A Tribute to Richard Harris
A generation of young people knows of Actor Richard Harris primarily through his Harry Potter character, Professor Albus Dumbledore, but previous to those films he appeared in dozens of roles dating back to 1959. Not all of the films were or ever will be classics, but he had his share of successes, including two Oscar nominations, and always brought great energy and character to the parts he played. He also beat alcoholism (unlike some of his famous drinking buddies), and displayed refreshing candor, particularly in his later years. In particular, he had no patience with actors who took themselves too seriously.
Born in Limerick, Ireland in 1930, Harris attended the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, and first appeared on stage in The Quare Fellow in 1957. His first movie role was in Alive and Kicking (1959). Initially his best performances were in supporting roles in The Guns of Navarone (1961) and Mutiny on the Bounty (1962), but he moved into the front ranks of leading actors with his Oscar-nominated part in This Sporting Life (1963), drawing upon his skills as a rugby player. He also won a Best Actor award at Cannes.
He later appeared as King Arthur in a revival of Lerner and Lowe’s musical version of Camelot on stage, replacing Richard Burton and displaying surprising musical talents. This led to a singing career, including a smash hit single, MacArthur Park. He was cast in the screen version ofCamelot in 1967.
One of his signature performances in the following decade was the title role in A Man Called Horse (1970), which Harris later said was the source of scenes in Dances With Wolves. There were two sequels, neither as good as the original. Other significant films during this time included The Molly Maguires (1970), Man in the Wilderness (1971), Robin and Marian (1976), and Wetherby (1985).
In 1990 he was nominated for a Golden Globe and a Best Actor Oscar for his performance in The Field, which seemed to re-energize his career. Among the better films in which he had noted supporting roles were Unforgiven (1992), Smilla’s Sense of Snow (1997) and To Walk With Lions(1999). His was one of the two best performances (along with the late Oliver Reed’s) in the otherwise derivative, depressing, and overratedGladiator (2000). Then, of course, came the Harry Potter films. He initially resisted the sequels, not wanting to make that kind of committment, but his granddaughter convinced him otherwise.
Richard Harris died October 25, 2002, at the age of 72. He had been battling Hodgkins disease since earlier that year, but was believed to have recovered enough to begin work on the third film in the Harry Potter series. Unfortunately, the third film in the series had to be filmed without him. He will be missed.
Part I: Introduction
Part III: Movie Reviews & Where to Find His Movies
Part IV: Posters