Rosemary Harris

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Rosemary Harris (2007)

Rosemary Ann Harris (born September 19, 1927 in Ashby , Suffolk , England ) is a British actress . In addition to a successful seven-decade career on stage, she has appeared in over 50 film and television roles since the early 1950s. She received a Tony Award for her theater work, and her performances in film and television earned her an Emmy , a Golden Globe Award and an Oscar nomination.


Education and Broadway debut

Harris was born in 1927 (according to other information 1930) to Stafford Berkley Harris and his wife Enid Maude Frances in the English county of Suffolk. A short time later, the family moved to India , where Harris grew up until she was six. After graduating from school, she first prepared for a professional career as a nurse before abandoning her plans and switching to acting. In 1948 the charismatic actress made her stage debut in the play Winter Sunshine , in which she only had to perform a single sentence. From 1951 to 1952 Rosemary Harris studied at the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London , where she received the Bancroft Gold Medal for her performance in Washington Irving's The Heiress at the end of her training . In 1951 Harris made her television debut in the United States with Cradle of Willow . A short time later she made her theatrical debut on Broadway in New York in Moss Hart's piece Climate of Eden (1952), in which she was hailed by critics as "the most beautiful girl on Broadway". Although the acting company received the Theater World Award , the play was only performed twenty times. Harris returned to her native England after the theater was closed and made her debut in London's West End in the British premiere of The Seven Year Itch (1952), which was performed for a year at the Aldwych Theater. The play was made into a movie by Billy Wilder two years later under the title The Seven Year Itch , in which Marilyn Monroe Harris' part took over.

From 1954 to 1955, Rosemary Harris was a member of the Bristol Old Vic . Here she was seen as Beatrice in William Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing and as Elizabeth Proctor in Arthur Miller's Witch Hunt . After the Bristol season, Harris moved to the renowned Old Vic Theater in London. Here she was seen as Desdemona together with Richard Burton in a production of Othello . This was followed by the female title role of Cressida in the Shakespearean comedy Troilus and Cressida , which is about the long siege of Troy , directed by Tyrone Guthrie . She repeated this role in December 1956 when the Old Vic Company briefly performed the play on New York's Broadway.

At the end of the theater season, Harris decided to stay in New York. 1957 followed more roles on American television, including three episodes in Alfred Hitchcock's television series Alfred Hitchcock Presents and the television production of Hitchcock's Suspicion at The Kraft Television Theater . 1958 followed another Broadway appearance with the piece Interlock , in which Harris acted on the side of Celeste Holm at the ANTA Playhouse. The play met with little success with audiences and critics and was only performed four times. This was followed by the piece The Disenchanted from 1958 to 1959 , in which she was seen at the side of Jason Robards . The television productions in which she took part in 1958 included, among others, the lead roles in the NBC films Dial M For Murder , which had been filmed four years earlier with Grace Kelly in the lead role, and the part of Cathy in Wuthering Heights , where she in turn acted on the side of Richard Burton.

Success with "The Lion in Winter"

Harris at the Chichester Festival Theater in July 1962

In 1959 Harris met the three years younger American actor Ellis Rabb , who dreamed of his own theater company. Both married in December 1959, and Rabb founded the APT (The Association of Producing Artists) with her. In the years that followed, Harris became an enormously popular and versatile actress on both sides of the Atlantic, who won over audiences and critics in both classical and modern theater roles. In 1963 the actress returned to England and became a member of Laurence Oliviers National Theater Company , in which she acted in Hamlet as Ophelia at the side of Peter O'Toole and also as Ilyena and Laurence Olivier in Uncle Vanya . While she appeared in many APT productions during this time, 1966 marked one of her greatest successes. In the play The Lion in Winter by James Goldman , she played the leading female role of Eleanor of Aquitaine at the premiere on New York's Broadway . The intrigue at the English royal court around 1183 brought her a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play. The Lion in Winter was filmed two years later by Anthony Harvey with Peter O'Toole, Anthony Hopkins and Katharine Hepburn , with Hepburn taking over the part of Harris, for which she was awarded an Oscar .

The great success with The Lion in Winter was followed by a break with her husband Ellis Rabb, who portrayed her as Natasha in War and Peace in one of the last ATP plays . They divorced in 1967, and that same year, Rosemary Harris married on October 21, two years older American writer and screenwriter John Ehle . She traveled with him to London in the spring of 1969, where she starred in Neil Simon's play Plaza Suite next to Paul Rogers and won the prestigious Evening Standard Award for it before returning to the United States. After the birth of their daughter Jennifer , Harris continued to enjoy success on stage in both classic and modern roles. Important stage roles in her career include the headstrong Anna in Harold Pinter's Alte Zeiten (1971); in The Royal Family (1975); the role of a simple English housewife who exposes her neighbors as spies in A Pile of Lies (1985); the mother of a diabetic (played by Joely Richardson ) in Steel Magnolias (1991); the feisty grandmother in Neil Simon's Lost in Younkers (1992); the frustrated and snobbish wife in An Inspector Comes (1994) and the complacent Agnes in Edward Albee's Delicate Balance (1996).

After the success of A Lion in Winter , she was nominated seven more times for best actress for the important US theater award, the Tony Award . Her record of three nominations in a row (1984–1986) has not yet been set by any other theater actor. When she was last nominated for Best Actress in 2000 for Waiting in the Wings , she had to admit defeat to her daughter Jennifer Ehle , who also switched to acting. Two years later, Harris received an Obie Award for her role in the off-Broadway play All Over . In 2010 her portrayal of Fanny Cavendish in the revival of George S. Kaufmans and Edna Ferbers The Royal Family earned her another Tony nomination for Best Supporting Actress .

