|Full Name||Julia Ann Harris (birth name)|
|Date of Birth||December 2, 1925|
|Birthplace||Grosse Pointe Park, Michigan, USA|
|Date of death||August 24, 2013 (age 87)|
|Death place||West Chatham, Massachusetts, USA|
|Cause of Death||Congestive Heart Failure|
| First |
| Will the Circle Be Unbroken |
January 25, 1980
| Last |
| Flight of the Sunbirds |
November 19, 1987
Early life and educationEdit
Harris was born Julia Ann Harris in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, the daughter of Elsie L. (née Smith), a nurse, and William Pickett Harris, an investment banker. She graduated from Grosse Pointe Country Day School, which later merged with two others to form the University Liggett School. In New York City she attended The Hewitt School. As a teenager, she also trained at the Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School & Camp in Colorado with Charlotte Perry, a mentor who encouraged Harris to apply to the Yale School of Drama, which she soon attended for a year.
Harris's screen debut was in 1952, repeating her Broadway success as the monumentally lonely teenage girl Frankie in Carson McCullers' The Member of the Wedding, for which she was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress. That film also preserves the original Broadway cast performances of Ethel Waters and Brandon deWilde. That same year, she won her first Best Actress Tony for originating the role of insouciant Sally Bowles in I Am a Camera, the stage version of Christopher Isherwood's Goodbye to Berlin (later adapted as the musical Cabaret on Broadway in 1966 and, in the 1972 film, with Liza Minnelli as Sally Bowles). Harris repeated her stage role in the film version of I Am a Camera (1955). She also appeared in such films as East of Eden (also 1955), with James Dean (with whom she became close friends), Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962), with Paul Newman in the private-detective film Harper (1966), and Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967).
Harris played the ethereal Eleanor Lance in The Haunting (1963), director Robert Wise's screen adaptation of a novel by Shirley Jackson, a classic film of the horror genre. Another cast member recalled Harris maintaining a social distance from the other actors while not on set, later explaining that she had done so as a method of emphasizing the alienation from the other characters experienced by her character in the film.
She reprised her Tony-winning role as Mary Todd Lincoln in 1973's play The Last of Mrs. Lincoln in the film version, which appeared in 1976. Another noteworthy film appearance was in the World War II drama The Hiding Place (1975).
Harris received ten Tony Award nominations, more than any other performer. She also held the record for most Tony wins (five) until Angela Lansbury tied her in 2009. Lansbury and Audra McDonald are the only other performers to have had five acting Tony Award wins. In 1966, Harris won the Sarah Siddons Award for her work in Chicago theatre. Her Broadway credits include The Playboy of the Western World, Macbeth, The Member of the Wedding, A Shot in the Dark, Skyscraper, And Miss Reardon Drinks a Little, Forty Carats, The Glass Menagerie, A Doll's House and The Gin Game.
Of particular note is her Tony-winning performance in The Belle of Amherst, a one-woman play (written by William Luce and directed by Charles Nelson Reilly) based on the life and poetry of Emily Dickinson. She received a Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Recording for the audio recording of the play. She first performed the play in 1976 and subsequently appeared in other solo shows, including Luce's Bronte.
On television, she was well known for her role as Lilimae Clements, the mother of Valene Ewing (played by Joan Van Ark) on the CBS nighttime soap opera Knots Landing. The role was as a recurring character from 1980 to 1981 and as a series regular from 1981-1987. For her television work, Harris had won three Emmy Awards and had been nominated eleven times. One of her most famous television roles was as Queen Victoria, in the 1961 Hallmark Hall of Fame production of Laurence Housman's Victoria Regina, for which she won an Emmy. Earlier, also for the Hallmark Hall of Fame, she starred as Nora Helmer opposite Christopher Plummer in A Doll's House (1959), a 90-minute television adaptation of Ibsen's play. She made more appearances in leading roles on the Hallmark program than any other actress, also appearing in two different adaptations of the play Little Moon of Alban.
On December 5, 2005, she was named a Kennedy Center Honoree. At a White House ceremony, President George W. Bush remarked, "It's hard to imagine the American stage without the face, the voice, and the limitless talent of Julie Harris. She has found happiness in her life's work, and we thank her for sharing that happiness with the whole world."
Harris continued to work until her death, recently narrating five historical documentaries by Christopher Seufert and Mooncusser Films, as well as being active as a director on the board of the independent Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater. She had also done extensive voice work for documentary maker Ken Burns, in doing the voices of Emily Warren Roebling in Brooklyn Bridge, Ann Lee in The Shakers: Hands to Work, Hearts to God, Susan B. Anthony in Not For Ourselves Alone: Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony and most notably as Southern diarist Mary Boykin Chesnut for Burns' 1990 series The Civil War. In the summer of 2008, Ms. Harris appeared on stage again in her hometown of Chatham as Nanny in a Monomoy Theater production of The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds.
Harris lived in Chatham, Cape Cod, Massachusetts and until recently, maintained a residence in the Detroit area near to where she grew up. Thrice divorced, she had one son, Peter Gurian. Harris battled breast cancer, a severe fall requiring surgery, a stroke in 2001, and a second stroke in 2010.
Harris died on August 24, 2013, of congestive heart failure at her home in West Chatham, Massachusetts. She was 87 years old. She was survived by her son, Peter.