SIR REX HARRISON Biography - Actors and Actresses


Biography » actors and actresses » sir rex harrison


Name: Reginald Carey Harrison                                                                 
Born: 5 March 1908 Huyton, Knowsley, Lancashire, England                                     
Died: 2 June 1990 New York City, United States                                               
Sir Reginald "Rex" Carey Harrison, KBE (5 March 1908 - 2 June 1990) was an                   
Academy Award- and Tony Award-winning English theatre and film actor.                         
Harrison was born in Huyton, a suburb of Liverpool, then part of Lancashire, and             
educated at Liverpool College. He first appeared on the stage in 1924 in                     
Liverpool. Harrison's acting career was interrupted during World War II, whilst               
he served 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, winning a Tony Award for his               
appearance as Henry VIII in Anne of the Thousand Days and international                       
superstardom (and a second Tony Award) for his Henry Higgins in the musical My               
Fair Lady. Later appearances included 's Pirandello's Enrico IV, a 1984                       
appearance at the Haymarket Theatre with Claudette Colbert in Frederick Lonsdale's           
Aren't We All?, and also 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 revived his Henry Higgins in a highly paid revival of My Fair                 
Lady 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 musical My Fair Lady, based on the George Bernard             
Shaw play Pygmalion, especially after he reprised the role in the 1964 film                   
version, for which he won a Best Actor Oscar. The 1956 cast album set sales                   
records at the time. He revived the role on stage in the early 1980s. 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". Although excelling in High                   
Comedy (Noel Coward said "Rex Harrison is the greatest interpreter of high                   
comedy in the world ... next to 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 appeared as an aging homosexual man opposite Richard                   
Burton as his lover in Staircase. He also acted in a Hindi movie Shalimar                     
alongside the Indian Superstar Dharmendra.                                                   
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. After several                 
years in film, he achieved wide acclaim starring in the adaptation of Noel                   
Coward's Blithe Spirit (1945). He followed that with his first major American                 
film, starring as King Mongkut in Anna and the King of Siam. 1947 saw the                     
release of the classic The Ghost and Mrs. Muir opposite Gene Tierney.                         
In 1947, while married to Palmer, Harrison began an affair with Carole Landis                 
that became public knowledge. Hollywood blamed Harrison for Landis's 1948                     
suicide and the scandal resulted in him losing his contract with Fox.                         
Harrison and Palmer divorced in 1957. He soon remarried, to actress Kay Kendall.             
He was subsequently married to Welsh-born Rachel Roberts, who, like Landis,                   
later committed suicide by taking sleeping pills. Harrison then married                       
Elizabeth Rees-Williams and, finally, Mercia Tinker, who would become his widow               
in 1990.                                                                                     
The chronology of Harrison's six marriages is as follows:                                     
Colette Thomas (1934-1942), (one son, the actor/singer Noel Harrison)                         
Lilli Palmer (1943-1957), (one son, the novelist/playwright Carey Harrison)                   
Kay Kendall (1957-1959)                                                                       
Rachel Roberts (1962-1971)                                                                   
Elizabeth Harris (1971-1975), (three stepsons, Damian Harris, Jared Harris and               
Jamie Harris)                                                                                 
Mercia Tinker (1978-1990)                                                                     
On 25 July 1989, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace,                 
while an orchestra played the music of songs from My Fair Lady.                               
Having retired from films in the late 1970s, he had continued to act on Broadway             
until the very end, despite suffering from glaucoma, painful teeth and a failing             
memory. In 1990 he was appearing on Broadway in The Circle by W. Somerset                     
Maugham, opposite Glynis Johns, when he fell ill. It was discovered that he had               
pancreatic cancer but had been unaware of it, and he died peacefully three weeks             
later in New York City at the age of 82, causing the show to end prematurely.                 
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.