Friday, October 19, 2012

Multi-Media, October 19, 2012

Plummer (photo: David Hou, courtesy Stratford Festival)

An Actor Performs
Christopher Plummer renders Barrymore
by Estelle Rosen

[PUBLISHER'S NOTE: This is a new weekly feature where we will be reviewing theatre and theatre discussion translated to other media: books, playscripts, recordings, television broadcasts, DVDs etc.] 

Christopher Plummer as John Barrymore is one of the rare treats offered on TV. He presents the legend that is John Barrymore in his own inimitable style. Interspersing Barrymore’s story with song lyrics including Kalamazoo and Dancing in the Dark (an appropriate opening song), Plummer gives insight into Barrymore’s character - the good, the bad, and the outrageous - with talent and wit. He portrays vignettes from Barrymore’s life and reminisces while we learn and laugh. 

Barrymore who wanted to be a painter; laments, ‘How did I ever get into acting?’ Yet in the midst of questioning why and how he ever got into acting, he admits he is transformed when theatre lights come up. Richard III - or Richard Turd as he calls it - was the first time he was taken seriously.

With ageing came wondering whether his fans will remember him when he’s a has-been

I enjoyed a good laugh at the hilarious story of what he calls The Dowager. After one performance, he was asked, ‘Did Hamlet have sex with Ophelia?’ and responded, ‘No, but I heard Hamlet had fellatio with Horatio’. Categorizing his family he sees his sister Ethel being the star, his brother Lionel the practical one; he, himself is the crown prince of the family. He adored women. “I wasn’t good enough for any of my wives; I let it come as a surprise to them! What a piece of work is a man.”

With ageing came wondering whether his fans will remember him when he’s a has-been; a few gems:

-There’s nowhere to go and I can’t stop running. 
-You’re not old until regrets take the place of dreams.
-One of the lines I’m practicing could be my life; lost, seeing a way out, not knowing how to open the door.
-I need to be taken seriously once more before the man in the white nightgown takes me. Do I want to die? No Barrymore would allow such a conventional thing to happen to him.

Barrymore is currently in rotation on HBO-Canada. Check local listings.

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