Sir Reginald Carey Harrison (5 March 1908 – 2 June 1990), known as Rex Harrison, was an English actor of stage and screen. Harrison began his career on the stage in 1924. He won his first Tony Award for his performance as Henry VIII in the play 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 both a Golden Globe Award and Academy Award for Best Actor.
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 played the title role of the English doctor who talks to animals, 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 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.
Harrison at his home in London in 1976, by Allan Warren
Reginald Carey Harrison
5 March 1908
|Died||2 June 1990 (aged 82)|
(m. 1934; div. 1942)
(m. 1943; div. 1957)
(m. 1957; d. 1959)
(m. 1962; div. 1971)
(m. 1971; div. 1975)
|Relatives||Cathryn Harrison (granddaughter)|
Harrison was born at Derry House in Huyton, Lancashire, the son of Edith Mary (née Carey) and William Reginald Harrison, a cotton broker. He was 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 at the Shubert Theatre as Henry VIII in Maxwell Anderson's play Anne of the Thousand Days and international superstardom (and a second Tony) 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 eponymous Broadway production (which in turn 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 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 re-recorded 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 any objective standards 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 opposite Richard Burton as two ageing homosexuals 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; they later appeared together in numerous plays and films, including The Four Poster.
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. Harrison and Palmer divorced in 1957.
In 1957, Harrison married the actress Kay Kendall. Kendall died of myeloid leukaemia in 1959. Terence Rattigan's 1973 play In Praise of Love was written about the end of this marriage, and Harrison appeared 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." Critics however were quite pleased with the performance and although it did not have a long run, it was yet another of Harrison's well-plotted naturalistic performances.
He was subsequently married to Welsh-born actress Rachel Roberts from 1962 to 1971. In 1980, despite his having married twice since their divorce, Roberts made a final attempt to win Harrison back, which proved to be futile; she committed suicide that same year.
Harrison then married Elizabeth Rees-Williams, divorcing in 1975, and finally in 1978, Mercia Tinker, who would become his sixth and final wife. Harrison's eldest son Noel Harrison became an Olympic skier, singer and occasional actor; he toured in several productions including My Fair Lady in his father's award-winning role. Noel died suddenly of a heart attack on 19 October 2013 at age 79. Rex's younger son Carey Harrison is a playwright and social activist.
Harrison's sister Sylvia was married to David Maxwell Fyfe, a lawyer, Conservative politician and judge who was successively the lead British prosecutor at Nuremberg, Home Secretary and Lord Chancellor (head of the English judiciary); after his death she married another Cabinet minister, Lord de la Warr.
Chronology of Harrison's six marriages:
Having retired from films after 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 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 1989/90, he appeared on Broadway in The Circle by W. Somerset Maugham, opposite Glynis Johns, Stewart Granger, and Roma Downey. The production 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 from the effects of pancreatic cancer at his home in Manhattan, New York City, on 2 June 1990 at the age of 82. He had only been diagnosed with the disease a short time before. The stage production in which he was appearing at the time, The Circle, came to an end upon his death.
His body was cremated, some of his ashes being subsequently scattered in Portofino, and the rest being scattered at his second wife Lilli Palmer's grave at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California, in the Commemoration section, Map 1, Lot 4066, Space 2.
Harrison's second autobiography, A Damned Serious Business: My Life in Comedy (ISBN 0553073419), was published posthumously in 1991.
Rex Harrison has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, one at 6906 Hollywood Boulevard for his contribution to films, and the other at 6380 Hollywood Boulevard for his contribution to television. Harrison is also a member of the American Theater Hall of Fame. He was inducted in 1979.
Due to his association with the checked wool hat, which he wore both in the Broadway and film versions of My Fair Lady, the style of headware was often named "The Rex Harrison."
