Rex Harrison

b. Reginald Carey Harrison, 5 March 1908, Huyton, England, d. 2 June 1990, Manhattan, New York, USA. A stylish and urbane actor, Harrison had a long and distinguished career in dramatic and light comedy roles both in the theatre and in films, but will probably be remembered by the public at large for his sublime portrayal of Professor Henry Higgins in one of the all-time great musicals, My Fair Lady. He made his stage debut in the provincial theatre in 1924, and six years later appeared in the West End and made his first film. From then on he skilfully mixed his stage commitments and movie work until 1956 when he spent two years on Broadway in My Fair Lady, a performance which earned him a Tony Award. He reprised the role-of-a-lifetime in London in 1958 and won an Oscar for his part in the 1964 film version. His individual spoken-style of singing was tremendously effective on numbers such as ‘The Rain In Spain’, ‘Why Can’t The English?’, ‘I’m an Ordinary Man’, and ‘I’ve Grown Accustomed To Her Face’. In spite of his extraordinary success with the show he made no further stage musicals, and only one other film musical, Doctor Dolittle (1967), which proved to be a highly expensive disaster. His many career highlights included an Order of Merit from Italy for his portrayal of Pope Julius II in Carol Reed’s film The Agony And The Ecstasy, and the knighthood he received from Queen Elizabeth II in honour of his stage career. Only a month before his death he was starring on Broadway opposite two other old stagers, Glynis Johns and Stewart Granger, in Somerset Maugham’s The Circle. His son, Noel Harrison, from his second marriage to actress Lilli Palmer, is a singer and actor.

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