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Rex Harrison Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (5) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (6) | Trade Mark (3) | Trivia (41) | Personal Quotes (19) | Salary (4)

Overview (5)

Date of Birth 5 March 1908Huyton, Lancashire, England, UK (now Huyton, Knowsley, Merseyside, England, UK)
Date of Death 2 June 1990New York City, New York, USA  (pancreatic cancer)
Birth NameReginald Carey Harrison
Nickname Sexy Rexy
Height 6' 1" (1.85 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Born in 1908 in Lancashire, England, Reginald Carey Harrison changed his name to Rex as a young boy, knowing it was the Latin word for King. Starting out on his theater career at age 18, his first job at the Liverpool Rep Theatre was nearly his last - dashing across the stage to say his one line, made his entrance and promptly blew it. Fates were kind, however, and soon he began landing roles in the West End. "French Without Tears", a play by Terence Rattigan, proved to be his breakthrough role. Soon he was being called the "greatest actor of light comedy in the world". Having divorced his first wife Collette Thomas in 1942, he married German actress Lilli Palmer. The two began appearing together in many plays and British films. He attained international fame when he portrayed the King in Anna and the King of Siam (1946), his first American film. After a sex scandal, in which starlet Carole Landis apparently committed suicide because he ended their affair, the relationship with wife Lilli became strained. Rex (by this time known as "Sexy Rexy" for his philandering ways and magnetic charm) began a relationship with British actress Kay Kendall and divorced Lilli to marry the terminally ill Kay with hopes of a re-marriage to Palmer upon Kay's death. The death of Kay affected Harrison greatly and Lilli never returned to him. During this time Rex was offered the defining role of his career: Professor Henry Higgins in the original production of "My Fair Lady". He won the Tony for the play and an Oscar for the film version. In 1962 Harrison married actress Rachel Roberts. This union and the one following it to Elizabeth Harris (Richard's ex) also ended in divorce. In 1978 Rex met and married Mercia Tinker. He and Mercia remained happily married until his death in 1990. She was also with him in 1989 when he was granted his much-deserved and long awaited knighthood at Buckingham Palace. Rex Harrison died of pancreatic cancer three weeks after his last stage appearance, as Lord Porteous in W. Somerset Maugham's "The Circle".

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Peacham

Spouse (6)

Mercia Tinker (17 December 1978 - 2 June 1990) (his death)
Elizabeth Rees (26 August 1971 - 16 December 1975) (divorced)
Rachel Roberts (21 March 1962 - 19 February 1971) (divorced)
Kay Kendall (22 June 1957 - 6 September 1959) (her death)
Lilli Palmer (25 January 1943 - 6 February 1957) (divorced) (1 child)
Noel Marjorie Collette Thomas (1933 - 1942) (divorced) (1 child)

Trade Mark (3)

Adopted his "Henry Higgins" hat as his favorite form of headwear
A clipped, witty, off-the-cuff line delivery
The role of Professor Henry Higgins in "My Fair Lady"

Trivia (41)

