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RIP to Broadway Star Julie Harris

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  • Chris Beachum
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    #432280

    NEW YORK (AP) — Julie Harris, one of Broadway’s most honored
    performers, whose roles ranged from the flamboyant Sally Bowles in “I Am
    a Camera” to the reclusive Emily Dickinson in “The Belle of Amherst,”
    died Saturday. She was 87.

    Harris died at her West Chatham, Mass., home of congestive heart failure, actress and family friend Francesca James said.

    Harris won a record five Tony Awards for best actress in a play,
    displaying a virtuosity that enabled her to portray an astonishing
    gallery of women during a theater career that spanned almost 60 years
    and included such plays as “The Member of the Wedding” (1950), “The
    Lark” (1955), “Forty Carats” (1968) and “The Last of Mrs. Lincoln”
    (1972).

    She was honored again with a sixth Tony, a special lifetime
    achievement award in 2002. Only Angela Lansbury has neared her record,
    winning four Tonys in the best actress-musical category and one for best
    supporting actress in a play.

    Harris had suffered a stroke in 2001 while she was in Chicago
    appearing in a production of Claudia Allen’s “Fossils.” She suffered
    another stroke in 2010, James said.

    “I’m still in sort of a place of shock,” said James, who appeared in
    daytime soap operas “All My Children” and “One Life to Live.”

    “She was, really, the greatest influence in my life,” said James, who had known Harris for about 50 years.

    Television viewers knew Harris as the free-spirited Lilimae Clements
    on the prime-time soap opera “Knots Landing.” In the movies, she was
    James Dean’s romantic co-star in “East of Eden” (1955), and had rolls in
    such films as “Requiem for a Heavyweight” (1962), “The Haunting” (1963)
    and “Reflections in a Golden Eye” (1967).

    Yet Harris’ biggest successes and most satisfying moments have been
    on stage. “The theater has been my church,” the actress once said. “I
    don’t hesitate to say that I found God in the theater.”

    The 5-foot-4 Harris, blue-eyed with delicate features and
    reddish-gold hair, made her Broadway debut in 1945 in a short-lived play
    called “It’s a Gift.” Five years later, at the age of 24, Harris was
    cast as Frankie, a lonely 12-year-old tomboy on the brink of
    adolescence, in “The Member of the Wedding,” Carson McCullers’ stage
    version of her wistful novel.

    The critics raved about Harris, with Brooks Atkinson in The New York
    Times calling her performance “extraordinary — vibrant, full of anguish
    and elation.”

    “That play was really the beginning of everything big for me,” Harris had said.

    The actress appeared in the 1952 film version, too, with her original
    Broadway co-stars, Ethel Waters and Brandon De Wilde, and received an
    Academy Award nomination.

    Harris won her first Tony Award for playing Sally Bowles, the
    confirmed hedonist in “I Am a Camera,” adapted by John van Druten from
    Christopher Isherwood’s “Berlin Stories.” The play later became the
    stage and screen musical “Cabaret.” In her second Tony-winning
    performance, Harris played a much more spiritual character, Joan of Arc
    in Lillian Hellman’s adaptation of Jean Anouilh’s “The Lark.” The play
    had a six-month run, primarily because of the notices for Harris.

    The actress was something of a critics’ darling, getting good reviews
    even when her plays were less-well received. These included such work
    as “Marathon ’33,” ”Ready When You Are, C.B.!” and even a musical,
    “Skyscraper,” adapted from an Elmer Rice play, “Dream Girl.”

    Her third Tony came for her work in “Forty Carats,” a frothy French
    comedy about an older woman and a younger man. It was a big hit, running
    nearly two years.

    Harris won her last two Tonys for playing historical figures — Mary
    Todd Lincoln in “The Last of Mrs. Lincoln” and poet Emily Dickinson in
    “The Belle of Amherst” by William Luce. The latter, a one-woman show,
    became something of an annuity for Harris, a play she would take around
    the country at various times in her career.

    The actress liked to tour, even going out on the road in such plays
    as “Driving Miss Daisy” and “Lettice & Lovage” after they had been
    done in New York with other stars.

    Harris’ last Broadway appearances were in revivals, playing the
    domineering mother in a Roundabout Theatre Company production of “The
    Glass Menagerie” (1994) and then “The Gin Game” with Charles Durning for
    the National Actors Theatre in 1997.

    In 2005, she was one of five performers to receive Kennedy Center honors.

    Harris was born on Dec. 2, 1925, in Grosse Pointe, Mich., the
    daughter of an investment banker. She grew up fascinated by movies,
    later saying she thought of herself as plain-looking and turned to
    acting as a way of becoming other persons.

    She made her stage debut at the Grosse Pointe Country Day School in
    “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” at age 14. In the years that followed, she
    studied drama in finishing school, prep school, Yale University and the
    Actor’s Studio.

    Before “Knots Landing,” Harris made numerous guest-starring
    television appearances on dramas and was a regular on two quickly
    canceled series — “Thicker Than Water” in 1973 and “The Family Holvak”
    in 1975.

    Her Emmys were for performances in two “Hallmark Hall of Fame”
    presentations: “Little Moon of Alban” in 1958 and “Victoria Regina” in
    1961.

    Harris was married three times, to lawyer Jay I. Julian, stage
    manager Manning Gurian and writer William Erwin Carroll. She had one
    son, Peter Alston Gurian.

    Reply
    babypook
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    #432282

    O no. Very sad news. I always adored her, and her work.

    RIP, and thank you Julie. 

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    Halo_Insider
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    #432283

    Oh, such a dear loss! I feel terrible that I never got to witness her stage work, but watching her perform in Elia Kazan’s adaptation of East of Eden was a delight to behold. I fell in love with her portrayal of Abra, and I’m happy to know that she managed to attain so much success throughout her illustrious career.

    Rest in Peace  to the legendary Julie Harris.

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    Atypical
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    #432284

    This is a huge loss to the theater community. I only know of her from “East of Eden,” but I’m aware of her Tonys milestones. Sad news. RIP.

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    Will
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    #432285

    Awful news. 
    One of the greatest American actresses of XXth century. I fill that there should be a theatre named after Ms. Harris. 
    R.I.P. 

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    SeunO
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    #432286

    This is truly sad.
    R.I.P. 

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    Anonymous
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    Jan 1st, 1970
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    #432287

    Signature have been done it……..

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    tonorlo
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    #432288

    A tremendous loss to American theatre… Few in her profession truly deserve the mantle of “artist,” but this lady certainly did. May she rest in peace.

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    Laactingnyc
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    #432289

    Damn it……. She was a great actress! 

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    Madson Melo
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    Jul 25th, 2011
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    #432290

    Amazing actress, R.I.P.

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