Celebrated U.S. actress Julie Harris dies at age 87

Sun Aug 25, 2013 12:11am EDT
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By Kevin Murphy

(Reuters) - Julie Harris, the diminutive actress who won five Tony Awards for her stage performances and was also honored for her work in television and film, died on Saturday at age 87, a Massachusetts funeral home said.

Bill Collins, a funeral director at the Nickerson Funeral Home in Chatham, Massachusetts, confirmed the death of Harris, who lived in nearby West Chatham.

Aside from her widely acclaimed theater work, Harris was known to television audiences in the 1980s for her role in the prime-time soap opera "Knots Landing," in which she played a country music singer and the mother of another key character.

Harris was also nominated for an Oscar and appeared in more than 30 films, including "East of Eden" in 1955, in which she played James Dean's love interest.

She was born in Grosse Pointe, Michigan. Her father was an investment banker and her mother a nurse.

Harris attended the Yale School of Drama for one year before leaving in 1945 to begin acting on Broadway. After appearing in a number of productions, she was catapulted to fame at age 24 for her role in Carson McCullers' American stage hit "The Member of the Wedding."

Later in her career, Harris for many audiences would come to epitomize 19th century American poet Emily Dickinson, in her performance of William Luce's 1976 one-woman play "The Belle of Amherst."

She won the 1977 Tony Award for Best Actress in the play recreating Dickinson's world by gossiping about neighbors, recounting daily household routines, and reciting the verse of the isolated, idiosyncratic and reclusive poet.   Continued...