Now and then I really enjoy a biography, or autobiography, or memoir. Over the years I've read a number of them. Not a lot by any means, as I only read the ones I think will interest me.
And so I noted when Christopher Plummer released a book called "In Spite of Myself", and immediately put it on my Amazon Wish List.
(I mean, what's not to like? He's gorgeous!)
(... well.. most of the time!.. )
Now, for the most part, I do note the dimensions of a book before purchasing it (if it's not hardback, as my eyes aren't very good) and generally I note how large the books is, page wise.
When my son and daughter-in-law sent me an Amazon gift Certificate for Christmas, I, naturally ran right off and spent it! Among what I received from them was the Christopher Plummer book. What better then to receive a book when someone else is paying right? :o)
Upon lifting the book to my lap to look at it closer for reading I couldn't help but notice how heavy the book was. Wow, I thought, how many pages IS this book? OMG! it's 656 pages long!!! Just how much do I like Christopher Plummer to want to read a chunkster like this about one person????!!!
After I got over the shock, and trust me it WAS a shock!, I thought: Ok, I'll start this but the minute it's not interesting or the minute it begins doing nothing but listing movies and what the movies are, I'll quit. Knowing he was more a stage actor than a movie star I thought it might be interesting to learn about the theater, especially since I have never seen a professional play.
(Anthony & Cleopatra: still gorgeous!)
Hardcover: 656 pages
Publisher: Knopf (November 4, 2008)
The first 130 pages went rather quickly! (hmmmm) and I found them very interesting! Plummers family history up in Canada reads like a "who's who". For instance, his second cousin is Nigel Bruce of Sherlock Holmes fame! And a little piece of trivia is that he worked on radio with John Colicos and Bill Shatner. (someone he would work with again years later)
An actor you don't forget if you ever saw him, Edward Everett Horton, was the person to first get Mr Plummer work in America. Soon after he found an agent and worked on televisions shows such as: (an unless you are of the older generation you'd never heard of these) Kraft Television Theater, Robert Montgomery Presents and Philco Television Playhouse. (see, I told you you wouldn't know them unless you are ..well.. old.)
Seeing as the first 100 pages went so fast I decided to continue on...
Something I found intriguing was reading about actors I know as "movie actors" but now they were stage actors. It was a whole new view of them, especially when Mr Plummer was talking about them "off stage".
Shortly after getting back into the book I learned that Roddy McDowell would become a lifelong friend, after they worked on stage together. To give you an idea of what was going on about this time in his life I will copy a paragraph from the book:
The top 10 new plays of the year were: Arthur Miller's A View from the Bridge, Giraudoux's Tiger at the Gates, The Diary of Anne Frank, which made a star of Susan Strasberg at seventeen, and No Time for Sergeants, which marked the debut of that charmer Andy Griffith. The Ponder Heart by Chodorov, The Chalk Garden by Enid Bagnold, Thornton Wilder's The Matchmaker with a towering comic performance by Ruth Gordon and a pixie performance by Robert Morse... and Bert Lahr, equally brilliant in the American premiere of Beckett's Waiting for Godot. There was a little known musical that snuck in called My Fair Lady with Rex Harrison and a young newcomer from Wimbledon named Julie Andrews and lastly, the first big success I was ever in.. The Lark.
During one of the times Christopher was doing Henry the Fifth, his understudy who, when Christopher became sick, went on in his place and was a smash hit was William Shatner. (my eyebrow raised, a bit like a certain Vulcan!)
Mr. Plummer doesn't hide much in the book. He tells of his lovers and wives but not so much that he obsesses on the topic. He talks of many of the plays he did, as other actors list their movies, and I have to say I found it more interesting because I had not seen any plays and so as he talked about them I felt I did learn something of the theater as the years rolled by.
Mr Plummer drops names about as fast as raindrops fall during a storm. Or actually, I should say, the man never forgets who he works with, their name, or things that happened while working together!
I had some delightful surprises when I read where some of the people he worked with, such as when he did Becket, he worked with someone I adore, Roy Dotrice. And when he was in the movie Fall of the Roman Empire, he worked with Stephen Boyd and Maggie Smith! Be still my heart, as he worked with many people I admire!
He was 36 when he made The Sound of Music. A movie that in the beginning, he was not happy about. He had changed his mind before the movie was done.
I would tell you that if you like Christopher Plummer's body of work, especially if his stage work interests you, that you should get this book. He has not lost a bit of his memory of every play he has ever done, nor who he worked with, nor how they effected his life. I may have set the book aside at some point if he went on and on about the movies he did. Too many have done that already. Although he does recall all the plays in much the same way, he has a way about his writing that also lets you know where he is, and what it's like at that time and place. He's in Canada, he's in Europe, he's in America.. he's everywhere an actor of his caliber should be.
It's a long book.. so if it interests you, be prepared for it to take some time to read.
He was quite the ladies man, quite a drinker for many years.. and quite an actor!
I'm glad I read his book. He is a most interesting fellow! And now I think I shall write him a letter and tell him so! I will send the photo I have next to the book in the first photo, in hopes that he does autographs. He may well not, but I'll take the chance.
TCM (Turner Classic Movies) did an interview with Christopher Plummer about his book that's just fantastic. If you want to read it please go HERE.
Here's something odd... I just noticed that Christopher Plummer's daughter, Amanda Plummer, has signed to do the Chiller Autograph show that I always go to!