Sir Reginald Carey ‘Rex’ Harrison was a pillar of the English stage and film community. He was best remembered for his portrayals of Henry VIII in the play ‘Anne of the Thousand Days’, Julius Caesar in the film ‘Cleopatra’, and Professor Henry Higgins in the film ‘My Fair Lady’. His electrifying performance in ‘My Fair Lady’ earned him both a ‘Golden Globe’ and a ‘Oscar’. Though he was highly regarded for his acting ability, he was known for being adamant and frequently disparaged his fellow actors. His marriage was never happy or fruitful. One of his wives committed suicide following their divorce. He is believed to have been the catalyst for starlet Carole Landis’ suicide. He died of cancer in Manhattan at the age of 82.
Childhood & Adolescence
Harrison was born in Huyton, Lancashire, on 5 March 1908, to Mrs. Edith Mary and Mr. William Reginald Harrison, a cotton broker.
He attended Liverpool College for his education.
Harrison lost the majority of his vision in his left eye following a bout of childhood measles, which caused some on-stage difficulties on one occasion.
He made his stage debut in 1924, at the age of 18, in Liverpool.
During WWII, he served as a Flight Lieutenant in the Royal Air Force. His acting career came to a halt during this time period. Following that, he appeared in a variety of stage productions until his death in 1990.
His career began with a role in ‘French Without Tears’ in London’s West End.
Career of Rex Harrison
Harrison made his film debut in 1930 with the film ‘The Great Game.’ Following this film, he went on to direct successful films such as ‘The Citadel’ (released in 1938), ‘Night Train to Munich’ (released in 1940), and ‘Major Barbara’ (released in 1941). (released in 1941).
His performance in the 1945 film ‘Blithe Spirit’ received widespread acclaim. He achieved international renown as the King in 1946’s ‘Anna and the King of Siam’. It was his first feature film in the United States.
Harrison had a successful 1947, appearing in two successful films, ‘The Ghost and Mrs. Muir’ and ‘The Foxes of Harrow’.
Along with his film roles, he continued to appear in stage productions in London and New York. He appeared in a number of plays, including ‘Bell, Book, and Candle,’ ‘Venus Observed,’ ‘The Cocktail Party,’ and ‘The Kingfisher.’ He starred in and directed the play ‘The Love of Four Colonels’.
In 1949, he won his first Tony Award for his portrayal of Henry VIII in the play ‘Anne of a Thousand Days.’
In 1963, he won his second Tony Award for his performance as Henry Higgins in the film ‘My Fair Lady.’
He starred in the 1968 comedy film ‘The Honey Pot,’ which was based on the play ‘Volpone.’ This film was a box office smash. Rather than continue in the comedy genre, he gravitated toward dramatic roles, such as Julius Caesar in ‘Cleopatra’ (released in 1963), for which he received an Academy Award nomination, and Pope Julius II in ‘The Agony and the Ecstasy’ (released in 1965). Additionally, he starred in ‘Doctor Dolittle’.
In the 1969 film ‘Staircase,’ he portrayed an aging homosexual man. Commercially, this film was a flop.
In 1973, he starred in ‘Henry IV,’ an English adaptation of a Pirandello play.
In 1985, he appeared in a revival of the play ‘Aren’t we all?’ which ran for a limited run. He received his third Tony nomination the following year for his performance as Shotover in George Bernard Shaw’s play ‘Heartbreak House’.
He also appeared in a supporting role alongside Indian star Dharmendra in 1978’s Hindi film ‘Shalimar’. The film was released in two languages: Hindi and English. Both versions received lukewarm reviews.
Harrison was known for interfering with production processes during the height of his career.
In 1982, following the release of the film ‘A Time to Die,’ he announced his retirement from the film industry. His heart, however, was in plays and dramas, and he thus continued to act on stage until the end of his life, despite having problems associated with old age.
He made his Broadway debut in 1989-90 in the play ‘The Circle’. This was his final appearance on stage.
In 1975, he published his first biography, ‘Rex: An Autobiography.’ ‘A Damned Serious Business: My Life in Comedy’, his second autobiography, was published posthumously in 1991.
Significant Works of Rex Harrison
Harrison achieved his first commercial and critical success on the big screen in 1963 with his portrayal of Julies Cesar in ‘Cleopatra’. It was an American epic historical drama film chronicling Cleopatra VII’s struggle to resist Rome’s royal ambitions. ‘Cleopatra’ won four Academy Awards and received five additional nominations, including ‘Best Picture’.
He achieved true international celebrity status as Professor Henry Higgins in the 1964 film adaptation of ‘My Fair Lady’. This film is based on the play ‘Pygmalion’ by George Bernard Shaw. This film received both critical and commercial acclaim. This film won eight Academy Awards in a variety of categories, including one for Harrison in the category of ‘Best Actor.’ Additionally, this film was nominated for a ‘Golden Globe Award’ in the categories of ‘Best Motion Picture,’ ‘Best Director,’ and ‘Best Actor. He was also nominated for a Tony Award for this role. Due to Harrison’s refusal to pre-record his songs for the film, he was unable to lip-sync to a playback during filming. The production team chose to use a wireless microphone for the first time during the filming of a feature film. The sound department was recognized for its efforts with an Academy Award. James C. Katz restored the film in 1994.
Awards and Accomplishments
Harrison was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II on 25 July 1989.
For his contributions to film and television, Rex Harrison has two stars on the ‘Hollywood Walk of Fame.’ Harrison was inducted into the Hall of Fame of the American Theater in 1979.
‘My Fair Lady’ garnered the majority of Harrison’s awards, including an Academy Award, a Golden Globe Award, and a Tony Award.
Personal History and Legacies
Harrison was married six times over the course of his life.
He divorced Colette Thomas in 1942 and married actress Lilli Palmer.
Harrison’s first marriage resulted in the birth of a son, Noel. Noel rose to prominence as an Olympic skier, singer, and actor. He appeared in numerous productions, including ‘My Fair Lady,’ in which he played his father’s award-winning role. On 19th October 2013, he died unexpectedly of a heart attack at the age of 79.
Harrison’s marriage to Lilli Palmer resulted in the birth of a son. He is a playwright and social activist by the name of Carey Harrison.
Harrison began an affair with actress Carole Landis in 1947, while still married to Palmer. In 1948, Landis committed suicide following an evening spent with him. Landis is believed to have been alive when he paid her a visit. He did not, however, summon medical assistance or the police. His involvement in this scandal harmed his career.
Harrison married actress Kay Kendall in 1957. Kendall died in 1959 of leukemia.
He later married actress Rachel Roberts, who was born in Wales, in 1962 and divorced her in 1971. Roberts committed suicide in 1980 following a final failed attempt to reconcile with Harrison.
In 1971, Harrison married Elizabeth Rees-Williams and later divorced her in 1975. Finally, in 1978, he married Mercia Tinker, his sixth wife.
Harrison possessed real estate holdings in London, New York City, and Portofino, Italy.
Harrison died of pancreatic cancer on 2nd June 1990 at the age of 82 in his Manhattan home.
Estimated Net Worth
Rex is one of the wealthiest and most popular Movie Actors. Rex Harrison’s net worth is estimated to be around $1.5 million, based on our analysis of Wikipedia, Forbes, and Business Insider.
As a child, he changed his given name to ‘Rex,’ which is Latin for king.
Due to his checked wool hat, which he wore in both the Broadway and film versions of My Fair Lady, that style of headwear was dubbed ‘The Rex Harrison’.