Oscar Actors: Harris, Julie–Background, Career, Awards (Cum Advantage, Five Tonys, Emmy, Grammy)

Research in Progress (Updated September 5, 2020)
Julie Harris Career Summary:

Occupational Inheritance: No

Social Class: upper middle; father banker; mother nurse

Family:

Education:

Training: Yale School of Drama, one year; Actors Studio

Radio Debut:

TV Debut:

Stage Debut: 1945; age 20

Breakthrough: Member of the Wedding, 1950; Tony; age 25

Broadway Debut: Member of the Wedding, 1950; Tony; age 25

Film Debut: Member of the Wedding, 1952; age 27

Oscar Role: Member of the Wedding, 1952; age 27

Other Noms: No

Other Awards: Emmys. Grammys

Screen Image: character actor

Last Film:

Career Output:

Film Career Span:

Marriage: 3 times; one son; lived in West Chatham

Politics:

Death: 2013; age 87

 

Julia Ann Harris (December 2, 1925 – August 24, 2013) was renowned for her classical and contemporary stage work, earning five Tony Awards for Best Actress in a Play.

Harris debuted on Broadway in 1945, against the wishes of her mother, who wanted her to be a society debutante. Harris was acclaimed for her performance as an isolated 12-year-old girl in the 1950 play The Member of the Wedding, a role she reprised in the 1952 film of the same name, for which she was nominated for the Best Actress Oscar.

In 1951, she played Sally Bowles in the original production of I Am a Camera, for which she won her first Tony award. She subsequently appeared in the 1955 film version.

Harris gave acclaimed performances in The Haunting (1963), and Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967), in which she played opposite Marlon Brando. A method actor, she won Tony awards for The Lark (1956), Forty Carats (1969), The Last of Mrs. Lincoln (1973), and The Belle of Amherst (1977). She was also a Grammy Award winner and a three time Emmy Award winner.

Harris was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame in 1979, received the National Medal of Arts in 1994, and the 2002 Special Lifetime Achievement Tony Award.

Julia Ann Harris was born in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, the daughter of Elsie L. (née Smith), a nurse, and William Pickett Harris, an investment banker and authority on zoology. She had an older brother, William, and a younger brother, Richard. She graduated from Grosse Pointe Country Day School, which later merged with two others to form the University Liggett School. In New York City, she attended The Hewitt School. As a teenager, she also trained at the Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School & Camp in Colorado with Charlotte Perry, a mentor who encouraged Harris to apply to the Yale School of Drama, which she soon attended for a year. Harris was an early member of Lee Strasberg’s Actor’s Studio and was able to successfully use the techniques of method acting in female roles.

In 1952, Harris won her first Best Actress Tony Award for the role of insouciant Sally Bowles in I Am a Camera, the stage version of Christopher Isherwood’s Goodbye to Berlin (later adapted as the Broadway musical Cabaret (1966) and as the 1972 film, with Liza Minnelli as Sally). Harris repeated her stage role in the film version of I Am a Camera (1955).

She gave a Tony-winning performance in “The Belle of Amherst,” a one-woman play (written by William Luce and directed by Charles Nelson Reilly) based on the life and poetry of Emily Dickinson. She received a Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Recording for the audio recording of the play. She first performed the play in 1976 and subsequently appeared in other solo shows, including Luce’s Brontë.

Other Broadway credits include The Playboy of the Western World, Macbeth, The Member of the Wedding, A Shot in the Dark, Skyscraper, And Miss Reardon Drinks a Little, Forty Carats, The Glass Menagerie, A Doll’s House, The Gin Game, and a North American tour in 1992 of “Lettice and Lovage” in the lead part originated by Maggie Smith on Broadway.

In 1983, Harris became a company member of The Mirror Theater Ltd’s Mirror Repertory Company. She became a mentor to the company, having urged Founding Artistic Director Sabra Jones to create the company from 1976 forward, when Jones married John Strasberg. Harris and Jones met at a performance of The Belle of Amherst, a revival of which The Mirror Theater Ltd recently performed in their summer home in Vermont.

