Julie Harris was an American cinema, theater, and television actress whose brilliant career spanned six decades and was highlighted by hits like ‘The Member of the Wedding,’ ‘The Lark,’ and ‘I Am a Camera,’ as well as unforgettable performances in films like ‘The Haunting’ and ‘East of Eden.’ This iconic actress had ten Tony Award nominations for her outstanding performance in ‘Broadway’ productions, of which she won five. She is still one of the most awarded actresses in Tony history, having won five awards for decades until she was matched with Angela Lansbury in 2009 and then eclipsed by Audra McDonald with six trophies in 2014. She received a Tony Award for Special Lifetime Achievement in 2002. She won a Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Recording for the audio recording of her one-woman drama “The Belle of Amherst.” In films such as ‘The Haunting,’ ‘The Hiding Place,’ ‘East of Eden,’ ‘Harper,’ ‘Requiem for a Heavyweight,’ and ‘Reflections in a Golden Eye,’ she made a lasting impression with some of her finest performances. Her only ‘Academy Award’ nomination came for her debut film, ‘The Member of the Wedding,’ in which she repeated the character of Frankie from her popular ‘Broadway’ play of the same name. She also had a successful career in television, earning three Emmy Awards out of a total of eleven nominations. She was awarded the ‘National Medal of Arts’ in 1994.
Childhood and Adolescence
Julia Ann Harris was born in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, to William Pickett Harris and Elsie L. (née Smith) on December 2, 1925. Her mother was a nurse and her father was an investment banker. She graduated from ‘Grosse Pointe Country Day School,’ which eventually merged with two other schools to become ‘University Liggett School.’
She was always fascinated by movies and would beg her parents to enroll her in the girls prep school ‘The Hewitt School’ in New York City so that she could take acting courses. Later, she enrolled at the school. She also studied at the Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp in Colorado, where she was mentored by Charlotte Perry. She spent a year at the ‘Yale School of Drama,’ inspired by Perry.
Career of Julie Harris
In 1945, she made her Broadway debut in the comedy play ‘It’s a Gift.’ Following that, he appeared in supporting roles in plays such as “Macbeth,” “Oedipus,” and “King Henry IV.” She sprang to popularity at the age of 24 when she played a 12-year-old Frankie Adams in the 1950 play ‘The Member of the Wedding,’ which was based on Carson McCuller’s novel of the same name. Her outstanding performance in the play established her as a promising actress on the rise. Her only ‘Oscar’ nomination came from a repeat of the part in the Fred Zinneman-directed 1952 picture of the same name.
In John Van Druten’s ‘Broadway’ production ‘I Am a Camera,’ Harris played Sally Bowles, a carefree cabaret artist. The play, which premiered on November 28, 1951, at the ‘Empire Theatre’ in New York City and ran for 214 performances before closing on July 12, 1952, was critically acclaimed, with Harris receiving the first of her five Tony Awards. ‘I Am a Camera’ was the inspiration for the hit ‘Broadway’ musical ‘Cabaret,’ which was eventually adapted into a 1972 film and had multiple theatrical performances in London and New York.
‘The Lark,’ a 1955 ‘Broadway’ production starring Harris as Joan of Arc and Boris Karloff as Pierre Cauchon (the English version of French playwright Jean Anouilh’s 1952 play was directed by Lillian Hellman). Harris won her second ‘Tony Award’ for it. Her and Karloff reprised their roles in the 1957 television adaptation of the play, which aired on the anthology series ‘Hallmark Hall of Fame.’
The one-woman piece ‘The Belle of Amherst,’ based on the life of poet Emily Dickinson from 1830 to 1886, remains one of her most compelling and absorbing performances. This Broadway play, directed by Charles Nelson Reilly, opened on April 28, 1976, after a preview, at the ‘Longacre Theatre,’ and ended after 116 performances. Harris not only won a Tony Award and a Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Recording for her remarkable performance playing 15 distinct personalities, but she also gained critical acclaim. She also appeared in the 1976 television adaptation of the same name. She was a regular performer in the acclaimed show that toured the country for several years.
‘Mademoiselle Colombe’ (1954), ‘The Country Wife’ (1957), ‘Little Moon Over Alban’ (1960), ‘Forty Carats’ (1968), ‘The Last of Mrs. Lincoln’ (1973), ‘The Au Pair Man’ (1973), and ‘In Praise of Love’ (1973) were among Harris’ other notable stage performances that cemented her position as one of the finest leading ladies of the American stage’ (1974).
She made her cinematic debut in the 1952 film ‘The Member of the Wedding,’ recreating her part as Frankie Addams from the 1950 ‘Broadway’ play of the same name, and went on to play a number of famous roles that gained her additional acclaim as an actor.
One of Harris’ most memorable roles was as Eleanor “Nell” Lance in Robert Wise’s British supernatural horror film “The Haunting,” which was released on September 18, 1963. The film is regarded as one of the genre’s masterpieces.
Her other notable performances include Abra Bacon in ‘East of Eden’ (1955), Grace Miller in ‘Requiem for a Heavyweight’ (1962), Betty Fraley in ‘Harper’ (1966), and Alison Langdon in ‘Reflections in a Golden Eye’ (1967). (1967).
With her role as a strange and possessive mother and country singer Lilimae Clements in the CBS prime time television serial opera ‘Knots Landing,’ this iconic actress became a household name. From 1980 until 1987, she played the character in 165 episodes.
Brigid Mary in ‘Little Moon of Alban’ (1958), for which she won a ‘Emmy Award’; Nora Helmer in ‘A Doll’s House’ (1959); Queen Victoria in ‘Victoria Regina’ (1961), for which she not only won a ‘Emmy Award’ but also remains one of her most lauded TV roles; and Mary Todd Lincoln in ‘The Last of Mrs. Lincoln’ (1962). (1976).
Personal History and Legacy
Harris married three times, but none of them worked out. From August 16, 1946 to July 1954, she was married to film producer and attorney Jay I. Julien; from October 21, 1954 to sometime in 1967, she was married to playwright and stage manager Manning Gurian; and from April 27, 1977 to sometime in 1982, she was married to writer Walter Erwin Carroll.
Her sole child from her second marriage, Peter Alston Gurian, went on to become a theatre critic. She had breast cancer and heart problems, and on August 24, 2013, she died of congestive heart failure at her home in West Chatham, Massachusetts.
Estimated Net Worth
Julie Harris is one of the wealthiest movie actresses and one of the most well-known. Julie Harris’ net worth is estimated to be at $4 million, according to Wikipedia, Forbes, and Business Insider.
The American Theater Hall of Fame inducted her in 1979.
On August 28, 2013, ‘Broadway’ theaters lowered their lights for a minute in her honor.