Richard Harris

Richard Harris

72 (passed away Oct. 25th, 2002)
Oct. 1st, 1930
Born in
Limerick, Ireland
6' 1

Richard Harris' Main TV Roles

Show Character(s)
Airport (UK) TV Show
Airport (UK)
Dee Time (UK) TV Show
Dee Time (UK)

Main Movie Roles

Guest TV Roles

[none found]


Richard St John Harris (October 1, 1930 ~ October 25, 2002) was an Irish actor, singer, theatrical producer, film director and writer. He appeared on stage and in many films. Harris had a top ten hit in the UK and the U.S. with his 1968 recording of Jimmy Webb's song "MacArthur Park".

A genuine star of cinema on screen and a fiery hell raiser off screen, Harris was born in Limerick, Ireland, to a farming family. He was an excellent rugby player and had a strong passion for literature. Unfortunately, a bout of tuberculosis as a teenager ended his aspirations to a rugby career, but he became fascinated with the theater and skipped a local dance one night to attend a performance of "Henry IV". He was hooked and went on to learn his craft at The London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, then spent several years in stage productions. He debuted on screen in Alive and Kicking (1959) and quickly scored regular work in films, including The Wreck of the Mary Deare (1959), A Terrible Beauty (1960) and a good role as a frustrated Australian bomber pilot in The Guns of Navarone (1961).

However, his breakthrough performance was as the quintessential "angry young man" in the sensational drama This Sporting Life (1963), which scored him an Oscar nomination. He then appeared in the WW II commando tale The Heroes of Telemark (1965) and in the 'Sam Peckinpah' -directed western Major Dundee (1965). He next showed up in Hawaii (1966) and played King Arthur in Camelot (1967), a lackluster adaptation of the famous Broadway play. Better performances followed, among them a role as a reluctant police informer in The Molly Maguires (1970) alongside Sir 'Sean Connery'. Harris took the lead role in the violent western A Man Called Horse (1970), which became something of a cult film and spawned two sequels.

As the 1970s progressed, Harris continued to appear regularly on screen; however, the quality of the scripts varied from above average to woeful. His credits during this period included directing himself as an aging soccer player in the delightful Bloomfield (1971); the western The Deadly Trackers (1973); the big-budget "disaster" film Juggernaut (1974); the strangely-titled crime film 99 and 44/100% Dead (1974); with Connery again in Robin and Marian (1976); Gulliver's Travels (1977); a part in the Jaws (1975) ripoff Orca (1977) and a nice turn as an ill-fated mercenary with 'Richard Burton' and 'Roger Moore' in the popular action film The Wild Geese (1978).

However, the luck of the Irish was once again to shine on Harris' career and he scored rave reviews (and another Oscar nomination) for The Field (1990). He then locked horns with 'Harrison Ford' as an IRA sympathizer in Patriot Games (1992) and got one of his best roles as gunfighter English Bob in the 'Clint Eastwood' western Unforgiven (1992). Harris was firmly back in vogue and rewarded his fans with more wonderful performances in Wrestling Ernest Hemingway (1993); Cry, the Beloved Country (1995); The Great Kandinsky (1995) and This Is the Sea (1997). Further fortune came his way with a strong performance in the blockbuster Gladiator (2000) and he became known to an entirely new generation of film fans as Albus Dumbledore in the mega-successful Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001) and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002). His final screen role was as "Lucius Sulla" in Julius Caesar (2002).

In 1957, he married Elizabeth Rees-Williams, daughter of David Rees-Williams, 1st Baron Ogmore. Their three children are actor 'Jared Harris', actor 'Jamie Harris' and director Damian Harris. Harris and Rees-Williams divorced in (1969), after which Elizabeth married Rex Harrison.

Harris's second marriage was to the American actress 'Ann Turkel'. This marriage also ended in a divorce.

Harris was diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease in August 2002, reportedly after being hospitalised with pneumonia. He died at University College Hospital, London (October 25, 2002), aged 72, two and a half weeks before the American premiere of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. He had fallen into a coma in his final three days. Harris was a lifelong friend of actor 'Peter O'Toole', and his family reportedly hoped that O'Toole would replace Harris as Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. There were, however, worries of insuring O'Toole for the six remaining films in the series, and he was ultimately replaced as Dumbledore by the Irish-born actor 'Michael Gambon'.

  • Harris did not enjoy his first time in Hollywood making _The Wreck of the Mary Deare (1959)_ (qv). Production had to be halted several times due to the frequent illnesses of its star, 'Gary Cooper (I)' (qv). He turned down the role of Commodus in _The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964)_ (qv) and was thirty-four when he starred in his first Hollywood movie, _Major Dundee (1965)_ (qv).
  • In an interview on _"The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson" (1962)_ (qv), Harris told a story about when he was a young actor playing Seyton in a theatrical production of "Macbeth." The lead actor was a real jerk to him, making constant demeaning references to Harris's Irish heritage. On opening night, Harris couldn't take it anymore. In Act V, Macbeth turns to him and says, "Wherefore was that cry?" Harris was supposed to reply, "The queen, my lord, is dead," after which Macbeth goes into his famous soliloquy about "Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow." However, Harris decided instead to say, "Oh, don't worry. She's fine. She'll be up and about in ten minutes." He ruined the performance and was promptly fired.
  • Both he and his fellow Irish actor (and close friend) 'Peter O'Toole (I)' (qv) appeared in versions of "Gulliver's Travels": Harris played the title character in the 1977 film version _Gulliver's Travels (1977)_ (qv) and O'Toole played the Emperor of Lilliput in the 1996 TV-film version _Gulliver's Travels (1996) (TV)_ (qv), where 'Ted Danson' (qv) played Gulliver.
  • Producers were initially reluctant to cast Harris as King Arthur in _Camelot (1967)_ (qv) due to his limited singing ability. Harris was cast after 'Richard Burton (I)' (qv), who had played the part on Broadway in 1961, demanded too much money. The Irish actor insisted on doing his own singing live and later enjoyed a successful pop career, touring America in 1972.
  • While still a student, he rented the tiny "off-West End" Irving Theatre in London and directed his own production of 'Clifford Odets' (qv)' "Winter Journey (The Country Girl)". The critics approved, but the production used up all his savings and he was forced to sleep in a coal cellar for six weeks.
  • Was knighted by Denmark in 1985.
  • During the 1940s and early 1950s he went to see all the films of 'John Wayne (I)' (qv) and 'Gary Cooper (I)' (qv). Later, however, he described both actors as "pantomine cowboys". The westerns he made, like _Man Called Horse, A (1970)_, were decidedly revisionist in tone.
  • He hated making _Caprice (1967)_ (qv) with 'Doris Day (I)' (qv) so much that he never watched the film.

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