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Friday, August 30, 2013

In Memoriam: Julie Harris

Written by Kyle Slagley

On August 23, both Hollywood and Broadway lost an actress who was, quite simply, a legend. Julie Harris passed away at the age of 87 after a career that even the best of today’s actresses can only dream of mimicking.

Born in Michigan in 1925, she made her career choices very early in life, once declaring to a high school drama teacher, “acting is my life.” Her first professional acting gig came in 1945, where she played a basic ensemble role in the stage production It’s a Gift in Atlanta.

The New York Times published a rather extensive story on Harris last Saturday that gives some insight into her life and career beyond just her roles on the stage and screen. What really interested me, though, isn’t just the mile-long list of credits she has between the stage and the screen – her IMDB page lists 99 film and TV roles, and her Broadway Database page lists 33 stage roles – but rather it was the nature of the roles she chose over her long career.

Harris really was the actor’s actor. Her film credits include notable roles in The Bell Jar, Hamlet, A Doll’s House, and of course East of Eden. Her stage credits include roles as one of the witches in Macbeth, Mary Todd Lincoln, Amanda Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie, and the entire Dickinson family (among other characters) in her one-woman show The Belle of Amherst.

After winning six Tony Awards, becoming a Kennedy Center Honouree, and fighting back after having a stroke in 2001, Harris continued to ice a stellar career almost until she passed last week at her home in Massachusetts. SmartBrowse Julie Harris on our website and share her work with your patrons. If they appreciate good acting like I do, they’ll certainly thank you for it.

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