Christopher Plummer's Odd Performance in The Sound of Music

I was watching TSOM yesterday when it struck me that Christopher Plummer’s performance is odd. Has anyone else noticed this?

Plummer plays some scenes with an archness more suited to restoration comedy, in one scene he puts a gay spin on his delivery, and in the rest of the movie he looks bored or sulky. What gives? I’ve seen him in other movies of the era in which he turns in competent performances. Captain von Trapp was within Plummer’s range - all he has to do is look handsome in his Trachten suit, kiss Maria, wag an admonitory finger at the kiddies, and pretend to sing “Edelweiss.” So why is his performance in this movie so eccentric and uneven? And why did Robert Wise let him get away with it?

:smack: Oops, the thread title is supposed to read Christoper Plummer’s Odd Performance. Would somebosy kindly report this to a mod and ask for a fix? Thanks.

I was going to say that I agree, he plummered his performance. :slight_smile:

I think it depends on who he’s around. He’s urbane with the Baroness, strict with the children until the Edelweiss breakthrough, then still firm but kind, and goo goo with Maria.

I read about the Von Trapps on wikipedia…he was 25 years older than she! Also, there was no geographically-impossible trek across the mountains…they crossed the border into Italy and hopped a train, one day before the borders were closed.

Seriously IIRC Plummer disliked working in the Sound Of Music, and as many performers do mention, they feel really awkward when they are dubbed (He did not sing in TSOM, Bill Lee was his singing voice) because they fear people (and producers) will only “remember” an actor has a talent they actually do not have.

I think he said working with Julie Andrews was like being hit over the head with a giant Valentine’s Day Card every day, but they’re still friends.

I’m glad they showed the unedited version. A lot more things made sense, and Von Trapp’s love for his country really comes through. My daughter got to watch the whole thing for the first time, and she was clutching my hand during the hunt for the Von Trapps in the abbey’s cemetary.

It occurred to me…do you think Max was arrested for his part in helping the Von Trapps escape? I can imagine the Nazis not wanting to arrest the nuns, but I could totally see Max being quietly whisked away in some traincar to destinations unknown.

IMDb relates the Valentine’s card quip, as well as saying he always referred to the movie as “The Sound of Mucus”.

Other interesting trivia

Done. (Well, okay, I didn’t actually report it; I figured I’d skip the middleman.)

Thanks, Skip!

They also weren’t newlyweds but had two children and she was visibly pregnant with a third when they left. IIRC, that is the actual von Trapp villa they use for exterior shots; when the Depression hit they took in boarders because the Baron refused the offers of employment that came his way as they were beneath his station. (His money came not from inheritance but from marriage; his first wife was ironically the daughter of a British munitions manufacturer who became a gazillionaire for the torpedoes he manufactured in WW1, when the real Baron von Trapp was a highly decorated very famous U-Boat commander.)

I always thought his performance throughout was just incredibly stiff. His daughter Amanda “Any of you f*ckin’ pricks MOVE and I’m gonna execute…etc etc.” Plummer said she went to see the movie with, ironically, her governess because her father refused to sit through it again.

Christopher Plummer trivia: When Rex Harrison walked off the set of Dr. Doolittle with an “I know I have a contract, sue me, I’m not going to do it” prima donna fit Plummer was hired to replace him. When Harrison, whose excessive alimony payments and high lifestyle and accountant made him rethink the reneging on his agreement, made peace with the producers and returned to production he was accepted back but Plummer was paid the full $300,000 he had contracted for even though he never filmed a frame of the movie. At the time that was the most any actor had ever earned for a performance he didn’t give. (Twenty years later Bob Hoskins was paid $200,000 as a retainer for the role of Al Capone in The Untouchables when DeNiro was trying to decide whether to take it, causing him to quip “I don’t care WHAT the role is, I don’t care if its porn or a live action Care Bears, if anybody out there has any movie they don’t want me to be in for a large fee, I AM available not to make it!”)

My two favorite Plummer performances:

Herod Antipas in Jesus of Nazareth- his looks of lust at Salome were scary but at the same time understated, and his love scene with Herodias was actually hot (“Repent… repent… repent…”)

The Detective whose name eludes me in Dolores Claiborne, a departure from his usual suave and debonair villain roles.

Didn’t work at all: his reunion with Julie Andrews for the live TV production of On Golden Pond. In the first place Fonda and Hepburn NAILED those roles, in the second Julie’s English accent talking about her New England girlhood was a bit too glaring and while Plummer was in his 70s when he made the movie he looks way too well preserved to be Norman Thayer.

One of my favorite Christopher Plummer performances is his portrayal of Atahualpa, last of the Incas, in The Royal Hunt of the Sun, opposite Robert Shaw as Pizarro.

Huh? From what I understand, Julie Andrews is much more like Eve than her usual on-screen persona: elegantly sarcastic and cynical. Or did she only become so after she hooked up with Blake Edwards?

But you are Skip the middleman!

Trivia: Plummer also starred in the stage production of RHotS before the movie, but as Pizarro. He was shocked when they wanted him for the Inca.

I clearly recall that Plummer sang all his parts EXCEPT for the song Something Good, where his voice was just too central, and it was too important that it match with Julie Andrews’. Am I wrong?

Plummer’s work in TSOM notwithstanding, I saw him on Broadway years ago in a one-man show about John Barrymore and he was fantastic – maybe as good at being “Barrymore” than John B himself.

I liked him in Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country, as the Shakespeare-quoting Klingon General Chang.

What a range of roles that man has had.

I’m pretty sure that Bill Lee dubbed all of Plummer’s songs. That’s another small quibble I have with the movie: Lee’s voice is very pleasant but it doesn’t sound much like Plummer’s speaking voice.

Speaking of dubbing, has anyone ever noticed that Marni Nixon, the arch-dubber, appears in TSOM as a nun? Nixon dubbed Audrey Hepburn’s songs in My Fair Lady. Julie Andrews, as I’m sure you know, originated the Eliza Doolittle role on Broadway and many, many people throught she’d been robbed when the role in the film went to Audrey Hepburn.

Anyway, to get back to Nixon, there are stories that Hepburn believed she sang well enough to do her own singing in MFL, threw temper tantrums when told she would be dubbed, and was cruel and uncooperative to Nixon. Whenever I see TSOM, I always wonder if Nixon and Andrews got together over a nice cuppa while Nixon told Andrews stories of Hepburn’s bad behavior.

Hepburn (Audrey) was very disappointed that she was to be dubbed, and walked off the set. The next day she returned and apologized to the entire cast and crew for her terrible behavior. I suspect it’s one of the few times in her public life that she behaved in anything but a gracious and utterly courteous way.

Unfortunately, I heard her attempt at “Wouldn’t it be Loverly” on the DVD. She was flat in parts. Interestingly, I also listened to Natalie Wood’s stab at “Tonight” from West Side Story. Although she too was dubbed by Nixon in the final product, I wondered why - to me, her voice sounded as good (or close to) as Nixon’s, and “Tonight” is a far more challenging song than anything from My Fair Lady.

Skilled as Nixon was, I’ve wondered why she was used so heavily, as her voice has never struck me as all that great. One of the things that makes TSOM so great is that Julie Andrews’ voice was so incredible - IMHO Nixon wasn’t remotely in her league.

She also dubbed Kurt’s high note in “So Long, Farewell” or whatever that good night song is called.