Rex Harrison


Actor
Rex Harrison

About

Also Known As
Reginald Carey Harrison
Birth Place
Lancashire, England, GB
Born
March 05, 1908
Died
June 02, 1990
Cause of Death
Pancreatic Cancer

Biography

Stagestruck from boyhood, suave British actor Rex Harrison joined the Liverpool Repertory Theatre at the age of 16, beginning a 66-year career that would culminate with his final performance on Broadway, May 11, 1990, three weeks prior to his death. Best known for his Tony- and Oscar-winning portrayal of Professor Henry Higgins in Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe's "My Fair Lady," he ...

Photos & Videos

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir - Movie Posters
Midnight Lace - Movie Posters
Midnight Lace - Color Scene Stills

Family & Companions

Marjorie Noel Collette Thomas
Wife
French teacher. Married in 1934; divorced in 1942; mother of Noel.
Lilli Palmer
Wife
Actor. Born on May 24, 1914; married on January 25, 1943; divorced in 1957; mother of Carey; died on January 27, 1986.
Kay Kendall
Wife
Actor. Born on May 21, 1926; married from June 1957 until her death from leukemia on September 6, 1959.
Rachel Roberts
Wife
Actor. Born on September 20. 1927; married in 1962; divorced in 1970; committed suicide in 1980.

Bibliography

"Rex Harrison: A Biography"
Nicholas Wapshott, Viking (1992)
"A Damned Serious Business"
Rex Harrison, Bantam Books (1990)
"Rex"
Rex Harrison (1974)
"If Love Be Love"
Rex Harrison

Notes

Harrison was the first actor to win Tony Awards in the dramatic and musical categories. Subsequent dual winners in clude Zero Mostel, Robert Morse and Matthew Broderick.

"We had grown accustomed to his face. It was wrought so artfully. The slit eyes of superior amusement, the lines that mockery etched at the corner of eye and nostril and mouth, the generous and skeptical lips--these were the features and the weapons that Rex Harrison created to win his audience and his knighthood. His was the mobile mask of high comedy. . . . His polish was his performance. He was the noble egoitist, the sympathetic cad" --Andrew Sinclair (from review of Harrison's "A Damned Serious Business" in THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW, January 6, 1991)

Biography

Stagestruck from boyhood, suave British actor Rex Harrison joined the Liverpool Repertory Theatre at the age of 16, beginning a 66-year career that would culminate with his final performance on Broadway, May 11, 1990, three weeks prior to his death. Best known for his Tony- and Oscar-winning portrayal of Professor Henry Higgins in Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe's "My Fair Lady," he made his West End debut in "Getting George Married" (1930) and his Broadway debut in "Sweet Aloes" (1936), but it was a two year run on the London stage in Sir Terrence Rattigan's "French Without Tears" that made him a star. Appearances in other sophisticated comedies, S N Behrman's "No Time for Comedy" and Noel Coward's "Design for Living" (both 1939), established him as what Coward himself called "the best light comedian in the world--after me."

Harrison's feature debut came in "The Great Game" (1930), and starring turns in movies like "Night Train to Munich," (1940) "Major Barbara" (1941) and "Blithe Spirit" (1945) brought him to the attention of Hollywood, leading to a seven-year contract with 20th Century-Fox. He scored a major triumph as the King in "Anna and the King of Siam" (1946) and recorded another success with "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir" (1947), but subsequent films performed poorly at the box office, although Preston Sturges' "Unfaithfully Yours" (1948) later acquired a cult status. Actor and studio parted company by mutual agreement, and Harrison returned to Broadway, earning a Tony for his 1948 performance as King Henry VIII in Maxwell Anderson's "Anne of the Thousand Days." Continued acclaim followed for his work in T S Eliot's "The Cocktail Party" and John van Druten's "Bell, Book and Candle" (both 1950). He directed and starred in "The Love of Four Colonels" (1953) and a revival of "Bell, Book and Candle" (1954) and helmed "Nina" (1955), all for the London stage. He made his Broadway directing debut with "The Bright One" (1958).