Harris ties with Angela Lansbury with five Tony Award wins (Audra McDonald has since passed them both, with six wins). However, she holds the record (alongside Chita Rivera) for the most individual Tony Award nominations, with 10. In 1966, Harris won the Sarah Siddons Award for her work in Chicago theatre.

Harris’s screen debut was in 1952, repeating her Broadway success as the lonely teenaged girl Frankie in Carson McCullers’ The Member of the Wedding, for which she was nominated for the Best Actress Oscar.

Director Elia Kazan cast her in East of Eden (1955) opposite James Dean in his first major screen role. She played the ethereal Eleanor Lance in The Haunting (1963), director Robert Wise’s screen adaptation of a novel by Shirley Jackson. Another cast member recalled Harris refusing to socialize with the other actors while not on set, later explaining that she had done so as a method of emphasizing the alienation from the other characters experienced by her character in the film. Other notable films Harris appeared in during the 1960s include Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962), Harper (with Paul Newman) (1966), and Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967).

Another noteworthy film appearance was the WWII drama The Hiding Place (1975).

Harris was nominated for 11 Primetime Emmy Awards for her TV work, winning three. She starred as Nora Helmer opposite Christopher Plummer in A Doll’s House (1959), a 90-minute television adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s play. She made more appearances in leading roles on the Hallmark program than any other actress, also appearing in two different adaptations of the play Little Moon of Alban,[10] her performance in the 1958 TV movie of the same name earning her the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie.

Her second Emmy win came for her role as Queen Victoria in the 1961 Hallmark Hall of Fame production of Laurence Housman’s Victoria Regina. She received further Emmy nominations for a range of roles including Anastasia (1967), The Last of Mrs. Lincoln (1976) — where she reprised her Tony-winning role as Mary Todd Lincoln from the 1973 play of the same name — and The Woman He Loved (1988). She won her third Emmy award in 2000 for Outstanding Voice-Over Performance for her voice role of Susan B. Anthony in Not for Ourselves Alone.

In 1980, Harris guest starred in the series Knots Landing as country singer Lilimae Clements, the eccentric and protective mother of Valene Ewing (Joan Van Ark); she returned to the series as a regular character from 1981–1987. The role earned Harris a nomination for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series, and two Soap Opera Digest Award nominations.

Harris made two recordings of narrations of E.B. White’s children’s book Stuart Little for the Pathways of Sound record label: the last six chapters for a single LP record in 1965, and the entire book for a two-record set in 1979.

Harris also did extensive voiceover work for documentary maker Ken Burns: the voices of Emily Warren Roebling in Brooklyn Bridge (1981), Ann Lee in The Shakers: Hands to Work, Hearts to God (1984), and most notably Southern diarist Mary Boykin Chesnut for Burns’ 1990 series The Civil War.

On December 5, 2005, Harris was named a Kennedy Center Honoree. At a White House ceremony, President George W. Bush remarked, “It’s hard to imagine the American stage without the face, the voice, and the limitless talent of Julie Harris. She has found happiness in her life’s work, and we thank her for sharing that happiness with the whole world.”

In the summer of 2008, she appeared on stage again in Chatham, Massachusetts as “Nanny” in a Monomoy Theater production of The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds.

Harris continued to work until 2009, well into her eighties, narrating five historical documentaries by Christopher Seufert and Mooncusser Films, as well as being active as a director on the board of the independent Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater.

Harris lived in West Chatham, Cape Cod, for many years until her death. Three times divorced, she had one son, Peter Gurian. A breast cancer survivor, she suffered a severe fall requiring surgery in 1999, a stroke in 2001, and a second stroke in 2010.

Harris died on August 24, 2013, of congestive heart failure at her home in West Chatham, Massachusetts. Ben Brantley, theater critic for The New York Times, considered her “the actress who towered most luminously … rather like a Statue of Liberty for Broadway.” Alec Baldwin, with whom she appeared in Knots Landing, praised her in a tribute in the Huffington Post: “Her voice was like rainfall. Her eyes connected directly to and channeled the depths of her powerful and tender heart. Her talent, a gift from God.”

On August 28, 2013, Broadway theaters dimmed their lights for one minute in honor of Harris.

