Julie Harris Poster


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Overview (4)

Date of Birth 2 December 1925Grosse Pointe Park, Michigan, USA
Date of Death 24 August 2013West Chatham, Massachusetts, USA  (congestive heart failure)
Birth NameJulia Anne Harris
Height 5' 3" (1.6 m)

Mini Bio (1)

One of the finest classical and contemporary leading ladies ever to grace the 20th century American stage, five-time Tony Award winner Julie Harris was rather remote and reserved on camera, finding her true glow in front of the theatre lights. The freckled, red-haired actress not only was nominated for a whopping total of ten Tony awards and was a Sarah Siddons Award recipient for her work on the Chicago stage, she also earned awards in other areas of the entertainment industry, including three Emmys (of 11 nominations), a Grammy and an Academy Award nomination. (Note: Harris would hold the record for the most competitive Tony performance wins (five) for a couple of decades. Angela Lansbury finally caught up with her in 2009 and singer/actress Audra McDonald surpassed them both in 2014 with six). While Harris certainly lacked the buoyancy and glamor usually associated with being a movie star, she certainly made an impact in the early to mid 1950s with three iconic leading roles, two of which she resurrected from the Broadway stage. After that she pretty much deserted film.

Born Julie Ann Harris on December 2, 1925, in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, she was the daughter of William Pickett, an investment banker, and Elsie L. (née Smith) Harris, a nurse. Graduating from Grosse Pointe Country Day School, an early interest in the performance arts was encouraged by her family. Moving to New York City, Julie attended The Hewitt School and later trained as a teenager at the Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School & Camp in Colorado. A mentor there, Charlotte Perry, saw great hope for young Julie and was insistent that her protégé study at the Yale School of Drama. Julie did just that -- for about a year.

Also trained at the New York School of Drama and one of the earliest members of the Acting Studio, young Julie made her Broadway debut in 1945 at age 19 in the comedy "It's a Gift". Despite its lukewarm reception, the demure, diminutive (5'3"), and delicate-looking thespian moved on. She apprenticed on Broadway for the next few years with ensemble parts in "King Henry IV, Part II" (1946), "Oedipus Rex" (1946), "The Playboy of the Western World" (1946), "Alice in Wonderland" (as the White Rabbit) (1947), and Macbeth" (1948).

More prominent roles came her way in such short-lived Broadway plays as "Sundown Beach" (1948), "The Young and Fair" (1948), "Magnolia Alley" (1949) and "Montserrat (1949). This led to her star-making theatre role at age 24 as sensitive 12-year-old tomboy Frankie Addams in the classic drama "The Member of the Wedding" (1950) opposite veteran actress Ethel Waters and based on the Carson McCullers novel. The play ran for over a year. The Member of the Wedding (1952) would eventually be transferred to film and, despite being untried talents on film, director Fred Zinnemann wisely included both Harris and young Brandon De Wilde (as young John Henry) to reenact their stage triumphs along with Ms. Waters. Harris, at 27, received her first and only Academy Award nomination as the coming-of-age Georgian tomboy.

It wasn't long before Julie's exceptional range and power won noticed nationwide. In 1952, she received her first "Best Actress" Tony Award for creating the larger-than-life role of Sally Bowles in "I Am a Camera," the stage version of one of Christopher Isherwood's Berlin stories ("Goodbye to Berlin" (1939). (Note: In the 1960s, Isherwood's play would be transformed successfully into the Broadway musical "Cabaret".) Harris again was invited to repeat her stage role in I Am a Camera (1955) with Laurence Harvey and Shelley Winters, winning the BAFTA "Best Foreign Actress" Award. That same year Harris starred opposite the highly emotive James Dean (she had top billing) as his love interest in the classic film East of Eden (1955), directed by Elia Kazan from the John Steinbeck novel. Strangely, Julie's brilliance in the role of Abra was completely overlooked come Oscar time...a terrible miscarriage of justice in this author's view.

After this vivid film exposure, Julie's love for the theatre completely dominated her career focus. She continued to increase her Broadway prestige with such plays as "Mademoiselle Colombe" (title role) (1954), "The Lark" (Tony Award: as Joan of Arc) (1955), "The Country Wife" (1957), "The Warm Peninsula" (1959), "Little Moon Over Alban" (1960) (which she took to Emmy-winning TV), "A Shot in the Dark" (1961), "Ready When Your Are, C.B.!" (1964), "Skyscraper" (1965), "Forty Carats" (Tony Award) (1968), "And Miss Reardon Drinks a Little" ) (1971), "The Au Pair Man" (1973) and "In Praise of Love" (1974). In between she gave stellar performances on TV with her Joan of Arc in The Lark (1957); title role in Johnny Belinda (1958); Nora in Ibsen's A Doll's House (1959); Catherine Sloper in The Heiress (1961); title role in Victoria Regina (1961) (for which received an Emmy award); Eliza Doolittle in Pygmalion (1963), and title role in Anastasia (1967).Be

