Julie Harris, Broadway star, dies at 87

2013-08-27T00:00:00Z Julie Harris, Broadway star, dies at 87The Associated Press The Associated Press
August 27, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Julie Harris, one of Broadway's most honored performers, whose roles ranged from the flamboyant Sally Bowles in "I Am a Camera" to the reclusive Emily Dickinson in "The Belle of Amherst," died Saturday. She was 87.

Harris died at her West Chatham, Mass., home of congestive heart failure, actress and family friend Francesca James said.

Harris won five Tony Awards for best actress in a play, displaying a virtuosity that enabled her to portray an astonishing gallery of women during a theater career that spanned almost 60 years and included such plays as "The Member of the Wedding" (1952), "The Lark" (1955), "Forty Carats" (1968) and "The Last of Mrs. Lincoln" (1972).

She was honored again with a sixth Tony, a special lifetime achievement award in 2002. Her record is up against Audra McDonald, with five competitive Tonys, and Angela Lansbury with four Tonys in the best actress-musical category and one for best supporting actress in a play.

Harris had suffered a stroke in 2001 while she was in Chicago appearing in a production of Claudia Allen's "Fossils." She suffered another stroke in 2010, James said.

"I'm still in sort of a place of shock," said James, who appeared in daytime soap operas "All My Children" and "One Life to Live."

"She was, really, the greatest influence in my life," said James, who had known Harris for about 50 years.

Television viewers knew Harris as the free-spirited Lilimae Clements on the prime-time soap opera "Knots Landing." In the movies, she was James Dean's romantic co-star in "East of Eden" (1955), and had roles in such films as "Requiem for a Heavyweight" (1962), "The Haunting" (1963) and "Reflections in a Golden Eye" (1967).

Yet Harris' biggest successes and most satisfying moments have been on stage. "The theater has been my church," the actress once said. "I don't hesitate to say that I found God in the theater."

The 5-foot-4 Harris, blue-eyed with delicate features and reddish-gold hair, made her Broadway debut in 1945 in a short-lived play called "It's a Gift." Five years later, at the age of 24, Harris was cast as Frankie, a lonely 12-year-old tomboy on the brink of adolescence, in "The Member of the Wedding," Carson McCullers' stage version of her wistful novel.

The critics raved about Harris, with Brooks Atkinson in The New York Times calling her performance "extraordinary — vibrant, full of anguish and elation."

"That play was really the beginning of everything big for me," Harris had said.

The late AP Drama Writer Michael Kuchwara contributed to this report.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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