This Sporting Life
Richard Harris (born in 1930, died in 2002) first conquered the cinematic industry with his portrayal of rugby player Frank Machin in This Sporting Life (1963), where he won a Cannes Film Festival Award and received an Oscar and BAFTA nomination. He then continued carrying out award-winning performances in such roles as King Arthur in the musical drama Camelot (1967, won a Golden Globe Award), English aristocrat John Morgan in A Man Called Horse (1970, netted his first Western Heritage Bronze Wrangler Award), the title character in the biopic Cromwell (1970, handed him a Moscow International Film Festival Award) and English Bob in the Western drama Unforgiven (1992, gave him a second Western Heritage Bronze Wrangler Award). Harris also delivered memorable turns as Philip Rhayadar in the made-for-TV drama The Snow Goose (1971), ‘Bull’ McCabe the farmer in The Field (1990) and Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius in Ridley Scott’s movie Gladiator (2000).
“I formed a new group called Alcoholics-Unanimous. If you don’t feel like a drink, you ring another member and he comes over to persuade you.” Richard Harris
Off camera, Harris is known for his brassy attitude and a couple of scandals concerning alcohol and drugs. A drinking buddy of Peter O’Toole and the late Richard Burton, the actor had to enter the intensive care unit of Cedars Sinai Hospital in 1978 for a cocaine overdose. In 1982, he announced his sobriety victory against alcohol. Three years later, he was knighted in Denmark. He also became a guest professor of the Theatre Arts at the University of Scranton, before eventually receiving an Honorary Doctorate from the university in 1987. Harris was married twice; once to Elizabeth Harris and once to Ann Turkel. He was the father of three sons.
Childhood and Family:
In Limerick, Ireland, Richard St. John Harris was born on October 1, 1930, to farmer Ivan Harris and Mildred Harris. He attended Crescent College, where he became an excellent rugby player. After the diagnosis of tuberculosis ended his dream of rugby, he turned his attention toward another passion: acting. Richard, who once skipped a local dance to attend a performance of “Henry IV,” got even more passionate about theater and studied at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts.
“Marriage is a custom brought about by women who then proceed to live off men and destroy them, completely enveloping the man in a destructive cocoon or eating him away like a poisonous fungus on a tree.” Richard Harris
Richard had two marriages in his lifetime. His first marriage was with Elizabeth Harris (married on February 9, 1957). Elizabeth gave birth to three sons: Damian Harris (born in 1958, later became a director), Jamie Harris (born in June 1963) and Jared Harris (born in 1961). The couple split up in 1969, and five years later, Richard was married to actress Ann Turkel (born in 1947). The marriage also ended up in separation in 1981.
On October 25, 2002, Richard Harris died at the age of 72. Two weeks before, he had been treated in a London hospital for Hodgkin’s disease, but the actor finally gave in to the disease shortly before the US premiere of the movie, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002, played Albus Dumbledore).
After completing his education in London, Richard Harris had his first professional performance in the London staging of “A View from the Bridge” (1956), which was soon followed with his stage producing and directing attempt in “Winter Journey” (1956). Also in that year, he debuted on the West End stage, taking a part in Joan Littlewood’s production of “The Quare Fellow.” Harris had a role in “Man, Beast and Virtue” (1958), before touring east Europe and Russia in a production of “Macbeth” (1958). In 1959, he eventually landed a leading role in the production of “The Ginger Man.”
The actor was then seen in the comedy Alive and Kicking (1959), before making his first small screen appearance as a blind Irishman in The Iron Harp (1959). He soon acquired a leading role in the war drama The Long and the Short and the Tall (1960), and Seaman John Mills in the adaptation of Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall’s novel Mutiny on the Bounty (1962, alongside Marlon Brando). A year later, he had a stage performance in Gogol’s “Diary of a Madman” (1963).