Winner of 2 Tony Awards for Best actor for "Anne of the Thousand Days" and "My Fair Lady".
Hated the nickname given to him by the press, "Sexy Rexy".
Turned down the role of The King in "The King and I". The role went to Yul Brynner'.
Died three weeks after his final stage appearance as Lord Porteous in "The Circle" (1990).
Was so fanatical about wine that he often sent the bottles back if it was not to his liking, sometimes even to his own wine cellar.
Frequently wore a specific ring with a dark square-cut stone, on his little finger of his left hand. It appears in almost all of his films.
Was almost completely blind in the left eye as the result of a childhood bout of measles.
Has a style of hat named after him.
Father, with Lilli Palmer, of Carey Harrison, born in 1944.
Father, with Collette Thomas, of actor Noel Harrison.
Grandfather of Cathryn Harrison, Harriet Harrison, Simon Harrison, Chloe Harrison and Will Harrison.
Was cremated and part of his ashes were scattered in Italy in Portofino and on the grave of his second wife, Lilli Palmer.
Won three Tony Awards: in 1949, as Best Actor (Dramatic) for "Anne of the Thousand Days"; in 1957, as Best Actor (Musical) for "My Fair Lady", which he recreated in an Oscar-winning performance in the film version of the same title, My Fair Lady (1964) and a Special Tony Award in 1969. He was also nominated in 1984 as Best Actor (Play) for his role as Capt. Shotover in George Bernard Shaw's "Heartbreak House".
Member of the jury at the Cannes Film Festival in 1965.
Knighted by Queen Elizabeth II of England at the age of 81.
Turned down the role of the Prince in the Broadway production of Noel Coward's "The Girl Who Came To Supper" in order to do My Fair Lady (1964). The role went to José Ferrer.
Once punched Frank Sinatra in the jaw, thinking the singer was hitting on his wife, Lilli Palmer. Afterwards the two men became good friends.
Turned down the lead role in 13 Rue Madeleine (1947). It then went to James Cagney.
When he accepted his Academy Award for My Fair Lady (1964), he dedicated it to his "two fair ladies", Audrey Hepburn and Julie Andrews. Andrews had played Eliza Doolittle in the Broadway production, but was passed over for the film version in favor of Hepburn.
Is the basis for the voice of Stewie Griffin on Family Guy (1999).
One of only eight actors to have won both a Tony and an Oscar for having portrayed the same role on stage and screen ("My Fair Lady"). The others are: Joel Grey ("Cabaret"); Shirley Booth ("Come Back, Little Sheba"); Yul Brynner ("The King and I"); Anne Bancroft ("The Miracle Worker"); Paul Scofield ("A Man For All Seasons"); Jack Albertson ("The Subject Was Roses") and José Ferrer ("Cyrano de Bergerac").
Despite extensive vocal training after landing the part of Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady (1964), he was unable to sing a note. In the end the director gave up and told him to quasi-speak the whole thing.
He had a reputation for being very abrupt with his fans. One night, after a stage performance of "My Fair Lady", it was late, cold and pouring with rain and there was an old woman standing alone outside the Stage Door. When she saw Rex, she asked him for his autograph. Rex told her to "Sod off", and the old woman was so enraged at this that she rolled up her program and hit him with it. Stanley Holloway, who had followed Rex out in time to see this, congratulated him on not only making theater history but, for the first time in world history, "the fan has hit the shit!".
Discovered Carole Landis' body the day she committed suicide. He had dined with her the previous night.
He was the brother-in-law of David Maxwell Fyfe, one of the prosecutors at the Nuremberg Trials, the British Home Secretary from 1951 to 1954 and the Lord Chancellor from 1954 to 1962.
His first name [Rex] means 'King' in Latin.
Chuck Jones has stated that Bugs Bunny's character was based on an amalgam of Rex Harrison, Dorothy Parker and D'Artagnan.
When filming Doctor Dolittle (1967), was frequently bitten by the animals.
He was reportedly considered for the role of Nicholas II in Nicholas and Alexandra (1971). However, a recent biography of producer Sam Spiegel revealed that Harrison was in fact never offered the part, since at 63 he was too old to play the Tsar, who was only fifty at the time of his death. Harrison was in fact offered the role of Count Witte, but replied, "Tell him [Spiegel] that I don't play bit parts.".
Won a 1969 Special Tony Award (New York City).
In a 1963 interview his friend Dirk Bogarde named Harrison as the actor who had influenced him most.
Retired from films after making The Fifth Musketeer (1979), but continued to act on Broadway and television.
He never had any acting lessons.
Quit smoking after suffering from pains in his legs.
Continued to act on Broadway until almost the very end of his life despite suffering from pancreatic cancer, painful teeth and glaucoma in his only eye.
Harrison nearly missed out on reprising his stage role of Henry Higgins in the film version of My Fair Lady (1964), since he was in his mid-fifties and the character was supposed to be in his late thirties.
Contrary to some sources, Harrison was never considered to play James Bond in Dr. No (1962) because of his age.
First came to notice in the London stage version of "French Without Tears" in 1937, but was not considered for the 1940 film version since he was unknown in Hollywood.
Twice appeared with fellow Academy Award winner Claudette Colbert late in their careers in Broadway productions; "The Kingfisher" by William Douglas-Home opening at the Biltmore Theatre on December 16, 1978 running for 181 performances and "Aren't We All" by Frederick Lonsdale opening at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre on April 2, 1985 running for 93 performances.
He was awarded Knight Bachelor of the Order of the British Empire in the 1989 Queen's Birthday Honours List for his services to drama.
Rex Harrison also starred in a play at the Santa Monica Playhouse in the 1980's.