|1930||The Great Game||George|
|The School for Scandal||Bit Part||Uncredited|
|1934||Get Your Man||Tom Jakes|
|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|
|School for Husbands||Leonard Drummond|
|1938||Sidewalks of London, also known as St. Martin's Lane||Harley Prentiss|
|The Citadel||Dr. Frederick Lawford|
|1939||Over the Moon||Dr. Freddie Jarvis|
|The Silent Battle||Jacques Sauvin|
|1940||Ten Days in Paris||Bob Stevens|
|Night Train to Munich||Gus Bennett / "Dickie Randall"|
|1941||Major Barbara||Adolphus Cusins|
|1945||Blithe Spirit||Charles Condomine|
|I Live in Grosvenor Square||Major David Bruce|
|The Rake's Progress||Vivian Kenway|
|1946||Anna and the King of Siam||King Mongkut||Nominated – New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor|
|1947||The Ghost and Mrs. Muir||Captain Daniel Gregg|
|The Foxes of Harrow||Stephen Fox|
|Unfaithfully Yours||Sir Alfred De Carter|
|1951||The Long Dark Hall||Arthur Groome|
|1952||The Four Poster||John Edwards|
|1953||Main Street to Broadway||Himself|
|1954||King Richard and the Crusaders||Emir Hderim Sultan Saladin|
|1955||The Constant Husband||William Egerton|
|1958||The Reluctant Debutante||Jimmy Broadbent|
|1960||Midnight Lace||Anthony "Tony" Preston|
|1961||The Happy Thieves||Jimmy Bourne|
|1963||Cleopatra||Julius Caesar||National Board of Review Award for Best Actor|
Nominated – Academy Award for Best Actor
Nominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama
Nominated – Laurel Award for Top Male Dramatic Performance
|1964||My Fair Lady||Professor Henry Higgins||Academy Award for Best Actor|
David di Donatello Award for Best Foreign Actor
Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
Laurel Award for Top Male Musical Performance
New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor
Nominated – BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role
|The Yellow Rolls-Royce||Lord Charles Frinton – The Marquess of Frinton|
|1965||The Agony and the Ecstasy||Pope Julius II||Nominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama|
Nominated – Laurel Award for Top Male Dramatic Performance
|1967||The Honey Pot||Cecil Sheridan Fox|
|Doctor Dolittle||Dr. John Dolittle||Nominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy|
|1968||A Flea in Her Ear||Victor Chandebisse / Poche|
|1977||Crossed Swords||The Duke of Norfolk|
|1978||Shalimar||Sir John Locksley|
|The Fifth Musketeer||Colbert|
|1982||A Time to Die||Van Osten|
|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
|1983||The Kingfisher||Cecil||TV film|
|1985||Heartbreak House||Captain Shotover||TV film|
|1986||Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna||Grand Duke Cyril Romanov||TV film, (final film role)|
|1952||Philip Morris Playhouse||episode: The Gioconda Smile|
|1952||Theatre Guild on the Air||episode: An Ideal Husband|
|4–25 March 1936||Sweet Aloes||Tubbs Barrow|
|8 December 1948 – 8 October 1949||Anne of the Thousand Days||Henry||Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play|
|14 November 1950 – 2 June 1951||Bell, Book and Candle||Shepherd Henderson|
|13 February – 26 April 1952||Venus Observed||Hereward|
|15 January – 16 May 1953||The Love of Four Colonels||The Man|
|15 March 1956 – 29 September 1962||My Fair Lady||Henry Higgins||Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical|
|8 December 1959 – 20 February 1960||The Fighting Cock||The General|
|28 March – 28 April 1973||The Living Mask||Henry IV|
|10 December 1974 – 31 May 1975||In Praise of Love||Sebastian Cruttwell|
|1976||Monsieur Perichon's Travels||Eugène Labiche & Edouard Martin|
|24 February – 5 March 1977||Caesar and Cleopatra||Julius Caesar|
|6 December 1978 – 13 May 1979||The Kingfisher||Cecil|
|18 August – 29 November 1981||My Fair Lady||Henry Higgins|
|7 December 1983 – 5 February 1984||Heartbreak House||Captain Shotover||Nominated – Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actor in a Play|
Nominated – Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play
|29 April – 21 July 1985||Aren't We All?||Lord Grenham||Drama Desk Special Award|
|20 November 1989 – 20 May 1990||The Circle||Lord Porteous|
|1951||The Private Files of Rex Saunders||Main Role|
|1953||Star Playhouse||No Time for Comedy|
|1953||Star Playhouse||Twentieth Century|
The 27th Annual Tony Awards ceremony was held on March 25, 1973, at the Imperial Theatre in New York City, and broadcast by ABC television. Hosts were Rex Harrison, Celeste Holm and co-hosts were Sandy Duncan and Jerry Orbach.Cleopatra (1963 film)
Cleopatra is a 1963 American epic historical drama film directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, with a screenplay adapted by Mankiewicz, Ranald MacDougall and Sidney Buchman from the book The Life and Times of Cleopatra by Carlo Maria Franzero, and from histories by Plutarch, Suetonius, and Appian. It stars Elizabeth Taylor in the eponymous role. Richard Burton, Rex Harrison, Roddy McDowall, and Martin Landau are featured in supporting roles. It chronicles the struggles of Cleopatra, the young Queen of Egypt, to resist the imperial ambitions of Rome.
