In Spite of Myself

In Spite of Myself

A Memoir

Book - 2008
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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.
Publisher: Toronto : Alfred A. Knopf Canada, 2008.
ISBN: 9780307396792
Characteristics: 647 p. :,ill. ;,25 cm.


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Tonymcdonough Nov 25, 2013

Full of inacuracies
He should have had a fact checker or better yet an editor.
Also why no index?

Cdnbookworm May 17, 2011

This is a highly entertaining piece of writing by a great entertainer. He has certainly done a lot of things that aren't looked kindly on by society: drinking a lot, playing tricks on people, having a lot of relationships; but he notes those and moves on.
His life is really his acting career, and yet he is not all about himself. He notes those he admired, those he worked with and gives praise to those he thinks deserve it (and that is a lot of them). Even when he talks about those he had difficulty working with, he tries to find the reasons behind that.
I learned a lot about his career and life and interesting insights into many others in the entertainment industry.

May 06, 2011

Although one of my favorite actors, In Spite of Myself was a disappointment to me since Mr. Plummer goes into never ending descriptions of life on the stage while not quite conveying his true inner feelings. This made for a laborious read.

Mar 19, 2010

Christopher Plummer has got away with a lot in his long life. Part of this must be due to sheer luck. Given his appetite for alcohol, food, and women, all of which appears to be meticulously detailed in this autobiography, it's a miracle he's in the good shape he's in, or indeed, alive at all, given more than one close call (also carefully related). Another thing that gets him off is his extreme good looks. People are always more willing to forgive handsome and charming people. The third thing that excuses this over-the-top catalogue of questionable doings is Plummer's own self-deprecation. Sure, he tells tales, but mostly on himself.

Plummer is a smart man. He knows, more than most people, that it takes a dollop of healthy self-regard to survive in the theatre, movies and television, and there's absolutely no doubt that he has that in spades. However, he also knows that no one succeeds in acting purely through one's own doing. In fact, sometimes one succeeds in spite of oneself. (Apt title, Christopher!) Thus, Plummer is careful to give credit to those who gave him breaks, who performed brilliantly alongside him, who loved him and put up with him. The story of his Tony nomination for Iago in Othello is buried by his account of daughter Amanda's Plummer's Tony-win for Agnes of God in the very same year. (And he cheerfully admits that he was "a lousy father" to his only child.)

There's a lot to forgive in this book: the rather precious sprinkling of French throughout (yes, he grew up in Montreal, but *really*), the number of times he describes friendships in terms of being "inseparable", the often purple prose, the vague and often downright inaccurate references to actual historical events. Did he even have an editor? However, the anecdotes are amusing, his life story is fascinating, and if you check the list of his accomplishments, he's left out a great deal. All delivered with devilish charm.

Finally, given his long life and the huge range of his acting, we can certainly forgive the name-dropping. That's no doubt why we picked up the book in the first place.

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