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Broadway legend and actress Julie Harris dies at 87

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
August 26th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Her persona was delicate and fragile, lithe and apologetic . Her technique was proof that less was more, and Julie Harris' affecting manner won her five Tony Awards for Best Actress. Harris has passed away of congestive heart failure at the age of 87.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Called one of American theater's most prolific artists, Harris received the Tony Award for best actress in a play five times. Her ascendancy was challenged by Angela Lansbury and Audra McDonald. She also won a special Lifetime Achievement Tony in 2005. She was nominated for Broadway's highest honor an additional five times.

Her first Tony was in 1952, portraying the legendary Sally Bowles in John Van Druten's "I Am a Camera," based on John Isherwood's "The Berlin Stories," later adapted into the musical "Cabaret." She had previously won acclaim in Carson McCullers' "The Member of the Wedding." In the play, Harris played a lonely 12-year-old tomboy. She reprised her role in the 1952 film adaptation that won her an Oscar nomination.

Harris also won acclaim for her film work in "East of Eden," "Requiem for a Heavyweight" and "Gorillas in the Mist" and numerous TV movies and series, among them the 1980s' nighttime soap "Knots Landing."

Harris' first discipline was the stage, bringing immediacy to roles as diverse as "Cabaret's" fast-living Sally Bowles and Joan of Arc, in "The Lark," for which she earned her second Tony in 1956. Her last two Tonys were also for historical figures, first lady Mary Todd Lincoln and poet Emily Dickinson, in "The Last of Mrs. Lincoln" and "The Belle of Amherst," respectively, in 1973 and 1977.

Frequently on tour, Harris remarked "You always follow the work," she toured in numerous productions, among them "Amherst," "Driving Miss Daisy" and "The Gin Game."

The New Yorker theater critic Hilton Als observed online that Harris "was true to every character she played without sacrificing her thoughts or feelings about them . Harris never charged at the audience with her always-humane interpretations, but she wouldn't let them be ignored, either."

Suffering a stroke in 2001, her ability to speak clearly was impaired. She continued to act regardless, appearing in films such as 2009's "The Lightkeepers" and 2006's "The Way Back Home," in which she played a stroke victim. She also continued to nourish her interest in history and biography, lending her voice to documentaries.

"God comes to us in theater," she was once quoted as saying, "in the way we communicate with each other, whether it be a symphony orchestra, or a wonderful ballet, or a beautiful painting, or a play. It's a way of expressing our humanity."

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