Personal Quotes (19)

[When asked if he received any special privileges upon becoming a knight]: Alas, no. In the old days I believe you at least got a couple of horses out of the deal.
There is always a struggle, a striving for something bigger than yourself in all forms of art. And even if you don't achieve greatness, even if you fail, which we all must, everything you do in your work is somehow connected with your attitude toward life, your deepest secret feelings.
Exhilaration is that feeling you get just after a great idea hits you, and just before you realize what's wrong with it.
When I was ten we moved and I decided that none of the names I was then called - Reggie, Bobby, Baa - suited me. Somehow I hit on Rex. I must have heard someone calling for their dog and thought it sounded rather nice.
Whatever it is that makes a person charming, it needs to remain a mystery once the charmer is aware of a mannerism or characteristic that others find charming, it ceases to be a mannerism and becomes an affectation. And good Lord, there is nothing less charming than affectations!
[After viewing The Sound of Music (1965)]: That was the only time I've ever rooted for the Nazis.
[quote by Rachel Roberts, Harrison's fourth wife]: Rex cannot be pleased. Servants have got slapped with his tongue or hand. Eventually his servants and wives leave him. Rex is one of those who thinks living well is the best revenge. It may be, but the revenge is taken out on his nearest and dearest.
[Rex's son, Noel Harrison, recalling sitting watching a storm with his father and Rex exclaiming this when a bolt of lightning obliterated a tree in their yard]: Well hit, God!
It takes a long time to learn to treat the camera as a friend and confidant, which finally you have to do if you're to become a good film actor.
[1980]: I'm now at the age where I've got to prove that I'm just as good as I never was.
Wives are like gilt-edged stocks. The more you have, the greater your dividends.
Heston is an enormously tall man - if I'm six foot one, he must be about six foot three - and I asked my wardrobe man, as I was wearing long robes, to put a little lift in my shoes, so that I could gain a couple of inches, and meet Heston at his own level. The lifts were duly put in, and I eyed Heston and congratulated myself that at least he no longer towered above me. As the film went on, however, it seemed to me that he was growing. Eyeball to eyeball he was once more a couple of inches taller than I. I looked down at his feet - not a sign of lifts! He must have grown through sheer tenacity. Nether of us made any comment, nor did our wardrobe men - it was a very funny, silent contest. - On making The Agony and the Ecstasy (1965) with Charlton Heston
Eliza Doolittle is supposed to be ill at ease in European ballrooms. Bloody Audrey has never spent a day in her life out of European ballrooms. - On My Fair Lady (1964)
The important thing is to learn through experience. The more you do the more you learn. I don't think anyone can teach acting from a podium.
My contract for 'My Fair Lady' was for nine months only - but how could you leave a show like that? It was all far too exciting, and I stayed with it for two years.
Originally I had a block about appearing in a musical. I went to a voice teacher for a while, but that did no good. My range is about one and a half notes. I ended up talking the musical numbers, which was revolutionary at the time. The lyrics are extremely intricate. They move along like a precisely acted scene. If you miss a word - heaven help you - the orchestra rattles past like an express train, and you've got to run like the devil to catch up.
There's always a struggle, a striving for something bigger than yourself in all forms of art. And even if you don't achieve greatness - even if you fail, which we all must - everything you do in your work is somehow connected with your attitude toward life, your deepest secret feelings.
His reply to how he felt being Knighted by the Queen on July 25th 1989: It was a marvelous moment kneeling there and getting tapped on the shoulder.
Lana Turner is to an evening gown what Frank Lloyd Wright is to a pile of lumber.

Salary (4)

Anna and the King of Siam (1946) $4,000/week
Cleopatra (1963) $300,000
My Fair Lady (1964) $250,000
The Agony and the Ecstasy (1965) $250,000

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