Stage

1945 It’s a Gift Atlanta
1946 Henry IV, Part 2
Oedipus Rex
1946–1947 The Playboy of the Western World Nelly
1947 Alice in Wonderland White Rabbit
1948 Macbeth Witch
Sundown Beach Ida Mae
1948–1949 The Young and Fair Nancy Gear
1949 Magnolia Alley Angel Tuttle
Montserrat Felisa
1950–1951 The Member of the Wedding Frankie Addams
1951–1952 I Am a Camera Sally Bowles Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play
1954 Mademoiselle Colombe Colombe
1955–1956 The Lark Joan Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play
1959–1960 The Warm Peninsula Ruth Arnold
1960 Little Moon of Alban Bridgid Mary Mangan
1961–1962 A Shot in the Dark Josefa Lantenay
1963–1964 Marathon ’33 June Nominated — Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play
1964–1965 Ready When You Are, C.B.! Annie
1965–1966 Skyscraper Georgina Nominated–Tony Award for Best Actress in Musical
1968–1970 Forty Carats Ann Stanley Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play (1969)
1971 And Miss Reardon Drinks a Little Anna Reardon
1972 Voices Claire
1972–1973 The Last of Mrs. Lincoln Mary Todd Lincoln Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play
1973–1974 The au Pair Man Mrs. Rogers Nominated–Tony Award for Best Actress in  Play
1974–1975 In Praise of Love Lydia Cruttwell
1976 The Belle of Amherst Emily Dickinson Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play
Grammy Award: Best Spoken Word Recording
1979 Break a Leg Gertie Kessel
1980–1981 Mixed Couples Clarice
1991 Lucifer’s Child Isak Dinesen Nominated — Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play
1994–1995 The Glass Menagerie Amanda Wingfield
1997 The Gin Game Fonsia Dorsey Nominated — Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play

Films

1952 The Member of the Wedding Frances “Frankie” Addams Film debut
Nominated — Academy Award for Best Actress
1955 East of Eden Abra Bacon
I Am a Camera Sally Bowles Nominated, BAFTA Film Award: Best Foreign Actress
1957 The Truth About Women Helen Cooper
1958 Sally’s Irish Rogue Sally Hamil
1962 Requiem for a Heavyweight Grace Miller
1963 The Haunting Eleanor “Nell” Lance
1964 Hamlet Ophelia
1966 Harper Betty Fraley
You’re a Big Boy Now Miss Nora Thing
1967 Reflections in a Golden Eye Alison Langdon
1968 The Split Gladys
Journey to Midnight Leona Gillings “The Indian Spirit Guide”
1970 The People Next Door Gerrie Mason
1975 The Hiding Place Betsie Ten Bloom
1976 Voyage of the Damned Alice Fienchild
1979 The Bell Jar Mrs. Greenwood
1983 Brontë Charlotte Brontë
1985 Crimewave Uncredited
1986 Nutcracker: The Motion Picture Clara (voice)
1988 Gorillas in the Mist Roz Carr
1992 Housesitter Edna Davis
1993 The Dark Half Reggie Delesseps
1996 Carried Away Joseph’s Mother
1997 Bad Manners Professor Harper
1998 Passage to Paradise Martha McGrawl The First of May Carlotta
2006 The Way Back Home Jo McMillen
2008 The Golden Boys Melodeon Player
2009 The Lightkeepers Mrs. Deacon Final film role

