In Spite of Myself: A Memoir
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Canada’s most celebrated and acclaimed actor lets loose in a magnificent memoir that will delight and enchant readers across the country.
A rollicking, rich self-portrait written by one of today’s greatest living actors. The story of a “young wastrel, incurably romantic, spoiled rotten” – his privileged Montreal background, rich in Victorian gentility, included steam yachts, rare orchid farms, music lessons in Paris and Berlin – “who tore himself away from the ski slopes to break into the big, bad world of theater not from the streets up but from an Edwardian living room down.”
Plummer writes of his early acting days – on radio and stage with William Shatner and other fellow Canadians; of the early days of the Stratford Festival in southern Ontario; of his Broadway debut at twenty-four in The Starcross Story, starring Eva Le Gallienne (“It opened and closed in one night, but what a night!”); of joining Peter Hall’s Royal Shakespeare Company (its other members included Judi Dench, Vanessa Redgrave and Peter O’Toole); of his first picture, Stage Struck, directed by Sidney Lumet; and of The Sound of Music, which he affectionately dubbed “S&M.”
He writes about his legendary colleagues: Dame Judith Anderson (“the Tasmanian devil from Down Under”); Sir Tyrone Guthrie; Sir Laurence Olivier; Elia Kazan (“this chameleon of chameleons might change into you, wear your skin, steal your soul”); and “that reprobate” Jason Robards, among many others.
A revelation of the wild and exuberant ride that is the actor’s – at least this actor’s – life.
From the Hardcover edition.
me and, as always, Fritz spoke for Karl. “Bruno has not come to vork for two, sree days.” “And Frau Hübner?” I asked. “She has taken to her bed; ve don’t know ven she vill come down.” I knew they missed the Englishman, but I had not realized how deeply. The unit car picked me up and drove me to Bavaria, where we were to shoot the last scene of the picture in which the von Trapp family escapes the Nazis by climbing over the Alps to Switzerland, neutrality and freedom. It was now afternoon, and
now, having fun with all this, mercifully teasing Warner, who didn’t take teasing too well. “Let us consult our menu cards, shall we, to see what sort of concoction this pretends to be.” There it was in exquisite writing at each place setting— “Fraise Grimeures,” looking suspiciously like made-up French. “What does ‘Fraises Grimeures’ mean?” asked Stella with that perpetual naughty twinkle in her eye. “Haven’t the foggiest,” retorted Lord Louis. “Probably should have read ‘Fraise d’ Hier.’” There
defense of my fellow artists and with the noblest of swashbuckling gestures, I unsheathed the narrow sword in a flash. With that single movement, I accidentally pierced him in the neck. It was a perfect draw. D’Artagnan himself would have envied my skill and accuracy—no question, but no one could have been more surprised than I. The nick was minuscule, had drawn some blood but was hardly serious. The miserable creature, however, made much melodrama of it—demanding towels to stop the bleeding and
checking on everyone who came and went. These huge ladies, akin to women wrestlers, had hairy armpits and hairy legs, long and full. The scent of good old BO permeated each corridor. One could imagine that a discreet assignation in one’s room would result in nothing less than a death sentence. Rod, not so generously and quite diabolically, had left me a collection of pornography so brazenly graphic that if discovered I could be arrested on sight. I was about to light a match to the whole lot of
Florinda and I sat, in all our splendour, in the backseat of our “Tantrum,” as we nicknamed it, open to the skies. As we looked up to the rooftops where hundreds of people were leaning over staring down at us, I had the eerie feeling they had got the idea that it was really happening all over again—that the real Hapsburgs were returning to the scene of the crime. “Look at their faces,” Florinda said to me under her breath. She was right—their expressions were sour, unfriendly, perhaps even