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PBS's Great Performances Presents Christopher Plummer in William Luce's Barrymore

Legendary stage, screen, and TV star Christopher Plummer, whom many will absolutely remember as Captain Von Trapp in the film adaptation of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music, is recreating his Tony- and Drama Desk-winning role as stage and screen legend John Barrymore in the film adaptation of William Luce’s Barrymore, an almost-one-man-show which played Broadway in 1997 for over seven months. It airs on PBS Great Performances January 31 at 9pm.

Christopher Plummer in Barrymore
Credit: Image Entertainment

Set in 1942, one month before The Great Profile’s death at 59, Barrymore shines a spotlight on the acclaimed, notorious, and combative member of Broadway’s Royal Family (he’s the brother of Ethel and Lionel) as he struggles to prepare for a backer’s audition for a revival of Richard III, a triumph for him in 1920, when he was also a screen matinee idol. He segued easily into sound films, but became more and more unreliable due to excesses (mainly alcoholism). No longer a box-office draw, the faded icon revisits the highs and lows of his theatrical triumphs and once remarkable life.

John Plumpis, who toured with Plummer in the play, recreates his role of the prompter. The film is directed and adapted by Érik Canuel. Luce wrote The Belle of Amherst, with an acclaimed performance by Julie Harris as Emily Dickinson (winning her fifth Tony), which was a hit on Broadway and the West End. He also wrote biographical plays on Lillian Hellman, Charlotte Bronte, and Isak Dinesen.

Plummer is celebrating 60 years as one of the world’s greatest actors onstage and screen. After Eva Le Galliene gave him his New York debut in 1954, he starred in Jean Anouilh’s The Lark, adapted by Lillian Hellman and co-starring Julie Harris and Theodore Bikel; Archibald MacLeish’s 1958 Pulitzer- Prize and Tony-winning J.B., opposite Raymond Massey, directed by Elia Kazan; as Pizzaro in Peter Shaffer’s The Royal Hunt of the Sun; the short-lived musical adaptation of Cyrano; as Iago opposite James Earl Jones in the acclaimed 1982 revival of Othello; in short-lived revivals of Macbeth (1988) (costarring Glenda Jackson and featuring Cherry Jones in her second Broadway role as Lady Mcduff) and King Lear (2004); and the 2007 revival of Inherit the Wind, with Brian Dennehy.

He won two Tonys from his seven nominations. Plummer also starred on the West End and was a member of the Royal National Theatre under Sir Laurence Olivier and the Royal Shakespeare Company under Sir Peter Hall.

Following his screen debut in Stage Struck (1958), his range of notable films also include The Man Who Would Be King, Fall of The Roman Empire, Star Trek VI, the Oscar-winning A Beautiful Mind, Syriana, Girl with a Dragon Tattoo and was Oscar-nominated for The Last Station and Beginnings. His upcoming films include co-starring with Al Pacino in Imagined and Shirley MacLaine in Elsa and Fred. TV appearances number close to 100, earning him two Emmys and seven nominations.?

Mr. Plummer’s autobiography is In Spite of Myself (Random House). His one-man show A Word or Two is playing at L.A.’s Ahmanson Theatre through February 9.

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