Harris, Julie (1925—)

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Harris, Julie (1925—)

American actress, originator of the role of Frankie Addams in The Member of the Wedding, who has received an unprecedented ten Tony nominations and five Tony Awards. Born in Grosse Pointe Park, Michigan, on December 2, 1925; only daughter and one of three children of William Pickett Harris (an investment banker) and Elsie (Smith) Harris; attended the Grosse Point Country Day School; attended Miss Mary C. Wheeler's School, Providence, Rhode Island; attended Miss Hewitt's Classes, New York City; attended Yale University School of Drama, 1944–45; attended The Actors Studio, New York City; married Jay I. Julien (a lawyer and producer), in August 1946 (divorced 1954); married Manning Gurian (a stage manager), on October 21, 1954 (divorced 1967); married William Erwin Carroll (a writer), on April 27, 1977; children: (second marriage) one son, Peter Alston Gurian.

Selected theater:

Atlanta in It's a Gift (Playhouse Theater, New York City, March 1945); Nelly in The Playboy of the Western World (Booth Theater, New York City, October 1946); The White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland (International Theater, New York City, May 1947); Third Witch in Macbeth (National Theater, New York City, March 1948); Ida Mae in Sundown Beach (Actors Studio Production at the Belasco Theater, New York City, September 1948); Nancy Gear in The Young and the Fair (Fulton Theater, New York City, November 1948); Angel Tuttle in Magnolia Alley (Mansfield Theater, New York City, April 1949); Felisa in Montserrat (Fulton Theater, New York City, October 1949); Frankie Addams in The Member of the Wedding (Empire Theater, New York City, January 1950); Sally Bowles in I Am a Camera (Empire Theater, New York City, November 1951); Colombe in Mademoiselle Colombe (Longacre Theater, New York City, January 1954); Joan in The Lark (Longacre Theater, New York City, November 1955); Margery Pinchwife in The Country Wife (Adelphi Theater, New York City, November 1957); Ruth Arnold in The Warm Peninsula (Helen Hayes Theater, New York City, October 1958); Brigid Mary in Little Moon of Alban (Longacre Theater, New York City, December 1960); Josefa in A Shot in the Dark (Booth Theater, New York City, October 1961); June in Marathon '33 (ANTA Theater, December 1963); Annie in Ready When You Are, C.B. (Brooks Atkinson Theater, New York City December 1964); Georgina in Skyscraper (Lunt-Fontanne Theater, New York City, November 1965); Ann Stanley in Forty Carats (Morosco Theater, New York City, December 1968); Anna Reardon in And Miss Reardon Drinks a Little (Morosco Theater, New York City, February 1971); Claire in Voices (Ethel Barrymore Theater, New York City, April 1972); Mary Lincoln in The Last of Mrs. Lincoln (ANTA Theater, New York City, December 1972); Mrs. Rogers in The Au Pair Man (Vivian Beaumont Theater, December 1973); Lydia Cruttwell in In Praise of Love (Morosco Theater, New York Theater, December 1974); Emily Dickinson in The Belle of Amherst (Longacre Theater, New York City, April 1976); Gertie Kessel in Break a Leg (Palace Theater, New York City, April 1979); Ethel Thayer in On Golden Pond (Ahmanson Theater, Los Angeles, February 1980); Isak Dinesen in Lucifer's Child (Music Box Theater, New York City, April 1991); Fonsia in a national tour of The Gin Game (1999).


The Member of the Wedding (1952); East of Eden (1955); I Am a Camera (1955); The Truth About Women (U.K., 1958); Sally's Irish Rogue (The Poacher's Daughter, Ire., 1958); Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962); The Haunting (U.S./U.K.,1963); Harper (1966); You're a Big Boy Now (1976); Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967); The Split (1968); The People Next Door (1970); The Hiding Place (1975); Voyage of the Damned (UK, 1976); The Bell Jar (1979); Gorillas in the Mist (1988); The Dark Half (1991); Housesitter (1992).