Despite having, in his own words, a vocal range of "one-and-a-half notes," Harrison talked his way through the numbers of Lerner and Loewe's "My Fair Lady" (1956), directed for the stage by Moss Hart, and became the darling of the critics, playing the show for two years in New York and another in London. His waspish professor of phonetics was "crisp, lean, complacent and condescending until at last a real flare of human emotions burns the egotism away," wrote Brooks Atkinson in THE NEW YORK TIMES, and the success of "My Fair Lady" once again brought Harrison important film offers. He earned his first Oscar nomination for his portrayal of Julius Caesar in "Cleopatra" (1963), stealing the picture from his more famous co-stars, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Reprising Higgins for the 1964 film version of "My Fair Lady" opposite Audrey Hepburn brought him a Best Actor Oscar and international fame, and "Dr. Dolittle" (1967) introduced him to a new generation of moviegoers as he shamelessly enjoyed himself playing the fanciful jungle gentleman who conversed with wildlife.

Harrison devoted most of his remaining years to his first love, the stage, taking parts in such diverse plays as Luigi Pirandello's "Henry IV" and Rattigan's "In Praise of Love" (both 1974). He co-starred with Claudette Colbert in a Broadway production of "The Kingfisher" (1978), and, after returning to Broadway in "My Fair Lady" (1981), garnered some of the best reviews of his career for a Broadway revival of "Heartbreak House" (1983), later captured for posterity in a 1985 Showtime cable special. Harrison portrayed Lord Grenham in London and Broadway productions of "Aren't We All?" (1984-85) and Grand Duke Cyril Romanov in the NBC miniseries, "Anastasia: The Story of Anna" (1986). He last appeared on the London stage in "The Admirable Crichton" (1988) and bowed out in a Broadway revival of W Somerset Maugham's "The Circle," playing eight times a week just prior to his June 1990 death. The oft-married man dubbed 'Sexy Rexy' by Walter Winchell never wanted to be anything but an actor and never intended to retire. "He died with his boots on, no doubt about it," said "The Circle" producer Elliot Martin.

Filmography

 

Cast (Feature Film)

American Lifestyles (1987)
The Fifth Musketeer (1979)
Ashanti (1979)
Brian Walker
A Time to Die (1979)
Von Osten
Crossed Swords (1978)
Duke Of Norfolk
The Adventures of Don Quixote (1973)
Don Quixote
Staircase (1969)
Charlie Dyer
A Flea in Her Ear (1968)
Victor Chandebisse/Poche
The Honey Pot (1967)
Cecil Fox
Doctor Dolittle (1967)
Dr. John Dolittle
The Yellow Rolls-Royce (1965)
Marquess of Frinton
The Agony and the Ecstasy (1965)
Pope Julius II
My Fair Lady (1964)
Henry Higgins
Cleopatra (1963)
Julius Caesar
The Happy Thieves (1961)
Jim Bourne
Midnight Lace (1960)
Anthony Preston
The Reluctant Debutante (1958)
Lord James Broadbent Courtesy of Columbine Productions, Ltd.
The Constant Husband (1955)
King Richard and the Crusaders (1954)
Emir Ilderim, also known as Sultan Saladin
The Four Poster (1953)
John Edwards
Main Street to Broadway (1953)
Himself
The Long Dark Hall (1951)
Unfaithfully Yours (1948)
Sir Alfred de Carter
Escape (1948)
Matt Denant
The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947)
The ghost of Capt. Daniel Gregg
The Foxes of Harrow (1947)
Stephen Fox
Anna and the King of Siam (1946)
The King
Blithe Spirit (1945)
Charles Condomine
A Yank In London (1945)
The Rake's Progress (1945)
Major Barbara (1941)
Adolphus Cusins
Night Train (1940)
[Dickie Randall, also known as] Gus Bennett
Over the Moon (1940)
Dr. Freddie Jarvis
The Silent Battle (1939)
St. Martin's Lane (1938)
Harley Prentiss
The Citadel (1938)
Dr. Lawford
Storm in a Teacup (1937)
Frank Burden
Men Are Not Gods (1937)
Tommy [Stapledon]
School For Husbands (1937)
All at Sea (1935)
Leave It to Blanche (1934)
Get Your Man (1934)
The Great Game (1930)
School For Scandal (1930)

Cast (Special)