Television
1948–1949 Actors Studio 4 episodes
1951 Starlight Theatre Bernice Episode: “Bernice Bobs Her Hair”
1951–1953 Goodyear Television Playhouse 2 episodes
1955 The United States Steel Hour Shevawn Episode: “A Wind from the South”
Nominated — Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in Limited Series or Movie
1956 The Good Fairy Lu TV movie
1957 The Lark Joan of Arc TV movie
1958 Little Moon of Alban Bridgid Mary Mangan TV movie
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie
Johnny Belinda Belinda TV movie
1959 A Doll’s House Nora Helmer TV movie
1960 NBC Sunday Showcase Francesca Episode: “Turn the Key Deftly”
1960–1961 DuPont Show of the Month Mattie Silver/Julia 2 episodes
Nominated — Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Single Performance by an Actress
1961 Play of the Week Episode: “He Who Gets Slapped”
The Heiress Catherine Sloper TV movie
The Power and the Glory Maria (Priest’s Mistress) TV movie
Victoria Regina Queen Victoria TV movie
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie
1963 Pygmalion Eliza Dolittle TV movie
1964 Little Moon of Alban Brigid Mary Mangan TV movie
Kraft Suspense Theatre Lucy Bram Episode: “The Roborioz Ring”
1965 The Holy Terror Florence Nightingale TV movie
Nominated — Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Individual Achievements in Entertainment – Actors and Performers
Rawhide Emma Teall Episode: “The Calf Women”
Laredo Annamay Episode: “Rendezvous at Arillo”
1966 Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre Isobel Cain/Vicky Cain Episode: “Nightmare”
1967 Anastasia Anastasia TV movie
Nominated — Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie
1967–1968 Tarzan Charity Jones 4 episodes
1968 Garrison’s Gorillas Therese Donet Episode: “Run from Death”
Run for Your Life Lucrece Lawrence Episode: “The Rape of Lucrece”
Daniel Boone Faith Episode: “Faith’s Way”
Bonanza Sarah Carter Episode: “A Dream to Dream”
Journey to the Unknown Leona Gillings Episode: “The Indian Spirit Guide”
The Big Valley Jennie Hall Episode: “A Stranger Everywhere”
1969–1970 The Name of the Game Verna Ward/Ruth ‘Doc’ Harmon 2 episodes
1970 House on Greenapple Road Leona Miller TV movie
How Awful About Allan Katherine TV movie
1971 The Virginian Jenny Episode: “Wolf Track”
1972 Home for the Holidays Elizabeth Hall Morgan TV movie
1973 Thicker than Water Nellie Paine 9 episodes
Medical Center Helen Episode: “The Guilty”
Columbo Karen Fielding Episode: “Any Old Port in a Storm”
Hawkins Janet Hubbard Episode: “Die, Darling, Die”
The Evil Touch Aunt Carrie/Jenny 2 episodes
1974 The Greatest Gift Elizabeth Holvak TV movie
1975 Long Way Home TV movie
The Family Holvak 10 episodes
Match Game Herself (panelist) 6 total episodes (1 for syndication)
1976 The Last of Mrs. Lincoln Mary Todd Lincoln TV movie
Nominated — Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie
The Belle of Amherst Emily Dickinson TV movie
1978 Stubby Pringle’s Christmas Georgia Henderson TV movie
1979 Backstairs at the White House Mrs. Helen ‘Nellie’ Taft Miniseries
Tales of the Unexpected Mrs. Bixby/Mrs. Foster 2 episodes
The Gift Anne Devlin TV movie
1980–1987 Knots Landing Lilimae Clements 165 episodes
Nominated — Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (1982)
Nominated — Soap Opera Digest Award: Outstanding Actress in a Supporting Role: Prime Time (1986, 1988)
1986 Annihilator Girl TV movie
Family Ties Margaret Episode: “The Freshman and the Senior”
1987 The Love Boat Irene Culver Episode: “Who Killed Maxwell Thorn?”
1988 The Woman He Loved Alice TV movie
Nominated — Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie
Too Good to Be True Margaret Berent TV movie
The Christmas Wife Iris TV movie
Nominated — CableACE Award: Actress in a Movie or Miniseries
1989 Single Women Married Men Lucille Frankyl TV movie
1990 The Civil War Mary Chestnut (voice) Miniseries; 9 episodes
1993 Vanished Without a Trace Odessa Ray TV movie
When Love Kills: The Seduction of John Hearn Alice Hearn TV movie
1994 Scarlett Eleanor Butler Miniseries
One Christmas Sook TV movie
1995 Secrets Caroline Phelan TV movie
Lucifer’s Child Isak Dinesen TV movie
1996 Little Surprises Ethel TV short
The Christmas Tree Sister Anthony TV movie
1997 Ellen Foster Leonora Nelson TV movie
Nominated — Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie
1998 The Outer Limits Hera Episode: “Lithia”
1999 Love Is Strange Sylvia McClain TV movie
Not for Ourselves Alone Susan B. Anthony (voice) TV documentary
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Voice-Over Performance