Barbara Harris

Active - 1965 - 1997  |   Born - Jul 25, 1935 in Evanston, Illinois, United States  |   Genres - Comedy, Comedy Drama, Fantasy, Drama, Mystery

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Biography by Hal Erickson

Goodman graduate Barbara Harris was among the earliest members of Chicago's Second City improvisational troupe. Harris' "everybody's best friend" demeanor, her good looks and offbeat sense of humor assured her steady work both off and on Broadway. In 1967 she won a Tony Award for her work in the whimsical Broadway musical The Apple Tree. Harris made her film debut as the heart-on-sleeve social worker Sandra (which happened to be her real first name) in 1965's A Thousand Clowns. She then re-created her Broadway role in the hot-and-cold movie version of Arthur Kopit's Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mama's Hung You in the Closet and I'm Feeling So Sad. In 1971, Harris was nominated for an Oscar for her performance in Who is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me? (did she enjoy selecting films with long-winded titles?) Her subsequent film appearances were as infrequent as they were unpredictable. Only director Robert Altman would have had the inspired notion of casting the very urban Barbara as a country-western wannabe in Nashville (1975); and only Alfred Hitchcock would have come up with the brilliant idea of casting Barbara as a lovably crooked psychic in Family Plot (1976). Both were out-of-left-field casting choices, and both worked superbly -- a tribute not only to the directors' intuition but also to Barbara Harris' boundless versatility.

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  • Began acting in her teens, getting small parts at the Playwrights Theatre Club.
  • Was a member of The Compass Players – America’s first ongoing improvisational troupe.
  • Was also a part of Chicago’s Second City, also started by Paul Sills, and earned her first Tony Award nomination for her work in 1961’s From The Second City on Broadway.
  • Won the Tony Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical in 1967 for her work in The Apple Tree.