Heartbreak House (1986)
The 39th Annual Tony Awards (1985)
Performer
The Kennedy Center Honors: A Celebration of the Performing Arts (1985)
Performer
Burt Bacharach: Close To You (1972)
Crescendo (1957)
Mr Sir

Cast (TV Mini-Series)

Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna (1986)

Life Events

1924

Was member of Liverpool Repertory Theatre

1930

Film debut, "The Great Game"

1930

London stage debut as Honorable Fred Thripplehorn in "Getting George Married"

1936

Broadway debut as Tubbs Barrow in "Sweet Aloes"

1938

Had supporting part in King Vidor's "The Citadel", based on the A J Cronin novel

1939

Acted onstage in S N Behrman's "No Time for Comedy" and Noel Coward's "Design for Living"

1940

Starred in Carol Reed's "Night Train to Munich"

1941

Offered brilliant turn opposite Wendy Hiller in Gabriel Pascal's "Major Barbara"

1945

Portrayed Charles Condimine in David Lean's film version of Coward's "Blithe Spirit"

1946

Signed by 20th Century-Fox to seven year contract

1946

Scored major triumph as the 19th Century Siamese King Mongkut in his Hollywood debut, "Anna and the King of Siam"; years later Rodgers and Hammerstein would offer him the role of the King in their musical version of the tale, but other commitments prevented him from accepting

1947

Followed with another film success, "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir", opposite Gene Tierney

1948

Returned to Broadway as Henry VIII in Maxwell Anderson's "Anne of the Thousand Days"; earned first Tony Award

1948

Starred as a music conductor who plots to kill his adulterous wife in Preston Sturges' comedy "Unfaithfully Yours"

1950

Received acclaim for his performances in T S Eliot's "The Cocktail Party" in London and in John van Druten's "Bell, Book and Candle" on both sides of the Atlantic

1953

Directed and appeared as the Man in Broadway production of "The Love of Four Colonels"

1956

"My Fair Lady" opened on Broadway with Harrison as Professor Henry Higgins and Julie Andrews as Eliza Doolittle; received TOny Award for Best Actor in a Musical

1958

After two years on Broadway, reprised "My Fair Lady" in London

1960

Played Doris Day's husband in "Midnight Lace"

1963

Earned first Best Actor Academy Award nomination for his portrayal of Julius Caesar in "Cleopatra", stealing the film from his more famous co-stars Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton

1964

Acted in "The Yellow Rolls-Royce"; screenplay by Rattigan

1964

Reprised Higgins for film version of "My Fair Lady" opposite Audrey Hepburn; won Best Actor Oscar

1965

Reteamed with director Carol Reed to play Pope Julius II in "The Agony and the Ecstacy"

1967

Portrayed title role in "Doctor Dolittle"

1974

Played title role in Luigi Pirandello's "Henry IV" on London stage and Sebastian Crutwell in Rattigan's "In Praise of Love" on Broadway

1977

Appeared as Caesar in Broadway production of "Caesar and Cleopatra"

1978

Returned to drawing-room comedy for Broadway production of "The Kingfisher", opposite Claudette Colbert

1979

Filmed last feature, "A Time to Die" (released in 1983)

1981

Reprised "My Fair Lady" on Broadway

1983

Received much critical acclaim for his portrayal of the aging Captain Shotover in Broadway revival of Shaw's "Heartbreak House"; Walter Kerr of THE NEW YORK TIMES called it "the best work the actor has ever done"; filmed for Showtime in 1985

1986

Portrayed Grand Duke Cyril Romanov in NBC miniseries, "Anastasia: The Story of Anna"

1988

Last appearance on the London stage, "The Admirable Crichton"

Photo Collections

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir - Movie Posters
The Ghost and Mrs. Muir - Movie Posters
Midnight Lace - Movie Posters
Midnight Lace - Movie Posters
Midnight Lace - Color Scene Stills
Midnight Lace - Color Scene Stills
Midnight Lace - British Front-of-House Stills
Midnight Lace - British Front-of-House Stills
Storm in a Teacup - Publicity Still
Storm in a Teacup - Publicity Still
My Fair Lady - Movie Poster
Here is the American one-sheet movie poster for My Fair Lady (1964), starring Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison. One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters. This iconic artwork is by noted illustrator Bob Peak.