In later years Harris reaped praises and honors for her awe-inspiring one-woman touring shows based on the lives of certain distaff historical figureheads. Her magnificently tormented, Tony-winning "First Lady" Mary Lincoln in "The Last of Mrs. Lincoln" (1972) was the first to be seen on stage and TV, followed by another Tony (and Grammy) Award-winning performance as poetess Emily Dickinson in "The Belle of Amherst" (1976) (directed by close friend Charles Nelson Reilly, as well as her early 1980s solo portrait of author Charlotte Brontë in "Bronte," which started out as a radio play. Julie was now placed among the theatre's luminous "ruling class" alongside legendary veterans Helen Hayes, Katharine Cornell and Judith Anderson.

As time wore on, Harris would become equally respected on film and TV for her portrayals of over-the-edge neurotics, wallflowers and eccentric maiden aunt types as witnessed by her co-starring roles in the films The Haunting (1963), Hamlet (1964) (as Ophelia), Harper (1966), You're a Big Boy Now (1966), Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967), The Bell Jar (1979), and the TV-movies How Awful About Allan (1970) and Home for the Holidays (1972). Perhaps a step down performance wise, the veteran actress, after a period of ill health, became a household name with her regular series work as Lilimae on the TV soap Knots Landing (1979).

At age 60, Harris continued to impress on Broadway with her 1990's versions of Amanda Wingfield in "The Glass Menagerie" and Fonsia Dorsey in "The Gin Game" for which she received her tenth and final Tony nomination. She also toured successfully with a production of "Lettice and Lovage". Unlike many other actors whose film roles disintegrated with appearances in bottom-of-the-barrel lowbudgets, Julie's final two supporting films roles were in two nicely constructed period romantic comedies -- The Golden Boys (2008) and The Lightkeepers (2009).

Ill health dogged Julie's later years (she battled breast cancer in 1981 and suffered two strokes -- one in 2001 (while performing in the Chicago play "Fossils") and again in 2010). Nevertheless, she continued to work almost until the end, including narrating five historical documentaries and giving Emmy-winning voice to such women suffragettes as Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

Married and divorced three times, Julie had one son by her second marriage -- Peter, who became a theatre critic. She also spent time enjoying the benefits of receiving special awards and honors for her full body of work. Among these, she was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame in 1979, was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 1994, received a "Special Lifetime Achievement" Tony Award in 2002 and was a 2005 Kennedy Center honoree.

Harris died on August 24, 2013, of congestive heart failure at her home in West Chatham, Massachusetts. She was 87.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Gary Brumburgh / gr-home@pacbell.net

Spouse (3)

Walter Carroll (26 April 1977 - 1 June 1982) (divorced)
Manning Gurian (21 October 1954 - 29 January 1967) (divorced) (1 child)
Jay Julien (12 August 1946 - 1954) (divorced)

Trade Mark (3)

Slim, delicate image
Red hair
Deep sultry voice.

Trivia (21)

Fell backstage in Stamford, Connecticut, USA, requiring surgery to drain fluid from her head. [April 1999]
Suffered a stroke. [May 2001]
In May 2002, she and producer Robert Whitehead were both named recipients of Special Tony awards for Lifetime Achievement in the Theater. It was Harris's sixth Tony award.
Elia Kazan, in his autobiography "A Life," said that he was grateful to have Harris on the set of East of Eden (1955) because she had a calming influence on James Dean. Kazan praised Harris as both an actress and as a human being.
Julie Harris is the most honored performer in Tony history with ten nominations and five victories. She won the award as Best Actress (Dramatic) for "I Am A Camera" (1952), "The Lark" (1956), "Forty Carats" (1969), and "The Last of Mrs. Lincoln" (1973); and as Best Actress (Play) for "The Belle of Amherst" (1977). Her five additional nominations were: for Best Actress (dramatic), "Marathon '33" (1964) and "The Au Pair Man" (1974); for Best Actress (musical), "Skyscraper" (1966); and for Best Actress (play), "Lucifer's Child" (1991), and "The Gin Game" (1997).
Recipient of the 2005 Kennedy Center Honors. Other recipients were Robert Redford, Tina Turner, Tony Bennett, and Suzanne Farrell.
She was awarded the American National Medal of the Arts in 1994 by the National Endowment of the Arts in Washington D.C.
Daughter of investment banker William Pickett Harris and nurse Elsie Stivers Smith.
Son, Peter Alston Gurian (born 1955), with her second husband, Manning Gurian.
First directed by Tony Abatemarco in Lucifer's Child (1995) on Broadway, for which she received a Tony nomination.
Won a 2002 Special Tony Award (New York City) lifetime achievement award.
Her future Knots Landing (1979), co-star, Joan Van Ark, had interviewed as a student reporter, when she was fifteen years old. Harris later recommended Van Ark to attend the Yale School of Drama. Harris is the youngest student ever to attend the college on a scholarship.
'Acting is my life', she announced early on to her high school drama teacher, and later in her career, director and critic Harold Clurman seemed to confirm this when he described Harris as 'totally designed to be a good instrument on the stage'.
In 1950, she made her mark on the stage at age 24 playing 12-year-old Frankie Addams in Carson McCullers's adaptation of her own novel 'The Member of the Wedding'. She then reprised the role in the 1952 screen version with the same title.
As a young girl, Harris says she saw Gone with the Wind (1939) 13 times and also read biographies of great actresses.
Her parents sent her to a finishing school in Providence, Rhode Island, before she persuaded them to let her transfer to a girl's prep school in Manhattan then known as Miss Hewitt's Classes, which offered drama. Harris also attended a summer acting camp in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, where she was mentored by Charlotte Perry, who encouraged her to attend the Yale School of Drama, which she did for a year.
The daughter of investment broker William Pickett Harris.
Studied for a year at the New York Drama School before becoming one of the first members of Lee Strasberg's Actor's Studio.
She was known to be a very private person.
Had never retired from acting.

