|Sir Rex Harrison|
Harrison at his home in London in 1976, by Allan Warren
|Born||Reginald Carey Harrison
5 March 1908
Huyton, Lancashire, England, UK
|Died||2 June 1990
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Cause of death||Pancreatic cancer|
Elizabeth Rees-Williams (m.1971-1975)
Mercia Tinker (m.1979-1990)
|Relatives||Cathryn Harrison (granddaughter)|
Harrison began his career on the stage in 1924. He won his first Tony Award for his performance as Henry VIII in Anne of the Thousand Days in 1949. He won his second Tony for the role of Professor Henry Higgins in the stage production of My Fair Lady in 1957. He reprised the role for the 1964 film version, which earned him a Golden Globe Award and Best Actor Oscar.
In addition to his stage career, Harrison also appeared in numerous films, including Anna and the King of Siam (1946), The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947), Cleopatra (1963), and Doctor Dolittle (1967). In July 1989, Harrison was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II.
In 1975, Harrison released his first autobiography. His second, A Damned Serious Business: My Life in Comedy, was published posthumously in 1991.
Harrison was married a total of six times and had two sons: Noel and Carey Harrison. He continued working in stage productions until shortly before his death from pancreatic cancer in June 1990 at the age of 82.
Youth and stage career
Harrison was born at Derry House in Huyton, Lancashire, and educated at Liverpool College. After a bout of childhood measles, Harrison lost most of the sight in his left eye, which on one occasion caused some on-stage difficulty. He first appeared on the stage in 1924 in Liverpool. Harrison's acting career was interrupted during World War II while serving in the Royal Air Force, reaching the rank of Flight Lieutenant. He acted in various stage productions until 11 May 1990. He acted in the West End of London when he was young, appearing in the Terence Rattigan play French Without Tears, which proved to be his breakthrough role.
He alternated appearances in London and New York in such plays as Bell, Book and Candle (1950), Venus Observed, The Cocktail Party, The Kingfisher and The Love of Four Colonels, which he also directed. He won his first Tony Award for his appearance as Henry VIII in Anne of the Thousand Days and international superstardom (and a second Tony Award) for his portrayal of Henry Higgins in the musical My Fair Lady, where he appeared opposite Julie Andrews.
Later appearances included Pirandello's Henry IV, a 1984 appearance at the Haymarket Theatre with Claudette Colbert in Frederick Lonsdale's Aren't We All?, and one on Broadway at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre presented by Douglas Urbanski, at the Haymarket in J.M. Barrie's The Admirable Crichton with Edward Fox. He returned as Henry Higgins in the revival of My Fair Lady directed by Patrick Garland in 1981, cementing his association with the plays of George Bernard Shaw, which included a Tony nominated performance as Shotover in Heartbreak House, Julius Caesar in Caesar and Cleopatra, and General Burgoyne in a Los Angeles production of The Devil's Disciple.
Harrison's film debut was in The Great Game (1930), other notable early films include The Citadel (1938), Night Train to Munich (1940), Major Barbara (1941), Blithe Spirit (1945), Anna and the King of Siam (1946), The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947), and The Foxes of Harrow (1947). He was best known for his portrayal of Professor Henry Higgins in the 1964 film version of My Fair Lady based on the Broadway production of the same name, which was based on George Bernard Shaw's play Pygmalion) for which Harrison won a Best Actor Oscar.
He also starred in 1967's Doctor Dolittle. At the height of his box office clout after the success of My Fair Lady, Harrison proved a domineering and demanding force during production, demanding auditions for prospective composers after musical playwright Leslie Bricusse was contracted and demanding to have his singing recorded live during shooting, only to agree to have it rerecorded in post-production. He also disrupted production with incidents with his wife, Rachel Roberts and deliberate misbehaviour, such as when he deliberately moved his yacht in front of cameras during shooting in St. Lucia and refused to move it out of sight due to contract disputes. Harrison was at one point temporarily replaced by Christopher Plummer, until he agreed to be more cooperative.
He starred in the 1968 comedy The Honey Pot, a modern adaptation of Ben Jonson's play Volpone. Two of his co-stars, Maggie Smith and Cliff Robertson, were to become lifelong friends. Both spoke at his New York City memorial at the Little Church Around the Corner when Harrison died in 1990.
Harrison was not by general terms a singer (his talking on pitch style he used in My Fair Lady would be adopted by many other classically trained actors with limited vocal ranges); the music was usually written to allow for long periods of recitative, or "speaking to the music." Nevertheless, "Talk to the Animals", which Harrison performed in Doctor Dolittle, won the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1967.