The film achieved notoriety during its production for its massive cost overruns and production troubles, which included changes in director and cast, a change of filming locale, sets that had to be constructed twice, lack of a firm shooting script, and personal scandal around co-stars Taylor and Burton. It was the most expensive film ever made up to that point and almost bankrupted 20th Century Fox.
Cleopatra was the highest-grossing film of 1963, earning box-office of $57.7 million in the United States and Canada (equivalent to $472 million in 2018), yet lost money due to its production and marketing costs of $44 million (equivalent to $360 million in 2018), making it the only film ever to be the highest-grossing film of the year to run at a loss. It received nine nominations at the 36th Academy Awards, including for Best Picture, and won four: Best Production Design (Color), Best Cinematography (Color), Best Visual Effects and Best Costume Design (Color).Get Your Man (1934 film)
Get Your Man is a 1934 British comedy film directed by George King and starring Dorothy Boyd, Sebastian Shaw and Clifford Heatherley. It is based on the play Tu m'epouseras by Louis Verneuil. It features the second screen appearance of future star Rex Harrison.Honeypot
Honeypot may refer to:
A vessel (especially one made of pottery) for storing honey
Honeypot ant, various ant species and their individual members
Honeypot, flowering plant Protea cynaroides
Metaphors evoking the use of honey as bait in a trap:
Honey trapping, presenting romantic or sexual opportunity, as bait or as continuing motivation
Espionage using sexual/romantic "bait":
Honeypot (computing), target presented to elicit hacking attempts
Honeypot (tourism), particularly popular venue
The Honey Pot (1967), film starring Rex Harrison and Susan Hayward
"Honeypot" (2009), season 1 episode of animated TV series Archer
"Honeypot", by Beat Happening on their eponymous album
"Honeypot", by Rebelution on Peace of Mind albumI Live in Grosvenor Square
I Live in Grosvenor Square is a British World War II romance directed and produced by Herbert Wilcox. It was the first of Wilcox's "London films" collaboration with his wife, actress Anna Neagle. Her co-stars were Dean Jagger and Rex Harrison. The plot is set in a context of US-British wartime co-operation, and displays icons of popular music with the purpose of harmonising relationships on both sides of the Atlantic. An edited version was distributed in the United States, with two additional scenes filmed in Hollywood, under the title A Yank in London.Major Barbara (film)
Major Barbara is a 1941 British film starring Wendy Hiller and Rex Harrison. The film was produced and directed by Gabriel Pascal and edited by David Lean. It was adapted for the screen by Marjorie Deans and Anatole de Grunwald, based on the 1905 stage play Major Barbara by George Bernard Shaw. It was both a critical and financial success.Men Are Not Gods
Men Are Not Gods is a 1936 British film starring Miriam Hopkins and co-starring Gertrude Lawrence, Sebastian Shaw and Rex Harrison. It was a success in the UK when released largely due to the popularity of the two female stars Hopkins and Lawrence. This also brought to attention the talents of Rex Harrison who made his breakthrough into Hollywood not too long after this film. Gertrude Lawrence, although not so much a movie actress, was at the peak of her stage career when this film was released and her performance was praised.My Fair Lady
My Fair Lady is a musical based on George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion, with book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner and music by Frederick Loewe. The story concerns Eliza Doolittle, a Cockney flower girl who takes speech lessons from professor Henry Higgins, a phoneticist, so that she may pass as a lady. The original Broadway and London shows starred Rex Harrison and Julie Andrews.
The musical's 1956 Broadway production was a notable critical and popular success. It set a record for the longest run of any show on Broadway up to that time. It was followed by a hit London production, a popular film version, and many revivals. My Fair Lady has been called "the perfect musical".My Fair Lady (Broadway cast recording)
The Broadway cast recording of the musical My Fair Lady was released as an album on April 2, 1956. The songs were composed by Frederick Loewe with lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner and conducted by Franz Allers, while the cast included stars Julie Andrews and Rex Harrison. The album became a massive seller, topping the charts on the US Billboard 200 for fifteen weeks at different times in 1956 (eight consecutive weeks), 1957, 1958 and 1959. In the UK, upon its release in 1958, the album reached No.1 for 19 consecutive weeks and became the biggest-selling album of the year. The album was released on Columbia Records, whose President, Goddard Lieberson provided the $375,000 needed to stage the show in return for the rights to the Cast recording. The album was later re-issued on Compact disc in 1988 and has been re-released a number of times since. It is currently available with bonus tracks.
The original cast recording had the (currently in 2018) 5th longest run ever for any album in the Billboard 200 charts with 480 weeks.
