Monday, 26 August 2013

Godspeed Julie Harris

Julie Harris, a prolific actress who appeared on television, on stage, and on scree, died 24 August 2013 at the age of 87 from congestive heart failure.

Julie Harris was born in Grosse Pointe, Michigan on 2 December 1925. She became interested in acting while very young. She studied drama while still in school and attended an acting camp in Steamboat Springs, Colorado during the summers. After graduating high school Miss Harris attended Yale. It was while she was at Yale that she made her Broadway debut in It's a Gift in 1945. She left Yale to pursue an acting career and, in the late Forties, appeared on Broadway in the productions King Henry IV, Part II; Oedipus Rex; The Playboy of the Western World; Alice in Wonderland; Macbeth; Sundown Beach; The Young and Fair; Magnolia Alley; and Montserrat. She also made her television debut in the late Forties, appearing in episodes of Actor's Studio.

Julie Harris made her film debut in The Member of the Wedding in 1952. During the Fifties she appeared in such films as East of Eden (1955), I Am a Camera (1955), The Truth About Women (1957), and  The Poacher's Daughter (1958). On television she appeared in multiple presentations of Hallmark Hall of Fame. She also appeared on Starlight Theatre, Goodyear Playhouse, The United States Steel Hour, and Sunday Showcase. On Broadway she appeared in such productions as The Member of the Wedding; I Am a Camera; Mademoiselle Colombe; The Lark; The Country Wife; The Warm Peninsula; and Little Moon of Alban.

In the Sixties Julie Harris appeared on television in such shows as Play of the Week, The DuPont Show of the Month, Hallmark Hall of Fame, Kraft Suspense Theatre, Rawhide, Laredo, Garrison's Gorillas, Run for Your Life, Tarzan, Daniel Boone, Bonanza, Journey into the Unknown, The Big Valley, and The Name of the Game. She appeared in the films Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962), The Haunting (1963), Hamlet (1964), Harper (1966), You're a Big Boy Now (1966), Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967), The Split (1968), and The People Next Door (1970). On Broadway she appeared in such productions as A Shot in the Dark, Marathon '33, Ready When You Are, C.B.!, Skyscraper, and Forty Carats.

In the Seventies Miss Harris was a regular on the TV shows Thicker Than Water and The Family Holvak. She guest starred on such shows as The Virginian, Medical Centre, Columbo, Hawkins, The Evil Touch, and  Tales of the Unexpected. She appeared in the films The Hiding Place (1975), Voyage of the Damned (1976), and The Bell Jar (1979). On Broadway she appeared in such productions as And Miss Reardon Drinks a Little, Voices, The Last of Mrs. Lincoln, The au Pair Man, In Praise of Love, The Belle of Amherst, and Break a Leg.

In the Eighties she was a regular on Knot's Landing. She guest starred on the shows Family Ties and Love Boat. She also appeared in the mini-series The Civil War. She appeared in the films Brontë (1983) and Gorillas in the Mist (1988). On Broadway she appeared in the production Mixed Couples. From the Nineties into the Naughts she appeared in the films HouseSitter (1992), The Dark Half (1993), Carried Away (1996), Bad Manners (1997), Passage to Paradise (1998), The First of May (1999), The Way Back Home (2006), The Golden Boys (2008), and The Lightkeepers (2009). On television she guest starred on The Outer Limits and appeared in the mini-series Scarlett. On Broadway she appeared in the productions Lucifer's Child, The Glass Menagerie, and The Gin Game.

There can be no doubt that Julie Harris was one of the most gifted actresses of our time. Over the years she played such varied roles as Eliza Doolittle in Pygmalion, Ophelia in Hamlet, Mary Todd Lincoln in the Broadway play  The Last of Mrs. Lincoln, Charlotte Brontë in the movie Brontë, and many others. Indeed, while most actors only see success in one medium, Julie Harris had substantial credits on stage, on film, and on television. Indeed, while it was her appearances on Broadway that started her career, I rather suspect that the average person probably recognises her from her many appearances on television over the years more than from any place else. Aside from her considerable talent, much of the reason that she was so prolific in multiple media is the simple fact that she was a consummate professional. She appeared in both lead and supporting roles, in great works and works that were not so great, and yet she always strove to give the best performance possible. In the end Julie Harris was a rarity in film, television, and even the stage, a true artist.

1 comment:

Toby O'B said...

Whenever I thought of Julie Harris, it was her appearance in 'Columbo' that first comes to mind. She certainly couldn't be pigeon-holed.