Videos

Movie Clip

Midnight Lace (1960) - Sexually Off The Track Having been harassed in the fog and now on the phone, American Kit (Doris Day) and English financier husband Tony (Rex Harrison) visit Scotland Yard where inspector Byrnes (John Williams) comments on local miscreants, in MIdnight Lace, 1960.
Night Train To Munich (1940) - He Played For The Gentlemen Two new characters, about an hour into the picture, Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne as Brits Charters and Caldicott are catching the Berlin to Munich train when they’re surprised to see Rex Harrison, as undercover agent Randall, posing as a Nazi, sneaking Margaret Lockwood and her father out of Germany, watched by suspicious Paul Henreid, with a not-too obscure cricket reference, in Carol Reed’s Night Train To Munich, 1940.
Night Train To Munich (1940) - Only Love Can Lead The Way In his first scene, Rex Harrison poses as singer Gus, practicing tradecraft as he initially rebuffs Czech refugee Anna (Margaret Lockwood), who got mysterious instructions to come to coastal Brightbourne (modeled on Brighton), in search of her exiled scientist father, not aware the Nazis are watching her (!), in Carol Reed’s Night Train To Munich, 1940.
Night Train To Munich (1940) - Nature Endowed Me With A Gift Rex Harrison, whom we now know to be a British intelligence man posing as a seaside singer, intercepts a letter sent by Anna (Margaret Lockwood), testy daughter of the Czech fugitive scientist he’s minding, which we also know was addressed to a Nazi agent who’s got people watching her Carol Reed’s Night Train To Munich, 1940.
King Richard And The Crusaders (1954) - No Man Meets A Friend Scottish officer of the 3rd Crusade Sir Kenneth (Laurence Harvey) on a scouting mission meets a wandering Saracen (top-billed Rex Harrison) who introduces himself as "Emir Ilderim," good jousting sequence from 2nd unit director Yakima Canutt, in King Richard And The Crusaders, 1954.
Anna And The King Of Siam (1946) - I Am 150 Years Old! Unhappy that she and her son have been situated next to the harem, new governess Anna (Irene Dunne) and son (Richard Lyon) are brought (by royal aide Lee J. Cobb) before the king (Rex Harrison, his first appearance), early in Anna And The King Of Siam, 1946,
Anna And The King Of Siam (1946) - I Will Do Remembering Kept waiting again, the new English governess (Irene Dunne) and son (Richard Lyon) finally get attention from the king (Rex Harrison), first angered over his press, then dismissing his earlier commitments, relations warming nonetheless, in Anna And The King Of Siam, 1946.
My Fair Lady (1964) - Opening, Overture The famous flower montage by director George Cukor, Andre Previn conducting the overture from the Lerner and Loewe score, opening My Fair Lady, 1964, starring Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn.
My Fair Lady (1964) - The Rain in Spain Eliza Doolittle (Audrey Hepburn, vocal by Marni Nixon) demonstrates her improved elocution to Professor Henry Higgins (Rex Harrison), Wilfrid Hyde-White as Col. Pickering, in the Lerner and Loewe classic, The Rain In Spain, in My Fair Lady, 1964.
My Fair Lady (1964) - You Presumptuous Insect! After her successful London society debut, the now-refined street urchin Eliza Doolittle (Audrey Hepburn) takes out her frustrations on her teacher Professor Higgins (Rex Harrison) in My Fair Lady 1964, George Cuko directing the Lerner-Loewe musical, from the George Bernard Shaw play.
Reluctant Debutante, The (1958) - You're A Gigolo Bored at the first London ball of the season, Lord Jimmy (Rex Harrison) meets unattached David (John Saxon), whom he introduces to his daughter Jane (Sandra Dee), as she chats with his wife Sheila (Kay Kendall, the real Mrs. Harrison), in Vincente Minnelli's The Reluctant Debutante, 1958.
Reluctant Debutante, The (1958) - Married To A Banker Lord Broadbent (Rex Harrison) and second wife Sheila (Kay Kendall, Harrison's wife) have just picked up his daughter Jane (Sandra Dee) at the airport when relative Mabel (Angela Lansbury) and daughter Clarissa (Diane Clare) pounce, in The Reluctant Debutante, 1958.