The leads of the Broadway cast re-recorded their parts for the London cast recording, which was made in stereo in 1959.My Fair Lady (film)
My Fair Lady is a 1964 American musical drama film adapted from the Lerner and Loewe eponymous stage musical based on the 1913 stage play Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw. With a screenplay by Alan Jay Lerner and directed by George Cukor, the film depicts a poor Cockney flower seller named Eliza Doolittle who overhears an arrogant phonetics professor, Henry Higgins, as he casually wagers that he could teach her to speak "proper" English, thereby making her presentable in the high society of Edwardian London.
The film stars Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Doolittle and Rex Harrison as Henry Higgins, with Stanley Holloway, Gladys Cooper and Wilfrid Hyde-White in supporting roles. A critical and commercial success, it won eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Director. In 1998, the American Film Institute named it the 91st greatest American film of all time. In 2006 it was ranked eighth in the AFI's Greatest Movie Musicals list.
In 2018, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."Night Train to Munich
Night Train to Munich is a 1940 British thriller film directed by Carol Reed and starring Margaret Lockwood and Rex Harrison. Written by Sidney Gilliat and Frank Launder, based on the novel Report on a Fugitive by Gordon Wellesley, the film is about an inventor and his daughter who are kidnapped by the Gestapo after the Nazis march into Prague in the prelude to the Second World War. A British secret service agent follows them, disguised as a senior German army officer pretending to woo the daughter over to the Nazi cause.Over the Moon (film)
Over the Moon is a 1939 British Technicolor comedy film directed by Thornton Freeland and starring Merle Oberon, Rex Harrison, Ursula Jeans and Herbert Lomas.Sidewalks of London
Sidewalks of London, also known as St. Martin's Lane, London After Dark, and Partners of the Night, is a 1938 British, black-and-white, comedy drama starring Charles Laughton as a busker or street entertainer who teams up with a talented pickpocket, played by Vivien Leigh. The film co-stars Rex Harrison and Tyrone Guthrie in a rare acting appearance. It also features Ronald Shiner as the barman (uncredited). It was produced by Mayflower Pictures Corporation.The Agony and the Ecstasy (film)
The Agony and the Ecstasy is a 1965 American film directed by Carol Reed, starring Charlton Heston as Michelangelo and Rex Harrison as Pope Julius II. The film was partly based on Irving Stone's biographical novel The Agony and the Ecstasy. This film deals with the conflicts of Michelangelo and Pope Julius II during the painting of the Sistine Chapel's ceiling. It also features a soundtrack co-written by prolific composers Alex North and Jerry Goldsmith.The film was shot in Todd-AO and Cinemascope versions. The Todd-AO version was used for the DVD release because of its superior picture quality.The Constant Husband
The Constant Husband is a 1955 British comedy film, directed by Sidney Gilliat and starring Rex Harrison, Margaret Leighton, Kay Kendall, Cecil Parker, George Cole and Raymond Huntley. The story was written by Gilliat together with Val Valentine, and the film was produced by Individual Pictures, Gilliat's and Frank Launder's joint production company. Because the film got caught up in the 1954 bankruptcy of British Lion Film Corporation, it wasn't released until more than seven months after it had been finished and reviewed by the British Board of Film Censors.The Fighting Cock
The Fighting Cock is a 1963 Australian TV play. It is an adaptation of a play by Jean Anouilh whose original French title was L'Hurluberlu. In English, it had a run on Broadway, starring Rex Harrison.The Foxes of Harrow
The Foxes of Harrow is a 1947 adventure film directed by John M. Stahl. The film stars Rex Harrison, Maureen O'Hara and Richard Haydn.
The film was nominated an Academy Award for Best Art Direction (Lyle R. Wheeler, Maurice Ransford, Thomas Little, Paul S. Fox).The Happy Thieves
The Happy Thieves is a 1961 American crime/comedy-drama film starring Rex Harrison and Rita Hayworth and directed by George Marshall. The film is based on the novel The Oldest Confession by Richard Condon. The film was poorly received, with star Harrison later describing it as "absolute rubbish".Unfaithfully Yours (1948 film)
Unfaithfully Yours is a 1948 American screwball black comedy written and directed by Preston Sturges and starring Rex Harrison, Linda Darnell, Rudy Vallée and Barbara Lawrence. The film is about a man's failed attempt to murder his wife, who he believes has been unfaithful to him. Although the film, which was the first of two Sturges made for Twentieth Century-Fox, received mostly positive reviews, it was not successful at the box office.
Awards for Rex Harrison