Julie Harris was born in 1925, one of three children of William Pickett Harris, an investment banker, and Elsie Smith Harris , and grew up in Grosse Pointe Park, Michigan, a wealthy suburb of Detroit. Single-minded in her drive to become an actress, she remembers being a skinny, self-conscious kid, and not much of a student. As a youngster, she was addicted to the movies—she saw Gone With the Wind 13 times—and from the age of 10 attended the theater regularly with her parents. At 14, she made her stage debut as a juggler in a school production of The Juggler of Notre Dame, after which she convinced her parents to send her to a New York City preparatory school where they offered a course in drama. Asked by a teacher why she wanted to learn to act, she replied, "Acting is my life."

Harris began her professional training at a summer acting camp run by Charlotte Perry and Portia Mansfield in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, which she attended from 1941 to 1943. She enrolled in the Yale University School of Drama in 1944, but took a leave of absence to appear in her first Broadway play, Curt Goetz's It's a Gift (1945), which ran for six weeks. Her early training also included four years at the Actors Studio, where she was one of the original students, and a brief stint with the visiting Old Vic Company in 1946, playing walk-ons. At age 25, after winning acclaim in a number of Actors Studio and Broadway productions, Harris was cast by director Harold Clurman as Frankie Addams, the motherless 12-year-old tomboy in Carson McCullers ' tender play, The Member of the Wedding, which began a long Broadway run on January 5, 1950. "That play was really the beginning of everything big for me," Harris said. Indeed, Brooks Atkinson's review in The New York Times fairly glowed: "In the long immensely complicated part of the adolescent girl, Julie Harris, a very gifted young actress, gives an extraordinary performance—vibrant, full of anguish and elation by turns, rumpled, unstable, egotistic, and unconsciously cruel." Harris won the Donaldson Award for her performance and recreated the role in the 1952 movie, for which she won an Academy Award nomination.

Harris triumphed again as the sophisticated, hedonistic Sally Bowles in John van Druten's adaptation of Christopher Isherwood's I Am a Camera (1951). "Miss Harris's Sally is a frail, alcoholic adolescent with grubby fingers," wrote critic Kenneth Tynan. "She bursts with unrealized affectations, and is for ever latching herself on to a fullrush length cigarette-holder, like a peignoir suspended from a clothes hook…. Iexpect Miss Harris to mature astonishingly and to become, very shortly, one of the nobler ladies of the modern stage." Harris, who won a second Donaldson as well as the first of her five Tony Awards for the role, acknowledged that because of her conservative upbringing, she had a hard time relating to Sally's rather sordid lifestyle. "I never really got it right; in those days we weren't allowed to talk about things like abortion and the script really didn't have a lot in common with what eventually became Cabaret. Sally should really have been played all along by Vanessa Redgrave : she was a rebel, all I managed was a runaway schoolgirl."

After a two-month run in the critically acclaimed but short-lived Mademoiselle Colombe (1954), an adaptation of Jean Anouilh's satire of Parisian backstage life in 1900, Harris tackled another Anouilh play, The Lark (1955), concerning the trial of Joan of Arc and adapted this time by Lillian Hellman . As Saint Joan, a

role for which Harris prepared prodigiously, even reading the original trial records, she experienced one of those perfect moments on stage, when everything comes together and the actor is one with the audience. "When I started to speak the lines, I couldn't because I was crying. Part of me was trying to pull me out of this emotion so I could speak my line. Another part was saying that what was happening was right for the part, right for this particular moment. Yes, for this is probably what Joan would have done. And the audience knew it and was thrilled by it. For me, it was an almost spiritual moment." For her portrayal of Joan, Harris won her second Tony as Best Actress.

