Christopher Plummer died today. He was 91.
He’s been famous for a long time, and famous recently for some great older-man roles (e.g, Knives Out), but for me and people my age and older, this is who Christopher Plummer was: The Nazi-flag-ripping guy you’ve seen in memes these last few years.
World War II was never far from the public imagination when I was growing up in the 70s and 80s — I mean, the Nazis are the bad guys in Raiders, and were even in present-day pictures like The Boys from Brazil — but when they made The Sound of Music in 1965, it was barely 20 years ago.
That’s like the dot-com boom until today, say. Or 9/11.
Media was different in the 70s, too. I mean, I figure most Heathen readers are about my age, but imagine trying to explain to someone that you couldn’t just watch most any movie you wanted whenever you liked. So when Sound finally came to television, in 1976, it was a big damn deal. From Wikipedia:
The first American television transmission of The Sound of Music was on February 29, 1976 on ABC, which paid $15 million (equivalent to $67,394,737 in 2019) for a one-time only broadcast that became one of the top 20 rated films shown on television to that point with a Nielsen rating of 33.6 and an audience share of 49%.
I added the emphasis. Imagine 49% of the TV watching public all watching the same thing today. It’s impossible. But in 1976, there were only 3 networks — plus PBS, and maybe the commodities channel. People watched what was on for the most part. Woe betide whatever was programmed against it on NBC and CBS!
I actually remember this night. My sister was a fairly new infant, and my parents were still married. I was a month away from my 6th birthday, but they allowed to stay up and watch it with them. I remember them singing along, and I must have dozed, but then I woke up to them singing with Plummer and then with everyone in this scene:
My mother could sing okay, but my dad really not at all. Didn’t matter; he was singing along, too. To this day, the song reminds me of that moment.
Godspeed, Christopher Plummer. 91 is a good long life, but I sure wouldn’t have minded if you’d hung out a bit longer. Someone snarky on Twitter noted that maybe this time would could get Kevin Spacey to replace Plummer?