Monday, October 5, 2009

Book Review: In Spite of Myself

Title In Spite of Myself: A Memoir
Author Christopher Plummer
Rating *****
Tags non-fiction, memoirs, autobiography, actors, montreal 


What a wonderful, wonderful book! I always liked Christopher Plummer as an actor, and here he shows himself a raconteur of the finest quality.

It took me a while to get into the book, but what hooked me first were his descriptions of Montreal as he knew it in the forties as he was growing up and starting out as a young actor. He was an early devotee of night life, and he makes it sound exciting to share it with the people he knew.. That continues throughout the book. It is easy to see that he was not a good husband and father, he was always out partying or working hard at his craft. But given the people he knew and drank the night away with, how could he not have been a part of it?

He knew, or knows, the actors of at least three generations, stage and screen, British, American, Canadian, French, and other. Famous names pepper the story extravagantly. he is extraordinarily generous in the stories he tells of almost everyone - they all seem to have been creative geniuses and kind people to boot, even people that don't come off well in other memoirs, such as Rex Harrison. Even if he did not get along well with someone he may take the blame, or he finds a way to not blame them. He tells marvelous stories. Some actors I have always loved he tells lovely stories about, including Edward Everett Horton, who helped give him his start; Boris Karloff, a kind and gentle giant; Edith Evens, powerful and with great humor in her old age; and so many more up until the current day, including Russell Crowe.

There are wonderful pictures spread throughout the book. The dreadful terrible lack in the book is that it doesn't have an index. There are stories I wanted to share with a friend, but they are difficult to go back and find.

Plummer doesn't spare himself. He admits there were times he was too full of himself, times he didn't deal well in relationships. But he always seemed to have such excitement at being involved in this creative profession and dealing with so many creative individuals. He gives the reader that excitement as a present, shares it with us in full measure. It is a gem of a book and will be remembered in the future as a fine look at twentieth century theatrical history.

Publication Knopf (2008), Roughcut, 656 pages
Publication date 2008
ISBN 0679421629 / 9780679421627

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