Stage/film/television actress passed away August 24th at her home in West Chatham Massachusetts. She was 87 years old.
The much-honored actress (recipient of a special Lifetime Achievement Tony Award in 2002) was far more versatile than her popular film appearances would indicate. Most frequently cast in dramatic roles as a sensitive, repressed type onscreen, Harris appeared onstage in musicals (Skyscraper) as well as comedies (40 Carats).
The first time I saw Julie Harris it was in one of her rare comedic screen roles; as the eccentric Mrs. Thing in ’s 1966 debut film, You’re a Big Boy Now (which also marked the feature film debut of the late ). And while I loved her as the neurotic wife of in ’s beautiful Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967), my favorite Julie Harris performance is on display in ’s classic chiller The Haunting (1963).
The actress, best known to classic film fans for her performance opposite in East of Eden (1955), was a five-time Tony Award winner, and garnered a Best Actress Academy Award nomination for her film debut in The Member of the Wedding (1952).
Harris, who in her long Broadway career was Tony nominated a record ten times, was luckier than most actresses in bringing roles she originated on the stage to the screen. She was 26 years old when she portrayed Frankie, the 12-year old at the center of ’s The Member of the Wedding onscreen, a role she created on stage.
And although Sally Bowles of Cabaret is a character now most associated with , Julie Harris created the role and won her first Best Actress Tony Award when she appeared in the non-musical Broadway play, I Am a Camera on Broadway in 1951, later reprising her role in the rarely-seen 1955 screen adaptation. She played Mary Todd Lincoln in both the stage and film versions of The Last of Mrs. Lincoln (1972).
A frequent guest on episodic television and TV movies throughout the 70s, Harris’ TV notoriety grew considerably when she appeared as a regular in the nighttime soap opera, Knots Landing in the 80s.
Julie Harris always considered herself a stage actress, and it is indeed there where she achieved her greatest successes in a career spanning 60 years. But we’re lucky to have her beauty and talent recorded forever on film. She was a marvelous actress who leaves behind an impressive legacy of screen performances.
To read more about my favorite Julie Harris films visit my blog.