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Christopher Plummer, actor of 'The Sound of Music' fame, dies at 91

Plummer died at his home in Connecticut with his wife, Elaine Taylor, by his side.
Christopher Plummer in \"The Sound of Music\" in 1965.
Christopher Plummer in "The Sound of Music" in 1965.20th Century Fox / Everett Collection

Christopher Plummer, whose diverse film, television and theater acting career spanned seven decades, died Friday.

He was 91.

Plummer died at his home in Connecticut with his wife of 50 years, Elaine Taylor, by his side, said Lou Pitt, his longtime friend and manager of 46 years.

“Chris was an extraordinary man who deeply loved and respected his profession with great old fashion manners, self deprecating humor and the music of words. He was a National Treasure who deeply relished his Canadian roots," Pitt said. "Through his art and humanity, he touched all of our hearts and his legendary life will endure for all generations to come."

Plummer, it seemed, could handle any role from Oedipus to Othello. Audiences of varying ages might recognize him as the antagonist old man in "Up" to, more recently, the wealthy patriarch in the comedic mystery movie "Knives Out."

But it was his role as Captain Georg von Trapp opposite Julie Andrews in "The Sound of Music" that catapulted him to fame.

While the film — about a strict single father of seven who falls in love with a nun-in-training before the entire musically talented family has to flee Austria to avoid his serving in the Nazi Navy — is hailed as a classic, he long regarded the role as "humorless and one-dimensional.”

“We tried so hard to put humor into it,” Plummer told The Associated Press in 2007. “It was almost impossible. It was just agony to try to make that guy not a cardboard figure.”

Plummer had a remarkable film renaissance late in life, which began with his acclaimed performance as Mike Wallace in Michael Mann’s 1999 film “The Insider" and continued in films such 2001’s “A Beautiful Mind” and 2009′s “The Last Station,” in which he played a deteriorating Leo Tolstoy and was nominated for an Oscar, and 2011's "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo."

He won a best supporting actor Oscar in 2012, making him the oldest Academy Award acting winner in history at the age of 82, for his role in “Beginners” as Hal Fields, a museum director who becomes openly gay after his wife of 44 years dies.

Image: FILE: Actor Christopher Plummer Dies at 91
Actor Christopher Plummer, winner of the Best Supporting Actor Award for 'Beginners,' poses in the press room at the 84th Annual Academy Awards on Feb. 26, 2012 in Hollywood, Calif.Jason Merritt / Getty Images file

“Too many people in the world are unhappy with their lot. And then they retire and they become vegetables. I think retirement in any profession is death, so I’m determined to keep crackin’,” he told AP in 2011.

Plummer was nominated for a third best supporting actor Oscar in 2017, when he replaced Kevin Spacey as J. Paul Getty in “All the Money in the World,” only six weeks before the film was to be released.

His work also earned him two Primetime Emmy Awards, two Tony Awards, a Golden Globe Award and a Screen Actors Guild Award.

Plummer began his career on stage and in radio in Canada in the 1940s and made his Broadway debut in 1954 in “The Starcross Story.”

While still a relative unknown, he was cast as Hamlet in a 1963 performance co-starring Robert Shaw and Michael Caine. It was taped by the BBC at Elsinore Castle in Denmark, where the play is set, and released in 1964. It won an Emmy.

He went on to perform most of the major Shakespeare roles, including Cyrano, Iago, Othello, Prospero, Henry V and a staggering “King Lear” at Lincoln Center in 2004. He was a frequent star at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Canada.

Plummer married Tony-winning actress Tammy Grimes in 1956, with whom he had his only child, actress Amanda Plummer, in 1957. Amanda Plummer also won a Tony, in 1982, for “Agnes of God. Plummer and Grimes divorced in 1960.

A five-year marriage to Patricia Lewis ended in 1967. Plummer married his third wife, dancer Taylor, in 1970.

He was given Canada’s highest civilian honor when he was invested as Companion of the Order of Canada by Queen Elizabeth II in 1968, and was inducted into the American Theatre’s Hall of Fame in 1986.

Tributes to Plummer began filling social media Friday afternoon.

"'Blossom of snow, may you bloom and grow, bloom and grow forever.' RIP Christopher Plummer. You lit up screen and stage over a lifetime of art. My thoughts are with your family and friends," journalist Dan Rather wrote on Twitter, quoting "The Sound of Music."

"Rest in eternal music, Captain Von Trapp," wrote George Takei.

"I was lucky enough to direct Christopher Plummer in my first film. He was the absolute BEST," wrote screenwriter Dan Fogelman. "He was an extraordinary talent, and an extraordinarily kind man ... and those two things rarely come in the same package."