Rex Harrison

Active - 1930 - 1986  |   Born - Mar 5, 1908 in Huyton, Lancashire, England  |   Died - Jun 2, 1990 in New York City, NY  |   Genres - Drama, Comedy, Romance, Adventure, Mystery

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Biography

Debonair and distinguished British star of stage and screen for more than 50 years, Sir Rex Harrison is best remembered for playing charming, slyly mischievous characters. Born Reginald Carey in 1908, he made his theatrical debut at age 16 with the Liverpool Repertory Theater, remaining with that group for three years. Making his British stage and film debut in 1930, Harrison made the first of many appearances on Broadway in Sweet Aloes in 1936. He became a bona fide British star that same year when he appeared in the theatrical production French Without Tears, in which he showed himself to be very skilled in black-tie comedy. He served as a flight lieutenant in the RAF during World War II, although this interruption in his career was quickly followed by several British films. Harrison moved to Hollywood in 1945, where his career continued to prosper. Among his many roles was that of the king in the 1946 production of Anna and the King of Siam. Harrison was perhaps best known for his performance as Professor Henry Higgins in the musical My Fair Lady, a character he played on Broadway from 1956-1958 (winning a Tony award in 1957) and again in its 1981 revival, as well as for a year in London in the late '50s; in 1964, he won an Oscar for his onscreen version of the role. He had previously received a Best Actor Oscar nomination for his portrayal of Julius Caesar in Cleopatra (1963). Harrison continued to act on both the stage and screen in the 1970s and into the '80s. He published his autobiography, Rex, in 1975, and, four years later, edited and published an anthology of poetry If Love Be Love. Knighted in 1989, he was starring in the Broadway revival of Somerset Maugham's The Circle (with Stewart Granger and Glynis Johns) until one month before he died of pancreatic cancer in 1990. Three of Harrison's six marriages were to actressesLilli Palmer, Kay Kendall, and Rachel Roberts.

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Factsheet

  • Joined the Liverpool Repertory Theatre at age 16 and toured in road companies for nine years until making his West End stage debut in Getting George Married in 1930, the same year as his first big-screen appearance in The Great Game.
  • Served as a flight lieutenant in the Royal Air Force during World War II.
  • Hollywood success came with back-to-back features Anna and the King of Siam (1946) and The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947).
  • Had an affair with struggling actress Carole Landis while still married to Lilli Palmer; he found Landis's body after she took an overdose of pills in 1948.
  • Loathed the nickname "Sexy Rexy" given to him by gossip columnist Walter Winchell.
  • Reached the height of his stage career with his 1956 Tony Award-winning role of Professor Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady; he also won an Oscar for the film version in 1964.
  • Was fired during preproduction of the musical flop Doctor Dolittle due to his poor behavior, but was ultimately rehired after he promised to change his conduct.
  • Was made a Knight Bachelor by Queen Elizabeth II at the age of 81.