Despite excelling in comedy (Noël Coward described him as "The best light comedy actor in the world—except for me.") he attracted favourable notices in dramatic roles such as his portrayal of Julius Caesar in Cleopatra (1963) and as Pope Julius II in The Agony and the Ecstasy (1965), opposite Charlton Heston as Michelangelo. He also acted in a Hindi film Shalimar alongside Indian Bollywood star Dharmendra as well as appearing as an aging homosexual man opposite Richard Burton as his lover in Staircase (1969).
Harrison was married six times. In 1942, he divorced his first wife, Colette Thomas, and married actress Lilli Palmer the next year; the two later appeared together in numerous plays and films, including The Fourposter.
In 1947, while married to Palmer, Harrison began an affair with actress Carole Landis. Landis committed suicide in 1948 after spending the evening with Harrison. Harrison's involvement in the scandal by waiting several hours before calling a doctor and police briefly damaged his career and his contract with Fox was ended by mutual consent.
1957 Harrison married the actress Kay Kendall. Kendall died of Myeloid leukemia in 1959. Terence Rattigan's 1973 play In Praise of Love was written about the end of this marriage, with Harrison appearing in the New York production playing the character based on himself. Rattigan was said to be "intensely disappointed and frustrated" by Harrison's performance, as "Harrison refused to play the outwardly boorish parts of the character and instead played him as charming throughout, signalling to the audience from the start that he knew the truth about [the] illness."
- Chronology of Harrison's six marriages
- Colette Thomas, 1934–1942 (divorced); one son, the actor/singer Noel Harrison
- Lilli Palmer, 1943–1957 (divorced); one son, the novelist/playwright Carey Harrison
- Kay Kendall, 1957–1959 (her death)
- Rachel Roberts, 1962–1971 (divorced)
- Elizabeth Harris, 1971–1975 (divorced); three stepsons, Damian Harris, Jared Harris, and Jamie Harris
- Mercia Tinker, 1978–1990 (his death)
- Granddaughters: Cathryn, Harriott, Chloe, Chiara, Rosie, Faith
- Grandsons: Will, Simon, Sam
Later career and death
Having retired from films after the 1982 picture A Time to Die, Harrison continued to act on Broadway and the West End until the end of his life, despite suffering from glaucoma, painful teeth, and a failing memory. He was nominated for a third Tony Award in 1984 for his performance as Captain Shotover in the revival of George Bernard Shaw's Heartbreak House. He followed the show up with two successful pairings with Claudette Colbert, The Kingfisher in 1985, and Aren't We All? in 1986. In 1989, he appeared with Edward Fox in The Admirable Crichton in London. In 1989-1990, he appeared on Broadway in The Circle by W. Somerset Maugham, opposite Glynis Johns and Stewart Granger. The production actually opened at Duke University for a three-week run followed by performances in Baltimore and Boston before opening 14 November 1989 on Broadway.
Harrison died of pancreatic cancer at his home in Manhattan on 2 June 1990 at the age of 82. He had only been diagnosed with the disease for a short time. The stage production in which he was appearing at the time, The Circle, came to an end upon his death.
Harrison's second autobiography, A Damned Serious Business: My Life in Comedy (ISBN 0553073419), was published posthumously in 1991.
Honours and legacy
Due to his association with the checked wool hat, which he wore both in the Broadway and film versions of My Fair Lady, that style of headware was officially named "The Rex Harrison."
- French Without Tears
- Sweet Aloes
- Design for Living
- Venus Observed
- The Cocktail Party
- Bell, Book and Candle
- The Fourposter
- Anne of the Thousand Days
- The Devil's Disciple
- The Love of Four Colonels
- My Fair Lady
- In Praise of Love
- Caesar and Cleopatra
- Heartbreak House
- Pirandello's Henry IV
- Aren't We All?