Film career

Harris always subordinated her film career to her work in the theater, but she played in almost fifty film and television productions during her almost sixty-year acting career. She made her film debut in 1954 with the supporting role of Mrs. Fitzherbert in Curtis Bernhardt's drama Beau Brummell - Rebel and Seducer at the side of Stewart Granger , Peter Ustinov and Elizabeth Taylor . She made her US film debut in 1968 in Jacques Charon's comedy A Flea in the Ear , which is based on the play of the same name by Georges Feydeau , and in which she suspects her film husband Rex Harrison to be entertaining a secret affair. Harris' better-known works include the seven-part BBC TV miniseries Notorious Woman (1974), in which she played the French writer George Sand . For the series broadcast as part of the television series Masterpiece Theater , she received the most important US television award Emmy . In 1978, Marvin J. Chomsky's TV mini-series Holocaust - The History of the White Family followed , in which Harris, alongside James Woods , Meryl Streep and Ian Holm, was the aristocratic Berta Palitz-Weiß , the female head of a Jewish - German family of doctors whose members almost all fell victim to the Holocaust . For her role, Harris received a Golden Globe and an Emmy nomination in 1979 .

After her appearances in Franklin J. Schaffner's thriller The Boys from Brazil (1978) and in the television mini-series The Long Trek (1979/80), about a pioneering family in Virginia around 1844, another supporting role followed in Richard Eyres political drama The Poughman's Lunch (1983) in which she acted alongside Jonathan Pryce and Tim Curry . She experienced the greatest success of her film career so far with another supporting role; in Brian Gilbert's biopic Tom & Viv , in which she acted alongside Miranda Richardson and Willem Dafoe as the mother of TS Eliot's insane wife. For this, Harris received critical acclaim, the National Board of Review Award and was also nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for the first and only time in her career in 1995 . In 1999 Harris acted alongside her daughter Jennifer Ehle in István Szabós A Touch of Sunshine . In the generation portrait of a Hungarian- Jewish family, Harris played the role of the matriarch Valerie Sors , while her daughter played the young Valerie . Mother and daughter had previously worked as young and old calypso in Peter Hall's four-part multi -part television series The Camomile Lawn .

The year 2000 brought Harris the collaboration with the American director Sam Raimi , in whose horror film The Gift she had a brief cameo as the grandmother of Cate Blanchett . In 2002, Raimi cast Harris as the feisty Aunt May in the film adaptation of the comic series Spider-Man . The film became a worldwide box office success and made the actress known to a younger audience. Harris then took on the role in the second (2004) as well as in the third part (2007) of the comic saga. 2004 was Harris moreover, again under István Szabó's director, in the drama Being Julia as a mother of Annette Bening as also seen in the TV movie family connection , alongside Brenda Blethyn and Kevin Whately .

Harris lives privately with her second husband John Ehle in Winston-Salem, USA .

Filmography (selection)

Stage plays (selection)



Tony Award

  • 1966: Best Actress in a Play - Drama for The Lion in Winter
  • 1972: Nominated for Best Actress in a Play - Drama for Old Times
  • 1976: Nominated for Best Actress in a Play for The Royal Family
  • 1984: Nominated for Best Actress in a Play for Heartbreak House
  • 1985: Nominated for Best Actress in a Play for Pack of Lies
  • 1986: Nominated for Best Actress in a Play for Hay Fever
  • 1996: Nominated for Best Actress in a Play for A Delicate Balance
  • 2000: Nominated for Best Actress in a Play for Waiting in the Wings
  • 2010: Nominated for Best Supporting Actress in a Play for The Royal Family

Drama Desk Award

  • 1972: Best representation in a play for Old Times
  • 1973: Best representation in a play for The Merchant of Venice and A Streetcar Named Desire
  • 1976: Best Actress in a Play for The Royal Family
  • 1984: Nominated for Best Actress in a Play for Heartbreak House
  • 1985: Best Actress in a Play for Pack of Lies
  • 1996: Nominated for Best Actress in a Play for A Delicate Balance

Obie Award

  • 2003: Best Actress for All Over

Theater World Award

  • 1953: Award for The Climate of Eden

Movie and TV


  • 1995: Nominated for Best Supporting Actress for Tom & Viv

British Academy Film Award

  • 1984: Nominated for Best Supporting Actress for The Plowman's Lunch


  • 1976: Best Actress in a TV Mini-Series for Notorious Woman
  • 1979: Nominated for Best Actress in a TV Mini-Series for Holocaust

Genie Awards

  • 2000: Nominated for Best Lead Actress for Sunshine - A Touch of Sunshine

Golden Globe Award

  • 1976: Nominated for Best Actress in a TV Mini-Series - Drama for Notorious Woman
  • 1979: Best Actress in a TV Mini-Series - Drama for the Holocaust

National Board of Review

  • 1994: Best Supporting Actress for Tom & Viv

Golden Satellite Awards

  • 2001: Best Supporting Actress for Sunshine - A Touch of Sunshine (together with Jennifer Ehle)

Web links

Commons : Rosemary Harris  - Collection of Images

Individual evidence

  1. Entry at