Phil Harris

Active - 1933 - 1998  |   Born - Jun 24, 1904   |   Died - Aug 11, 1995   |   Genres - Musical, Comedy, Drama, Children's/Family

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Biography by Hal Erickson

When drummer/bandleader Phil Harris made his screen debut in the RKO short So This is Harris (1933), his screen image was that of a wavy-haired Lothario, utterly irresistible to women. When Harris became a regular on Jack Benny's radio broadcasts of the 1930s and 1940s, his persona began taking on elements of self-parody, with a reputation for heavy imbibing thrown in for comic effect. Both the womanizing and drinking aspects of the "public" Harris were allowed to lapse on his own radio series, The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show, in which he co-starred from 1946 to 1954 with his second wife, screen star Alice Faye. Now Harris was depicted as a rumbly-voiced, good-natured schmo, who was easily outclassed intellectually by his wife and his two daughters. During this period, Harris, whose previous song hits included the rapid-fire "That's What I Like About the South," began making such child-oriented recordings as "The Thing" and "I Know an Old Lady." This aspect of Harris' career proved a logical lead-in to his later voiceover assignments in such Disney feature-length cartoons as The Jungle Book (1967), The Aristocats (1970) and Robin Hood (1973). While Phil Harris' off-screen personality was very much like his laid-back, genial stage character, he was a man of definite likes and dislikes: one of the latter was the Broadway musical The Music Man, which was written for Harris but which he turned down flat, steadfastly refusing to appear even in road-company or revival stagings.

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