- The Kingfisher
- The Admirable Crichton
- The Circle
|1930||The Great Game||George|
|1934||Get Your Man||Tom Jakes|
|1934||Leave It to Blanche||Ronnie|
|1935||All at Sea||Aubrey Bellingham|
|1936||Men Are Not Gods||Tommy Stapleton|
|1937||Storm in a Teacup||Frank Burdon|
|1937||School for Husbands||Leonard Drummond|
|1938||Sidewalks of London||Harley Prentiss||Alternative title: St. Martin's Lane|
|1938||The Citadel||Dr. Frederick Lawford|
|1939||Over the Moon||Dr. Freddie Jarvis|
|1939||The Silent Battle||Jacques Sauvin|
|1940||Night Train to Munich||Gus Bennett||Alternative titles: Gestapo
|1940||Ten Days in Paris||Bob Stevens|
|1941||Major Barbara||Adolphus Cusins|
|1945||Blithe Spirit||Charles Condomine|
|1945||I Live in Grosvenor Square||Major David Bruce||Alternative title: A Yank in London|
|1945||The Rake's Progress||Vivian Kenway||Alternative title: Notorious Gentleman|
|1946||Anna and the King of Siam||King Mongkut|
|1947||The Ghost and Mrs. Muir||Captain Daniel Gregg|
|1947||The Foxes of Harrow||Stephen Fox|
|1948||Unfaithfully Yours||Sir Alfred De Carter|
|1951||The Long Dark Hall||Arthur Groome|
|1952||The Four Poster||John Edwards|
|1954||King Richard and the Crusaders||Emir Hderim Sultan Saladin|
|1955||The Constant Husband||William Egerton||Alternative title: Marriage a la Mode|
|1958||The Reluctant Debutante||Jimmy Broadbent|
|1960||Midnight Lace||Anthony "Tony" Preston|
|1962||The Happy Thieves||Jimmy Bourne|
|1964||My Fair Lady||Professor Henry Higgins|
|1964||The Yellow Rolls-Royce||Lord Charles Frinton - The Marquess of Frinton|
|1965||The Agony and the Ecstasy||Pope Julius II|
|1967||The Honey Pot||Cecil Sheridan Fox||Alternative titles: It Comes Up Murder
Mr. Fox of Venice
|1967||Doctor Dolittle||Dr. John Dolittle|
|1968||A Flea in Her Ear||Victor Chandebisse/Poche|
|1977||Crossed Swords||The Duke of Norfolk||Alternative title: The Prince and the Pauper|
|1978||Shalimar||Sir John Locksley||Alternative titles: Deadly Thief, Raiders of Shalimar, Raiders of the Sacred Stone|
|1979||Ashanti||Brian Walker||Alternative title: Ashanti, Land of No Mercy|
|1979||The Fifth Musketeer||Colbert||Alternative titles: Behind the Iron Mask
The 5th Musketeer
|1981||Titanic in a Tub: The Golden Age of Toy Boats||Narrator|
|1982||A Time to Die||Van Osten||Alternative title: Seven Graves for Rogan|
|1952||Omnibus||Henry VIII||Episode: "The Trial of Anne Boleyn"|
|1953||The United States Steel Hour||Raymond Dabney||Episode: "The Man in Possession"|
|1957||DuPont Show of the Month||Mr. Sir||Episode: "Crescendo"|
|1960||Dow Hour of Great Mysteries||Cyril Paxton||Episode: "The Dachet Diamonds"|
|1971–1973||Play of the Month||Mikhail Platonov, schoolmaster
"The Adventures of Don Quixote"
|1983||The Kingfisher||Cecil||Television film|
|1985||Heartbreak House||Captain Shotover||Television film|
|1986||Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna||Grand Duke Cyril Romanov||Television film|
Awards and nominations
|Year||Award||Category||Title of work||Result|
|1964||Academy Award||Best Actor in a Leading Role||Cleopatra||Nominated|
|1965||Academy Award||Best Actor in a Leading Role||My Fair Lady||Won|
|1966||BAFTA Award||Best British Actor||My Fair Lady||Nominated|
|1984||Drama Desk Award||Outstanding Actor in a Play||Heartbreak House||Nominated|
|1985||Drama Desk Award||Drama Desk Special Award||
|1964||Golden Globe Award||Best Motion Picture Actor - Drama||Cleopatra||Nominated|
|1965||Golden Globe Award||Best Motion Picture Actor - Musical/Comedy||My Fair Lady||Won|
|1966||Golden Globe Award||Henrietta Award (World Film Favorite - Male)||
|1966||Golden Globe Award||Best Motion Picture Actor - Drama||The Agony and the Ecstasy||Nominated|
|1968||Golden Globe Award||Best Motion Picture Actor - Musical/Comedy||Dr. Dolittle||Nominated|
|1964||Laurel Awards||Top Male Dramatic Performance||Cleopatra||Nominated|
|1965||Laurel Awards||Male Star||
|1965||Laurel Awards||Musical Performance, Male||My Fair Lady||Won|
|1966||Laurel Awards||Male Star||
|1966||Laurel Awards||Dramatic Performance, Male||The Agony and the Ecstasy||Nominated|
|1963||National Board of Review||Best Actor||Cleopatra||Won|
|1964||New York Film Critics Circle Awards||Best Actor||My Fair Lady||Won|
|1949||Tony Award||Best Actor (Dramatic)||Anne of the Thousand Days||Won|
|1957||Tony Award||Best Actor in a Musical||My Fair Lady||Won|
|1969||Tony Award||Special Tony Award||
|1984||Tony Award||Best Actor (Dramatic)||Heartbreak House||Nominated|
- Harrison, Red (1991). A Damned Serious Business: My Life in Comedy. ISBN 0-553-07341-9
- Garland, Patrick (1998). The Incomparable Rex. (1998) ISBN 0-333-71796-1
- Thomas, Nick (2011). Raised by the Stars: Interviews with 29 Children of Hollywood Actors. McFarland. ISBN 978-0-7864-6403-6. (Includes an interview with Harrison’s son, Carey)
- Derry House, Huyton: Aaronson, Charles S, ed. 1969 International Television Almanac, Quigley Publications, New York, USA
- "(Sir) Rex Harrison". filmreference.com.