Now established as a remarkable stage technician, Harris further distinguished herself in the range and variety of her roles. She portrayed a nun in Little Moon of Alban (1960), a vaudevillian in June Havoc's autobiographical Marathon '33 (1963), and a chic 40-year-old divorcee who becomes romantically involved with a man half her age in Forty Carats (1968), for which she received another Tony Award. After creating the role of the unstable and frigid Anna Reardon, in And Miss Reardon Drinks a Little (1971), she received her fourth Tony and a Drama Desk Award for her interpretation of Mary Todd Lincoln in James Prideaux's The Last of Mrs. Lincoln (1972). In 1974, yet another Tony nomination came her way for her portrayal of Mrs. Rogers in The Au Pair Man.

Harris has always had a fascination with 19th-century American writers, particularly poet and recluse Emily Dickinson . ("I feel akin to certain souls," she told an interviewer for the Christian Science Monitor in 1976.) After recording Dickinson's poetry and letters and also giving readings before high school students and other groups, in 1976 she brought Dickinson to the stage in William Luce's one-woman play The Belle of Amherst, a performance that Jack Kroll, the critic for Newsweek, called "astonishing in its sagacity and passion," and Brooks Atkinson deemed a "masterpiece." The play was recorded on the Pathways of Sound and also brought Harris her fifth Tony, then an all-time record. She toured the show and also made her London debut as Dickinson at the Phoenix Theater in September 1977. She has subsequently brought to the stage other historically significant women, including Charlotte Brontë (Bronte) and Isak Dinesen (Lucifer's Child).

Harris' movie career began with film versions of The Member of the Wedding (1952) and I Am a Camera (1955), in which she recreated the roles of Frankie and Sally. Of her subsequent screen characterizations, the most memorable include the sensitive teen-aged Abra in East of Eden (1955), the compassionate employment counselor in Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962), the neurotic spinster in Shirley Jackson 's The Haunting (1963), and the dope addict and night-club performer in Harper (1966). On television, Harris has been seen in numerous dramas and won Emmys for two roles on NBC's "Hallmark Hall of Fame" presentations: Brigid Mary in Little Moon of Alban (1958) and Queen Victoria in Victoria Regina (1961). For seven years during the 1980s, she was regularly seen as Lilimae Clements on the popular series "Knots Landing."

Julie Harris projects a stage presence that belies her slight stature (5′4″, about 105 pounds) and delicate features. Off stage, she is said to possess an unpretentious, ladylike demeanor that is unusual in a star of her magnitude. In a 1971 interview with Don Keith for After Dark, Harris admitted to sometimes feeling as vulnerable as she appears. "Life really spooks me," she said. "Everything about it: its night times and getting up and deciding things." Harris has been married three times. Her first marriage to Jay Julien, a lawyer and producer, lasted eight years. Soon after a divorce in 1954, she married Peter Gurian, with whom she had a son, Peter Alston, in 1955. "I had to convince myself that I should go back to the theater," she said later. "I found out that I was happy just being a mother." Harris divorced Gurian in 1967 and married writer William Erwin Carroll in 1977.

In 1980, Harris was in Los Angeles to play Ethel Thayer in On Golden Pond. In 1989, she toured as Daisy Werthan in Alfred Uhry's Pulitzer Prize-winning Driving Miss Daisy, in 1999 as Fonsia in The Gin Game. The actress, who once said she had found God in the theater, continues to grace the stage.


Candee, Marjorie Dent, ed. Current Biography 1956. NY: H.W. Wilson, 1956.

Harris, Julie. "Solo," in World Monitor. Vol 5, no. 1. January 1992, pp. 14–17.

——, with Barry Tarshis. Julie Harris Talks to Young Actors. NY: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard, 1971.

Keith, Don Lee. "Julie Harris is a saint," in After Dark. November 1971.

Moritz, Charles, ed. Current Biography 1977. NY: H.W. Wilson, 1977.

Morley, Sheridan. The Great Stage Stars. London: Angus & Robertson, 1986.

Wilmeth, Don B., and Tice L. Miller, eds. Cambridge Guide to American Theater. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press, 1993.

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts

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