Woman (In Horror) Crush Wednesday: Julie Harris

June 21, 2017

Written by Capt McNeely

Georgia Division ZADF Twitter: @ZADF_ORG

Yes my Little Monsters, ’tis Wednesday and that means it’s time for us all to come together to celebrate another wonderful Woman of Horror. Now not all of these lovely and talented ladies have an extensive horror resume, and such is the case with today’s featured lady, Julie Harris. But that’s not to say that her contribution is not a significant one within the horror genre, and it’s a contribution we’ll get to in a minute.

Julie was born Julia Ann Harris in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, to Elsie and William Pickett Harris. She would go on to attend and eventually graduate from Grosse Pointe Country Day School, during which time her family encouraged her to pursue the performing arts. Julie would then make the move to New York City, where she would attend The Hewitt School. She would also receive training during her teenage years, at the Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School & Camp located in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Charlotte Perry, a mentor at the school, recognized that Julie had great potential and urged her to apply to the Yale School of Drama. Julie took Perry’s advice and attended for just one year, but would still further her training at the New York School of Drama.

In 1945 at the age of 19, Julie made her stage debut in a Broadway comedy titled It’s a Gift. for the next few years, Julie apprenticed on many Broadway productions before being awarded more noteworthy roles. In 1952, Julie would win the first of her five Tony Awards for her portrayal of Sally Bowles in I Am a Camera, the stage adaptation of Christopher Isherwood’s novel Goodbye to Berlin (which would incidentally also be adapted into the musical, Cabaret). In 1955, she would reprise her portrayal of Sally Bowles in Henry Cornelius’s  film adaptation of I Am a Camera. In that same year, Julie would star alongside one of Hollywood’s greatest, albeit short lived, legends, James Dean, in Elia Kazan’s classic film, East of Eden.

Let’s jump ahead about eight years to 1963, because it’s in this year that Julie lends her talents to one of the undisputed classic haunted house films of the horror genre, Robert Wise’s adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s novel, The Haunting. It also happens to be not only the first horror film I  ever saw, but also my favorite genre film of all time. Julie’s performance was legendary, as she was able to beautifully portray the character of Eleanor Lance; a woman struggling not only with her own unraveling emotional and psychological state, but also with the torment of Hill House’s haunting force. I think it’s safe to say that her character is definitely an icon within the genre, and thus affords Julie a place amongst the wonderful Women of Horror. But that would not be her singular stint in the genre. Some may recall that Julie had a role in George Romero’s adaptation of Stephen King’s novel, The Dark Half in the role of Reggie Delesseps.

Aside from the many Broadway productions in which Julie has appeared , she also has over 100 combined television and film credits. Some of her more notable film appearances can be seen in films that include: The Member of the Wedding (1952), Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962), Hamlet (1964), Harper (1966),  Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967), The Bell Jar (1979), Gorillas in the Mist (1988).

As I already mentioned, Julie won five out of a total of ten Tony Award nominations for her work on Broadway, but the critical acclaim doesn’t end there. She won three Prime Time Emmys out of 11 total nominations, was also nominated for a Best Actress Oscar for her first film role of Frances “Frankie” Adams  in The Member of the Wedding as well as a BAFTA for her role of Sally Bowles in I Am a Camera.

During her adult life, Julie had been married three times, having her son Peter with her second husband, Broadway producer Manning Gurian. She also proved herself to be one tough lady, as she experienced significant health issues later in life. She was a cancer survivor who battled with breast cancer in 1981. In 1999, Julie suffered a sever fall from a ladder whilst backstage at a theater in Stamford, Connecticut, which resulted in surgery to drain fluid off of her brain. She then suffered a stroke in 2001 and then suffered another in 2010. It was in 2013 that congestive heart failure claimed the life of this incredibly versatile actress and all around incredible woman. As a form tribute to Julie, four days following her passing, on August 28th of 2013, Broadway theaters dimmed their lights to honor this legendary talent.

What I have shared with you Little Monsters today hardly begins to scratch the surface in regards to who Julie Harris was. But if anything I wanted to at least give her the recognition she is due, even if only for two genre appearances. For me to have been able to meet Ms. Harris, would have been a dream come true, but sadly it can never happen. This woman was the heart of the film that introduced me, at the tender age of five, to the horror genre, and for that I am forever grateful.

As always my Little Monsters, there is so much more to be learned about the lovely and immensely talented Julie Harris than I have shared here. So I encourage you all to seek out whatever information you can by way of her official IMDb page or Internet Broadway Database page.

So until next time, I would like to leave you with Julie’s final monologue from The Haunting, a monologue that to this day still gives me chills.

“Hill House has stood for 90 years and might stand for 90 more. Within, walls continue upright, bricks meet, floors are firm, and doors are sensibly shut. Silence lies steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House. And we who walk here… walk alone.”

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