Harris, Richard 1930-2002

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HARRIS, Richard 1930-2002

OBITUARY NOTICE—See index for CA sketch: Born October 1, 1930 (some sources say 1933), in Limerick, Ireland; died of Hodgkin's disease October 25, 2002, in London, England. Actor, film director and producer, and author. Harris was a renowned film and stage actor who was particularly famous for his role as King Arthur in the musical Camelot, as well for as his appearances in such films as The Sporting Life and the first two "Harry Potter" films. As a young man, Harris attended a Jesuit school in Limerick and was a talented rugby player who had hopes of playing professionally. However, after suffering from tuberculosis, during which time he read profusely and developed a love for Shakespeare, Harris decided he would like to become an actor. After studying at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art in 1956, he began acting for the stage, joining Joan Littlewood's Theatre Workshop Company, and obtained his first important film role in the 1959 movie Shake Hands with the Devil. The height of his film career came during the 1960s, when he starred in such films as The Long and the Short and the Tall (1961), The Guns of Navarone (1961), and Mutiny on the Bounty (1962), winning a Cannes Film Festival Best Actor award and Oscar nomination for his starring role in The Sporting Life (1963). His most famous part, however, came in 1967 when he played King Arthur in the movie musical Camelot; he went on to play Arthur in stage productions of Camelot that had successful runs in the United States and Europe during the 1980s. With the exception of Camelot and his starring role in the westerns A Man Called Horse (1970) and its two sequels, Harris's career during the 1970s and 1980s took a decided downturn. He appeared in several box-office flops, and came to blame this string of failures on his drinking. Even after leaving alcohol behind in 1982, his career lagged and he quit acting temporarily during the mid-1980s. The 1990s were much kinder to Harris, however, and he found roles in a number of quality films, including The Field (1990), for which he was nominated for a Golden Globe and an Academy award, the western Unforgiven (1992) and 1993's Wrestling Ernest Hemingway. His final successes included his roles as Emperor Marcus Aurelius in Gladiator (2000) and as Professor Dumbledore in the first two "Harry Potter" films based on the popular children's books by J. K. Rowling. Ironically, Harris declared that he did not like the Rowling books, though he enjoyed playing Dumbledore. Besides his obvious talents as an actor, Harris also wrote a number of stage- and screenplays, including Outside Edge (1980), Stepping Out (1985), and Dead Guilty (1996).



Contemporary Theatre, Film, and Television, Volume 27, Gale (Detroit, MI), 2000.

International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers, fourth edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 2000.


Chicago Tribune, October 26, 2002, section 1, p. 27.

Independent (London, England), October 28, 2002, p. 14.

Los Angeles Times, October 26, 2002, p. B20.

New York Times, October 26, 2002, p. A32.

Times (London, England), October 28, 2002, p. 8.

Washington Post, October 26, 2002, p. B7.

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Harris, Richard 1930-2002

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