Personal Quotes (19)

[on the late James Dean]: And he took me for a ride that I thought would be my last, up in the Hollywood hills and so fast that my heart was in my throat, but instead of saying to him, 'Slow down, Jimmy,' I didn't say anything. I was, like, 'Whe-e-e-e-e.' As long as I didn't say, 'Hey, don't go so fast,' I was a comrade. And after that we just always got on. He knew I was in his corner.
[About actresses successfully blending their career and their family]: It mixes very well if you have a balance about it. It was just at the time when I had a family, I wasn't balanced about it. I was rigid about how it should be and you can't be rigid about anything. I was brought up to think there was a proper place for everything. I thought then that you shouldn't nurse a baby in the theater. Well, now I think, why not? Everything is proper as long as it's congenial. Nowadays, the young women are much more relaxed about that. Look at Sissy Spacek and Meryl Streep.
[About her friendship with James Dean in 1991]: I wasn't attracted to him, I loved Jimmy's spirit, but I didn't want to 'make' him. We were comrades.
If Sally Bowles had ever been Liza Minnelli, she would have set Berlin on its ear.
[on her professional friendship with Ruby Dee]: Ruby just lost her husband, well, it's a mystery of life. But Ruby is just so beautiful. She's just wonderful. We had a good time doing the movie.
[on the list of awards she has won over the years]: It's wonderful. I have worked on that stage a lot of times, on that wonderful stage in the Kennedy theater there.
[About living in a hotel]: It's very pleasant, there is no housework. I remain unmarried, although I don't always live alone.
I always thought it would be wonderful to wake up in the morning and look like Brigitte Bardot.
[In 1976 when she remembered the Emily Dickinson poetry]: Seventeen years ago I did a recording of her poetry, and then I started to read.
[In 1974 about her religion]: I was sent to Sunday School in the Episcopal Church and I was confirmed in the Episcopal Church, and never went back. If it tells the truth about life and the human heart, if it speaks of men's failings and also their grandeur and hope, then it is religious.
[on the death of Marlon Brando]: He didn't love acting, but his gift was so great he couldn't defile it.
[on her Nanny character]: I cry all the time, and laugh, too.
[In 1981]: I think life is translated. We're always in a state of change. Acting is more translated than a lot of things. Theater is about what we are. We need it to express ourselves.
[In 2006]: 'The Stage!' I knew it was where I wanted to be, I loved it all. It became this great source of nourishment, spiritual nourishment, for me. I want to touch people with the meaning of life. What is thrilling about the theater is that it's a forum where people come and for those two or three hours belong to something, to ideas, to a feeling of being a member of the human race.
Pictures make me look like a twelve-year-old boy who flunked his body-building course.
Acting is always an adventure, and a struggle, and a quest to find the truth...It's wanting to do it right, that's where the fear comes in, but who can say what's right? We're very delicate creatures, aren't we?
I love biographies. I get very excited by the truth that comes out of what people have left behind, like letters. I first fell in love with Emily Dickinson when I read her letters. It's like listening to someone's heart.
Some people asked me, 'Why do you have to cry so much in [stage play] 'The Last of Mrs. Lincoln?' My answer was that she was always crying. She couldn't speak of her children who died, without crying. And after the assassination, her whole life was gone. She clung to the pain. As actors, that's what we deal with. My mother used to say to me, 'But you're so dramatic.' Yes, I'd say, that's what I'm supposed to be. Life is dramatic, all the time, much more than on stage.
If I had a bosom I could rule the world.

Salary (1)

Knots Landing (1979) $20,000 per episode

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