Born: December 2, 1925; Died: August 24, 2013.
Julie Harris, who has died aged 87, has been called "the First Lady of the American theatre", though she reached her widest international audience in film and television, co-starring with James Dean in East of Eden (1955) and playing the eccentric Liliemae Clements in more than 150 episodes of the glitzy, big-budget American soap opera Knots Landing between 1980 and 1987.
She won a record-breaking five Tony awards as best actress on Broadway between 1952 and 1977, enjoyed particular success as President Lincoln's widow in The Last of Mrs Lincoln (1972-73) and originated the role of Sally Bowles in I am a Camera (1951-52), reprising the character in a 1955 film version. I am a Camera was turned into the stage and film musical Cabaret and Liza Minnelli made the role very much her own, delivering a tour-de-force Oscar-winning performance in the film.
But Harris was about as far removed from Minnelli as you could get. Some of her most powerful performances were as the sort of quiet girl that might stand ignored and alone at a party.
She was nominated for the Best Actress Oscar for her debut film The Member of the Wedding (1952), in which she played a lonely 12-year-old girl, though Harris was 26 at the time.
In the film of East of Eden, John Steinbeck's retelling of Cain and Abel, she played James Dean's brother's girlfriend. She was the quiet, girl-next-door type, but Harris could hint at inner passions and turmoil. There is a scene in which she confides to Dean's character that his brother Aron is in love with some idealised version of her that is not really her. Their hands touch, they kiss, she breaks away, protesting "I love Aron, I do, really I do," fooling no one.
Harris and Dean came out of New York's famous Actors Studio, which East of Eden's director Elia Kazan helped set up a decade earlier and which pioneered "Method" acting.
The daughter of an investment banker, she was born Julia Ann Harris in Grosse Point, Michigan, in 1925. She attended Yale School of Drama, made her Broadway debut in 1945 and over the next few years played roles as varied as the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland and one of the witches in Macbeth.
She first played the tomboy Frankie Addams in the original Broadway stage production of The Member of the Wedding in 1950-51. Despite her success in the film version and East of Eden, Harris later complained that she could never really compete with more beautiful film actresses for the major Hollywood roles.
She was one of those rare actresses who enjoyed a series of hits in mainstream theatre with one-person shows, including The Belle of Amherst, in which she played the American poet Emily Dickinson.
She created the role on Broadway in 1976 and performed it at the Edinburgh International Festival the following year. .
Although Harris enjoyed her greatest success on stage, she had a few other lead roles and numerous supporting roles in films, including The Haunting (1963), The Moving Target (1966), Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967), Voyage of the Damned (1976), Gorillas in the Mist (1988), Housesitter (1992) and The Dark Half (1993)
Married and divorced three times, she is survived by her son.
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