummer writes in his 2008 memoir, In Spite of Myself: A Memoir.

The legendary actor, without end immortalized as Captain von Trapp in The Sound of Music, additionally seems to have measured life within the variety of barstools he sat on. Clocking in at an amazing 656 pages, In Spite of Myself is a garrulous travelogue of drunken revelry, unique locales and Shakespeare’s prose. Plummer is a person with a head crammed with such lovely verse that he will get carried away—usually leaving the reader scratching her head about what precisely he’s speaking about.

However throughout the verbosity and pomposity—name him a second string Errol Flynn, besides with a conscience—are quite a few good passages that reveal an knowledgeable listener and a citizen of the world who knew everybody, and deemed a lot of them higher than he. As Plummer wrote after working with the gentlemanly, humble Boris Karloff: “It got here to me like a ray of fact that there are solely the rarest few born into this world who’re really good people and, I spotted, with a pointy little pang of unhappiness and envy, I might by no means be one in every of them.” 

The Prince of Montreal

“I used to be introduced up by an Airedale,” Plummer jests within the opening strains of In Spite of Myself. “The earliest reminiscence I’ve of something resembling a pater familias, bouncer, male-nurse or God is that expensive slobbering previous Airedale.”

Like a lot on this pleasant slog of an autobiography, it might not be precisely true, nevertheless it’s an awesome line. Born in 1929 in Toronto, Christopher Orme Plummer was the scion of one in every of Canada’s fading aristocratic Anglo households. (His great-grandfather was the primary native born Prime Minister of Canada.)

Plummer admits to being a completely “spoiled-brat baby with an excessive amount of time on his arms,” coddled by his divorced mom. She warily bankrolled her solely baby as he grew up—in response to him—unbelievably quick. He presents himself as a jaded barfly by his mid-teens, hitting Montreal’s hotspots with a crew of aged former jetsetters and the tragic Diana Barrymore, and treading the boards with a younger William Shatner earlier than he was twenty.

Although Plummer claims his household’s upright correctness made him decided to insurgent, it’s clear they influenced him vastly. “To the top of my days, I shall be glad about that curious hyperlink with the previous,” he writes. “To my quaint previous household, for if there may be the merest smidgeon of decency in me in any respect, it got here from them, and…although they by no means would have guessed it, they gave me my creativeness.”

The Wingman

By the Fifties, Plummer was a profitable younger actor in love with Shakespeare, intercourse, and New York Metropolis. And it reveals: his prose is glowing and energetic. “Earlier than you possibly can say Damon Runyon—presto!—it had adopted you!” he writes of coming to the theater capital. “The island of Manhattan had turn out to be the Island of Dangerous Boys…and all its shining treasures have been yours for the taking.”

Take, Plummer did. Plummer spares barely any ink discussing his first spouse, the madcap Broadway star Tammy Grimes, and their daughter, Amanda, although he frankly admits, “I used to be a awful husband and a fair worse father.” However he writes reams of touching prose on the aged grand dames of the theater who took him beneath their wing—Ruth Chatterton, Katharine Cornell, Eva Le Gallienne, Gypsy Rose Lee, Lillian Hellman—and lovingly praises their brilliance and guts.

Along with his piercing, unforgiving self-perception, Plummer admits that “there was nothing notably unique about me. I lived off the foibles of others—a resigned chameleon.” He presents himself as a wasted wingman to appearing’s legendary dangerous boys, notably Trevor Howard, James Mason, and Peter O’Toole (who was always knocking down his pants to indicate off his welts from Lawrence of Arabia). | The Final Cavalier: Christopher Plummer’s Mildly Depraved Life


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