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Harold Russell Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (3) | Mini Bio (2) | Spouse (2) | Trivia (13) | Personal Quotes (3) | Salary (1)

Overview (3)

Born in North Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada
Died in Needham, Massachusetts, USA  (heart attack)
Birth NameHarold John Russell

Mini Bio (2)

Harold John Russell was born in Nova Scotia in 1914. His family moved to Cambridge Massachusetts when his father died in 1919. He was training paratroopers at Camp MacKall NC on June 6, 1944 when some TNT he was using exploded in his hands. He lost both hands. After receiving hooks, and training on them, he was chosen to make an Army training film called "Diary Of A Sergeant". William Wyler saw the film and decided to cast him in The Best Years of Our Lives (1946). Harold Russell played Homer Parish. For this role he received 2 Oscars, a Best Supporting and one for being an inspiration to all returning veterans. He is the only actor to receive 2 Oscars for the same role. After the movie he attended Boston University. He later went on to help establish AMVETS as a viable alternative to the American Legion for veterans, though his dream of an international veterans organization was never realized. He later appeared in Inside Moves (1980) and Dogtown (1997). He lived with his wife on Cape Cod in Massachusetts. He wrote 2 biographies: "Victory In My Hands" (1947) & "The Best Years Of My Life" (1981).

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Pat Francis <fran452@banet.net>

A Cambridge, Massachusetts native, Russell was working on an army film in 1944 when an explosive he was holding detonated accidentally, injuring his hands so severely that they had to be amputated. Russell was fitted with artificial hands and enrolled at Boston University's College of Business Administration (from which he graduated in 1949). At the same time, he went on to make an army film about the rehabilitation of veterans. Samuel Goldwyn spotted Russell in the film and asked him to play in The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), which won Russell a Best Supporting Actor Oscar in 1946.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: W. Scott Monty <wsmonty@bu.edu>

Spouse (2)

Elizabeth Marshallsea (26 August 1981 - 29 January 2002) (his death)
Rita Russell (27 February 1946 - 21 July 1978) (her death) (2 children)

Trivia (13)

Two children: Adele and Gerald (Rita's son by her first marriage).
In August 1992, Russell sold his supporting-actor Oscar, saying he needed the money to pay his wife's medical bills and other expenses. An anonymous buyer paid $60,500, including a 10 percent commission for the auctioneer.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences tried to keep him from selling his award, and offered to loan him money, but he turned them down. (Several Oscars have since been auctioned off posthumously, but the Academy now makes all recipients sign an agreement forbidding them from selling their Oscars.)
Annual award presented by the President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities is called the Harold Russell Medal.
Director William Wyler told Russell after The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) wrapped, "There aren't that many parts for a guy with no hands. You should go back to college, get your degree." Russell followed the advice, got a business degree from Boston University and became an ardent advocate for the disabled.
First wife Rita Russell was his childhood sweetheart.
Served three terms as the National Commander of the AMVETS. As National Commander, he wrote an 11 April 1951 letter to President Harry S. Truman supporting his decision to relieve General Douglas MacArthur of his supreme command: "The issue is whether the ultimate civil authority of the United States can tolerate actions in contempt of constitutional lines of authority. Any lessening of civil power over military power must inevitably lead away from democracy."
In 1964 he was appointed by President Lyndon Johnson as chairman of the President's Committee on Hiring the Handicapped.
He became so adept with the hooks that replaced his hands, he would joke he could do anything with them except pick up a dinner check.
Volunteered the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Interred at Lakeview Cemetery, Wayland, MA.
As well as his Best Supporting Actor Oscar, he received an honorary Oscar for being an inspiration for disabled war veterans throughout the U.S., making him the first (and only) actor to receive two Oscars for the same role.
Had one of the least prolific careers of any Oscar winner, starring in only three films over a span of fifty years.

Personal Quotes (3)

[on the sale of his Supporting Actor Oscar for his wife's surgery] "I don't know why anybody would be critical. My wife's health is much more important than sentimental reasons. The movie will be here, even if Oscar isn't."
It is not what you have lost but what you have left that counts.
I got my award for special contributions, and I'm hanging around backstage. I found out, months later, that when I was nominated for Supporting Actor, they figured I didn't have a chance, the other guys [Charles Coburn, William Demarest, Claude Rains, Clifton Webb] had too much background. When they got to Supporting Actor, they practically threw me out on the stage.

Salary (1)

The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) $10,000

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