Trailer

Cleopatra (1963) -- (Original Trailer) Hefty trailer for the original release of the 20th Century-Fox epic, by then already famous for its gigantic cost and the affair between the stars, for Cleopatra, 1963, with Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor and Rex Harrison.
5th Musketeer, The - (Original Trailer) France's King Louis XIV (Beau Bridges) tries to use his look-alike brother to political advantage in The 5th Musketeer (1979) co-starring Ian McShane and Rex Harrison.
Ghost and Mrs. Muir, The - (Original Trailer) A spirited widow (Gene Tierney) rents a haunted cottage and builds an emotional bond with the resident ghost (Rex Harrison) in The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947), directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz.
Doctor Dolittle (1967) - (Original Trailer) Rex Harrison is the doctor who can talk to the animals in the original musical Doctor Dolittle (1967).
Honey Pot, The - (Original Trailer) Rex Harrison plays a millionaire out to fleece former lovers in The Honey Pot (1967) from the writer/director of All About Eve.
Reluctant Debutante, The - (Original Trailer) British parents try to prepare their Americanized daughter for her social debut in The Reluctant Debutante (1958).
Midnight Lace - (Original Trailer) Doris Day can't get anyone to believe she's being stalked by a killer in Midnight Lace (1960) co-starring Rex Harrison.
Citadel, The - (Original Trailer) A struggling doctor is tempted to give up his ideals for a posh high-society practice in The Citadel (1938), directed by King Vidor.
Yellow Rolls-Royce, The - (Original Trailer) A classic car changes the lives of three sets of owners in The Yellow Rolls-Royce (1964) starring Rex Harrison, Shirley MacLaine and Ingrid Bergman.

Family

William Reginald Harrison
Father
Cotton broker.
Edith Carey Harrison
Mother
Noel Harrison
Son
Actor. Born on January 29, 1936; mother, Marjorie Thomas.
Carey Harrison
Son
Mother, Lilli Palmer.

Companions

Marjorie Noel Collette Thomas
Wife
French teacher. Married in 1934; divorced in 1942; mother of Noel.
Lilli Palmer
Wife
Actor. Born on May 24, 1914; married on January 25, 1943; divorced in 1957; mother of Carey; died on January 27, 1986.
Kay Kendall
Wife
Actor. Born on May 21, 1926; married from June 1957 until her death from leukemia on September 6, 1959.
Rachel Roberts
Wife
Actor. Born on September 20. 1927; married in 1962; divorced in 1970; committed suicide in 1980.
Joan Elizabeth Rees-Williams
Wife
Actor. Daughter of Labor peer Lord Ogmore; previously married to actor Richard Harris with whom she had three sons; married in 1971; divorced.
Mercia Tinker
Wife
Married from 1978 until his death.

Bibliography

"Rex Harrison: A Biography"
Nicholas Wapshott, Viking (1992)
"A Damned Serious Business"
Rex Harrison, Bantam Books (1990)
"Rex"
Rex Harrison (1974)
"If Love Be Love"
Rex Harrison

Notes

Harrison was the first actor to win Tony Awards in the dramatic and musical categories. Subsequent dual winners in clude Zero Mostel, Robert Morse and Matthew Broderick.

"We had grown accustomed to his face. It was wrought so artfully. The slit eyes of superior amusement, the lines that mockery etched at the corner of eye and nostril and mouth, the generous and skeptical lips--these were the features and the weapons that Rex Harrison created to win his audience and his knighthood. His was the mobile mask of high comedy. . . . His polish was his performance. He was the noble egoitist, the sympathetic cad" --Andrew Sinclair (from review of Harrison's "A Damned Serious Business" in THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW, January 6, 1991)

Made a Knight Bachelor, the most common type of knighthood, in July 1989

"Originally I had a block about appearing in a musical. I went to a voice teacher for a while, but that did no good. My range is about one and a half notes. I ended up talking the musical numbers, which was revolutionary at the time."The lyrics are extremely intricate. They move along like a precisely acted scene. If you miss a word--heaven help you--the orchestra rattles past like an express train, and you've got to run like the devil to catch up." --Rex Harrison, quote recalled in THE NEW YORK TIMES, June 3, 1990