- (Harrison 1975, pp. 16, 122)
- Sir Rex Harrison Biography at Biography.com
- "The Love of Four Colonels". ibdb.com. Retrieved 2009-10-01.
- Harris, Mark (2008). Pictures at a Revolution. The Penguin Press. p. 131.
- (Harrison 1975, p. 155)
- (Harrison 1975, pp. 242–243)
- (Harrison 1975, pp. 133–134)
- Smith, J. Y. (3 June 1990). "Rex Harrison, 82, Dies; Star of `My Fair Lady'". The Washington Post. pp. c. 07.
- (Hadleigh 2001, p. 91)
- (Golden 2002, p. 74)
- (Fleming 2004, p. 223)
- Mosby, Aline (July 6, 1948). "Carole Landis Mystery Death Clues Hunted". Oakland Tribune. p. 1.
- (Donnelley 2003, p. 445)
- (Parish 2007, p. 34)
- (Golden 2002, p. 155)
- Pace, Eric (1990-06-03). "Rex Harrison, a Leading Man With Urbane Wit, Dies at 82". The New York Times. p. 2. Retrieved 2009-05-12.
- Wapshott, Nicholas (1991). Rex Harrison: A Biography. Chatto & Windus. p. 327.
- Rich, Frank (1989-11-21). "Review/Theater; Rex Harrison Back on Broadway". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-05-12.
- "Coming Full `Circle`". Chicago Tribune. 1989-06-29. Retrieved 2012-06-17.
- Treadwell, David (1989-12-15). "COLUMN ONE : Culture in the South Rises Again". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-06-17.
- Pace, Eric (1990-06-03). "Rex Harrison, a Leading Man With Urbane Wit, Dies at 82". The New York Times. p. 1. Retrieved 2009-05-12.
- Dean, John (November 1, 2008). "Seth MacFarlane’s $2 Billion Family Guy Empire". Fox Business. Retrieved August 24, 2009.
- Franklin, Nancy (January 16, 2006). "American Idiots". The New Yorker.
- Donnelley, Paul (2003). Fade To Black: A Book Of Movie Obituaries (2 ed.). Omnibus Press. ISBN 0-7119-9512-5
- Fleming, E. J. (2004). The Fixers: Eddie Mannix, Howard Strickling, and The MGM Publicity Machine. McFarland. pp. 223. ISBN 0-7864-2027-8
- Golden, Eve; Kendall, Kim Elizabeth (2002). The Brief, Badcap Life of Kay Kendall. University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 0-8131-2251-1
- Hadleigh, Boze (2001). The Lavender Screen: The Gay and Lesbian Films - Their Stars, Directors, and Critics (3 ed.) Citadel Press. ISBN 0-8065-2199-6
- Harris, Mark (2008). Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood. The Penguin Press. ISBN 0-143-11503-0
- Harrison, Rex (1975). Rex: An Autobiography. William Morrow. ISBN 0-688-02881-0
- Parish, James Robert (2007). The Hollywood Book of Extravagance: The Totally Infamous, Mostly Disastrous, and Always Compelling Excesses of America's Film and TV Idols. John Wiley and Sons. ISBN 0-470-05205-8
- Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. ISBN 1-904994-10-5
- Wapshott, Nicholas (1991). Rex Harrison: A Biography (1st ed.) Chatto & Windus. ISBN 0-701-13764-9
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Rex Harrison|
- Rex Harrison at the Internet Broadway Database
- Selected performances in Theatre Archive University of Bristol
- Rex Harrison at the Internet Movie Database
- Rex Harrison at the TCM Movie Database
- Rex Harrison at the British Film Institute's Screenonline