Julie Harris, versatile actress on stage and screen, dead at 87

Actress Julie Harris in New York, March 3, 2008. (UPI Photo/Ezio Petersen)
1 of 2 | Actress Julie Harris in New York, March 3, 2008. (UPI Photo/Ezio Petersen) | License Photo

CHATHAM, Mass., Aug. 25 (UPI) -- Actress Julie Harris, who played Joan of Arc and Mary Todd Lincoln on Broadway and starred on TV's "Knot's Landing," died Saturday in Chatham, Mass. She was 87.

Harris' friend, Francesca James, told The New York Times she was with Harris at her home on Cape Cod when she died.


The actress had a long career, becoming a theater star in 1950 when she was 24. She played the 12-year-old Frankie in Carson McCullers' "A Member of the Wedding," a role she reprised in the movie.

Almost 50 years later, in 1997, she received her 10th and last Tony nomination for a revival of "The Gin Game." She was awarded a special Tony for lifetime achievement in 2002, bringing her total to six.

She appeared in a few movies after suffering a 2001 stroke, playing a stroke victim in one of them.

On stage, she played Shakespeare, modern classics and even appeared in a musical, although a reviewer said her voice would not be mistaken for Ethel Merman's. She was the first Sally Bowles, in the play "I Am A Camera," which was later adapted into the musical "Cabaret."


John van Druten, who adapted the play from a book by Christopher Isherwood, compared her to a clear glass pitcher in a 1955 interview with the Times.

"You pour in red wine, the pitcher looks red; pour in creme de menthe, it is green," van Druten said. "When she's by herself, Julie's almost transparent, almost non-existent."

In movies, she acted with James Dean in "East of Eden" and Claire Bloom in "The Haunting." In addition to her eight-year run as a country singer on "Knots Landing," she appeared in "Hallmark Hall of Fame" specials and in guest roles in many television shows as well as starring in two short-lived series.

Harris was named a recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors in 2005.

Offstage, Harris was married and divorced three times and had one son, Peter Gurian, with her second husband.

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