Julia Ann "Julie" Harris (born December 2, 1925) is an American stage, screen, and television actress. She has won five Tony Awards, threeEmmy Awards and a Grammy Award, and was nominated for an Academy Award. In 1994, she was awarded the National Medal of Arts. She is a member of the American Theatre Hall of Fame and received the 2002 Special Lifetime Achievement Tony Award.
Harris's screen debut was in 1952, repeating her Broadway success as the monumentally lonely teenage girl Frankie in Carson McCullers' The Member of the Wedding, for which she was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress. That film also preserves the original Broadway cast performances of Ethel Waters and Brandon DeWilde. That same year, she won her first Best Actress Tony for originating the role of insouciant Sally Bowles in I Am a Camera, the stage version of Christopher Isherwood's Goodbye to Berlin (later musicalized as Cabaret on Broadway in 1966 and, in the 1972 film, with Liza Minnelli as Sally Bowles.) Harris repeated her stage role in the film version of I Am a Camera(1955). She also appeared in such films as East of Eden (also 1955), with James Dean (with whom she became close friends), Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962), with Paul Newman in the private-detective film Harper (1966), and Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967).
With James Dean in East of Eden
Harris played the ethereal Eleanor Lance in The Haunting (1963), director Robert Wise's screen adaptation of a novel by Shirley Jackson, a classic film of the horror genre. Another cast member recalled Harris maintaining a social distance from the other actors while not on set, later explaining that she had done so as a method of emphasizing the alienation from the other characters experienced by her character in the film.
She reprised her Tony-winning role as Mary Todd Lincoln in 1973's play The Last of Mrs. Lincoln in the film version, which appeared in 1976. Another noteworthy film appearance was in the World War IIdrama The Hiding Place (1975).
Harris has received ten Tony Award nominations, more than any other performer. She also held the record for most Tony wins (five) until Angela Lansbury tied her in 2009. Lansbury and Audra McDonald are the only other performers to have had five acting Tony Award wins. In 1966, Harris won theSarah Siddons Award for her work in Chicago theatre. Her Broadway credits include The Playboy of the Western World, Macbeth, The Member of the Wedding, A Shot in the Dark, Skyscraper, And Miss Reardon Drinks a Little, Forty Carats, The Glass Menagerie, A Doll's House, and The Gin Game.
President George W. Bush and Laura Bush pose with theKennedy Center honorees, from left to right, actress Julie Harris, actor Robert Redford, singer Tina Turner, ballet dancer Suzanne Farrell and singer Tony Bennett on December 4, 2005, during the reception in the Blue Room at the White House.
Of particular note is her Tony-winning performance in The Belle of Amherst, a one-woman play (written by William Luce and directed by Charles Nelson Reilly) based on the life and poetry ofEmily Dickinson. She received a Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Recording for the audio recording of the play. She first performed the play in 1976 and subsequently appeared in other solo shows, including Luce's Bronte.
On television, she is known for her role as Lilimae Clements, the mother of Valene Ewing (played by Joan Van Ark) on the CBS nighttimesoap opera Knots Landing. The role was as a recurring character from 1980 to 1981 and as a series regular from 1981-1987. For her television work, Harris has won three Emmy Awards and has been nominated eleven times. One of her most famous television roles was as Queen Victoria, in the 1961 Hallmark Hall of Fame production of Laurence Housman's Victoria Regina, for which she won an Emmy. Earlier, also for the Hallmark Hall of Fame, she starred as Nora Helmer opposite Christopher Plummer in A Doll's House (1959), a 90-minute television adaptation of Ibsen's play. She made more appearances in leading roles on the Hallmark program than any other actress, also appearing in two different adaptations of the play Little Moon of Alban.
On December 5, 2005, she was named a Kennedy Center Honoree. At a White House ceremony, President George W. Bush remarked, "It's hard to imagine the American stage without the face, the voice, and the limitless talent of Julie Harris. She has found happiness in her life's work, and we thank her for sharing that happiness with the whole world."
Harris continues to work, recently narrating five historical documentaries by Christopher Seufert and Mooncusser Films, as well as being active as a director on the board of the independentWellfleet Harbor Actors Theater. She has also done extensive voice work for documentary maker Ken Burns, in doing the voices of Emily Warren Roebling in Brooklyn Bridge, Ann Lee in The Shakers: Hands to Work, Hearts to God, Susan B. Anthony in Not For Ourselves Alone: Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony and most notably as Southern diarist Mary Boykin Chesnut for Burns' 1990 series The Civil War.
In the summer of 2008, Ms. Harris appeared on-stage again in her hometown of Chatham as Nanny in Monomoy Theater production of The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds.
Harris was born Julia Ann Harris in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, the daughter of Elsie L. (née Smith), a nurse, and William Pickett Harris, an investment banker. She graduated from Grosse Pointe Country Day School, a school that later merged with two others to form the University Liggett School. In New York City she attended The Hewitt School.
Harris currently lives in Chatham, Cape Cod, Massachusetts and until recently, maintained a residence in the Detroit area near to where she grew up. Thrice divorced, she has one son, Peter Gurian. Harris has survived breast cancer, a severe fall requiring surgery, and a stroke in 2001.