Harris, Richard St. John

Harris, Richard St. John
▪ 2003

      Irish actor (b. Oct. 1, 1930, Limerick, Ire.—d. Oct. 25, 2002, London, Eng.), had a sometimes-uneven career notable not only for his formidable talent in portraying the intense, volatile, and rebellious hell-raising characters that established his image but also for conducting his real life in a similar manner for a number of years. Near the end of his life, though, he became known as the lovable though curmudgeonly Professor Albus Dumbledore in the first two Harry Potter movies. Harris played rugby football while in school, but his hopes for a future in sports ended when he contracted tuberculosis and had to endure a long convalescence. Desiring to become a director, he thereafter moved to England but, unable to find suitable directing classes, instead studied acting at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, and in 1956 he made his professional debut with the Theatre Workshop company of Joan Littlewood (Littlewood, Joan Maud ) (q.v.) in Brendan Behan's The Quare Fellow. Stage appearances that followed included roles in A View from the Bridge (1956), Man, Beast and Virtue (1958), and The Ginger Man (1959). He also made an impressive television appearance in 1958 in The Iron Harp. At about that same time, Harris began his motion picture career, appearing first in Alive and Kicking (1959) and then in such films as Shake Hands with the Devil (1959), The Wreck of the Mary Deare (1959), and The Guns of Navarone (1961). His breakthrough role was that of an aggressive rugby player in This Sporting Life (1963), for which he won the best actor award at the Cannes Film Festival. Notable films that followed included Major Dundee (1965), Camelot (1967), in which he portrayed King Arthur, and A Man Called Horse (1970) and its two sequels. In general, though, Harris's career had gone into a slump by that time, in part because of serious problems with alcohol abuse, but in the early 1980s he quit drinking and went on a long tour with a stage production of Camelot. The 1990s were more successful, with an Academy Award nomination for The Field (1990), a notable stage role in Luigi Pirandello's Henry IV (1991), and the role of Marcus Aurelius in the film Gladiator (2000), in addition to the role of Dumbledore.

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Universalium. 2010.

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