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About Sir Rex Harrison
Sir Reginald Carey "Rex" Harrison (5 March 1908 – 2 June 1990) was an English actor of stage and screen. Harrison won an Academy Award and two Tony Awards.
Youth and stage career
Harrison was born 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, in which 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 a highly paid 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), and 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 film version of his stage success, 1964 film version of My Fair Lady, based on the Broadway production of the same name (which itself 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. Harrison was not by general terms a singer; thus, the music was generally written to allow for long periods of recitative, generally identified as "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. His son, Noel, coincidentally sang the 1968 Oscar winner, "The Windmills of Your Mind".
Although excelling in comedy (Noël Coward described him thus: "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.He also appeared 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 surrounding Landis' death briefly damaged his career and his contract with Fox was ended by mutual consent.
Harrison and Lilli Palmer divorced in 1957. That same year, Harrison married actress Kay Kendall. Kendall died of leukemia in 1959. He was subsequently married to Welsh-born Rachel Roberts from 1962 to 1971 (Roberts committed suicide in 1980). Harrison then married Elizabeth Rees-Williams and, finally, Mercia Tinker, who would become his widow in 1990.
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)
Grandchildren Granddaughters: Cathryn, Harriott, Chloe, Chiara, Rosie, Faith
Grandsons: Will, Simon, Sam
Having retired from films in the late 1970s, Harrison continued to act on Broadway 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 Capt. Shotover in the revivial 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 1990 he appeared on Broadway in The Circle by W. Somerset Maugham, opposite Glynis Johns and Stewart Granger.
He died of pancreatic cancer at his home in Manhattan on June 2, 1990, aged 82. He had been diagnosed with the disease only a short time earlier. His death ended the stage production in which he was appearing at the time, The Circle.
Harrison's second autobiography, A Damned Serious Business: My Life in Comedy (ISBN 0553073419), was published posthumously in 1991.
Honours and legacy
On 25 July 1989 Harrison was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace. An orchestra played the music of songs from My Fair Lady.
Rex Harrison has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame: one at 6906 Hollywood Boulevard for his contribution to motion pictures, and another at 6380 Hollywood Boulevard for his contribution to the television industry.
Due to his association with the checked wool hat he wore in the Broadway and film versions of My Fair Lady, that style of headware was offcially named "The Rex Harrison".
Seth MacFarlane, the creator of the animated series Family Guy, modeled the voice of the character Stewie Griffin after Harrison, after seeing him in the film adaptation of My Fair Lady.
Awards and nominations
- Updated from MyHeritage Family Trees via ex-wife Lilli Marie Peiser Palmer - Thompson (born Peiser) by SmartCopy: Oct 18 2014, 17:57:48 UTC