Harris gained prominence after director Lindsay Anderson cast him in the starring role of tough, impulsive rugby player Frank Machin in This Sporting Life (1963). Thanks to his near-flawless portrayal, the actor won a Cannes Film Festival for Best Actor and received an Oscar and BAFTA nomination for Best Actor. The victory was followed by his first foreign-language film, Il Deserto rosso (1964, as Corrado Zeller), as well as the short drama I Tre volti (1965).
Following his supporting turn as Rafer Hoxworth in the historical drama Hawaii (1966), Harris confirmed his rising star status with the magnificent portrayal of King Arthur in the musical drama Camelot (1967), which garnered him a Golden Globe for Best Actor. Maintaining the quality of his performances, the actor won a Western Heritage Bronze Wrangler for his convincing turn as English aristocrat John Morgan in A Man Called Horse (1970). He was also awarded with a Moscow International Film Festival for Best Actor due to his outstanding titular role in the biopic Cromwell (1970).
Meanwhile, Harris fruitfully tried a new sphere of show business with his first single, the Jimmy Webb-written “MacArthur Park” (1968), which climbed up to the No.2 on Billboard magazine pop chart and topped Europe charts. The next year, he released an album titled The Yard Went on Forever (1969), whose contents were written by Webb.
Harris did his first screen directing work in the drama Bloomfield (1971). In the movie, he also wrote additional material and starred as Eitan the soccer player. He then took roles in the made-for-TV drama The Snow Goose (1971, as Philip Rhayadar, earned Emmy nomination), “The Dave Cash Radio Show” (1972), The Deadly Trackers (1973, played Sheriff Sean Kilpatrick), as well as 99 and 44/100% Dead (1974, starred as Harry Crown).
Reprising his role of Lord John Morgan, Harris executive produced the sequel The Return of a Man Called Horse (1976). The same year, he also wrote and sang “The Last Castle” for Echoes of a Summer (1976, played Eugene Striden). Next up for Harris, he had various roles in less inspiring movies like Gulliver’s Travels (1977, played title role), The Wild Geese (1978), A Game for Vultures (1979), The Last Word (1980), Your Ticket Is No Longer Valid (1981, as Jason), the sequel Triumphs of a Man Called Horse (1982), Highpoint (1984), the Italian action movie Trappola diabolica (1988) and King of the Wind (1989, had the leading role of King George II).
The actor reappeared on the London stage with a role in Pirandello’s “Henry IV” (1990). He also secured the Oscar-nominated leading role of ‘Bull’ McCabe in The Field (1990), whereas his part as English Bob in the Western drama Unforgiven (1992) gave him a second Western Heritage Bronze Wrangler award. He also delivered notable performances in Wrestling Ernest Hemingway (1993), as the title character in the TV film Abraham (1994), James Jarvis in the adaptation of Alan Paton’s novel Cry, the Beloved Country (1995), John Power, the Irish gangster, in the Gillies MacKinnon-helmed Trojan Eddie (1996, TV), Dr. Andreas Tork in the screen version of Peter Høeg’s best-selling novel Smilla’s Sense of Snow (1997), Douglas McCraken in Sibirskiy tsiryulnik (1998) and old Harry in Grizzly Falls (1999).
In 2000, Harris marvelously played Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius in the highly acclaimed movie Gladiator, and earned a Screen Actors Guild nomination. He also extended his fame to a younger legion of fans by accepting the role of sympathetic wizard Albus Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001), a role he reprised in the sequel Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002). Joining his son, actor Jared Harris, the veteran actor was featured as the ghost of Hamlet’s father in the New Jersey Shakespeare Festival staging of “Hamlet” (2001).
Before his death, Harris was seen as Lucius Sulla, opposite Jeremy Sisto and Christopher Walken, in the TV movie Julius Caesar (2002). A year after his death, his voice was heard as Opaz in the English version of the animated fantasy movie Kaena: La prophétie (2003). Harris has collected several Lifetime Achievement awards, thanks to his accomplishments in acting.