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Rosemary Harris
Rosemary Harris Spiderman 2007 Shankbone.jpg
Harris in 2007
Rosemary Ann Harris

(1927-09-19) 19 September 1927 (age 96)
Ashby, Suffolk, England
Occupation Actress
Years active 1948–present
Ellis Rabb
(m. 1959; div. 1967)
(m. 1967; died 2018)
Children Jennifer Ehle

Rosemary Ann Harris (born 19 September 1927) is an English actress. She is the recipient of such accolades as a Primetime Emmy Award, a Golden Globe Award, and a Tony Award, in addition to nominations for an Academy Award and a BAFTA Award. In 1986, Harris was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame.

Harris began her stage career in 1948, before making her Broadway debut in 1952. For her New York stage work, she is a four-time Drama Desk Award winner and nine-time Tony Award nominee, winning the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play in 1966 for The Lion in Winter. On television, she won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie for the BBC serial Notorious Woman, and the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Television Series Drama for the miniseries Holocaust (1978). In film, Harris portrayed Aunt May in Sam Raimi's Spider-Man (2002), Spider-Man 2 (2004), and Spider-Man 3 (2007). For her performance in Tom & Viv (1994), Harris received multiple nominations for the role, including the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.

Early life

Harris was born on 19 September 1927 in Ashby, Suffolk, the daughter of Enid Maude Frances (née Campion) and Stafford Berkeley Harris. One of her grandmothers was from Kronstadt in the Habsburg Empire (today Romania). Her father was in the Royal Air Force, and as a result, Harris' family lived in India during her early childhood. She attended convent schools, and later studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art from 1951 to 1952.


Early in her acting career, she gained experience in English repertory theatre. In 1948, she acted in Kiss and Tell at Eastbourne and Margate with Tilsa Page and John Clark and later with Anthony Cundell's company at Penzance, where she played the mother in Black Chiffon. She went from Penzance to train at RADA. She first appeared in New York City in 1951 in Moss Hart's Climate of Eden, and then returned to Britain for her West End debut in The Seven Year Itch which ran for a year at the Aldwych.

Rosemary Harris actress 1962
Harris at the Chichester Festival Theatre, 1962

Harris then entered a classical acting period in productions with the Bristol Old Vic and then the Old Vic, appearing at the latter as Ophelia in the National Theatre Company's opening production of Hamlet in October 1963, alongside Peter O'Toole in the title role. Writing in UK newspaper The Guardian in 2003 as part of a series on landmark theatre productions, playwright Samantha Ellis noted of the National Theatre's opening night:

Olivier gloomily anticipated bad reviews. But RB Marriott, in The Stage, found O'Toole to be "a magnificent Prince" and Rosemary Harris "the most real and touching Ophelia". (In contrast, Felix Barker, in the Evening News, called her "an embarrassing deb who has had too much gin".) And Harold Hobson, in The Sunday Times, was overcome.

Her first film followed, Beau Brummell (1954) with Stewart Granger and Elizabeth Taylor, and then a touring season with the Old Vic brought her back to Broadway in Tyrone Guthrie's production of Troilus and Cressida. She met Ellis Rabb who had plans to start his own producing company on Broadway. By 1959, the Association of Producing Artist (APA) was established, and she and Rabb were married on 4 December of that year.

In 1962, she returned to Britain and Chichester Festival Theatre during its opening season when the director was Laurence Olivier; she appeared as Elena in Olivier's celebrated 1962–63 Chichester production of Uncle Vanya. In 1964, she was Ophelia to Peter O'Toole's Hamlet in the inaugural production of the Royal National Theatre of Great Britain.

Returning to New York, she worked further with the APA, and then was cast as Eleanor of Aquitaine in The Lion in Winter, a performance that garnered her a Tony Award in 1966. Rabb directed her one last time as Natasha in War and Peace in 1967, the same year they agreed to divorce. A little while later, Harris married the American writer John Ehle. The two of them can be heard interviewing prospective candidates, Black public school student candidates for scholarships to all-white private "Segregation academies", on surviving recordings. Ehle was the manager for this Stouffer Foundation program.

Ehle and Harris settled in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where their daughter, Jennifer, was born in 1969. Jennifer Ehle followed in her mother's footsteps by becoming a noted film, television and Broadway actress.

In 1974, Harris starred in the BBC TV serial Notorious Woman, which aired on PBS in the US as part of Masterpiece Theatre. For this role, she won the 1976 Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series. She won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – TV Drama for the 1978 NBC miniseries Holocaust, which also starred Meryl Streep. Reviewing the BBC's 1983 production of To the Lighthouse, an adaptation of Virginia Woolf's novel of the same name, John J. O'Connor pf The New York Times' wrote: "A luminous, flawless performance by Miss Harris makes Mrs. Ramsay as memorable on film as she is on the printed page." She received a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for the 1994 film Tom & Viv. Harris and her daughter Ehle, played the young and elderly incarnations, respectively, of the same character in István Szabó's 1999 film Sunshine, about a Hungarian-Jewish family. They previously played the young and old Calypso in the Channel 4 production of The Camomile Lawn (1992).

Harris appeared in the rotating cast of the Off-Broadway staged reading of Wit & Wisdom. In 2007, she received the North Carolina Award for fine arts. Her husband, John Ehle, won the same award in 1972 for literature.

In 2002, she appeared as Aunt May Parker in the first film adaptation of Spider-Man, reprising the role in the sequels Spider-Man 2 (2004) and Spider-Man 3 (2007).

On 11 September 2018, a week before her 91st birthday, Harris took over the role of Mrs Higgins in the Broadway revival of My Fair Lady from Diana Rigg.

Harris' archive is part of the performing arts collections at the Harry Ransom Center, which include her scripts, photographs, posters, correspondence, playbills, and other ephemera.



Year Title Role Notes
1954 Beau Brummell Mrs. Fitzherbert film debut
1957 The Shiralee Lily Parker
1963 Uncle Vanya Yelena
1968 A Flea in Her Ear Gabrielle Chandebisse
1978 The Boys from Brazil Mrs. Doring
1983 The Ploughman's Lunch Ann Barrington
1988 Crossing Delancey Pauline Swift
1989 The Delinquents Isobel
1992 The Bridge Aunt Jude
1994 Tom & Viv Rose Haigh-Wood
1996 Hamlet Player Queen
1999 My Life So Far Gamma
Sunshine Valerie Sors
2000 The Gift Annie's Granny
2001 Blow Dry Daisy
2002 Spider-Man Aunt May Parker
2004 Spider-Man 2
Being Julia Julia's mother
2007 Spider-Man 3 Aunt May Parker
Before the Devil Knows You're Dead Nanette
2008 Is Anybody There? Elsie
The Monday Before Thanksgiving Lillian Cotlo Short film
2010 Radio Free Albemuth VALIS (voice role)
2012 This Means War Nana Foster
2015 The von Trapp Family: A Life of Music Older Agathe von Trapp


Year Title Role Notes
1952 A Cradle of Wlllow Tansy Clampett Television debut
Television film
Studio One in Hollywood Herself Episode: "The Great Lady"
1955 Othello Desdemona Television film
1957 Alfred Hitchcock Presents Louise Rogers / Countess Helen Sorrington-Mattoni
Dorothy Whitely
"I Killed the Count Parts 2 & 3"
"The Glass Eye"
Twelfth Night Viola Television film
1958 Suspicion Sybil Merton Episode: "Lord Arthur Savile's Crime"
Omnibus Cordelia Episode: "Moment of Truth"
Dial M for Murder Margot Wendice Television film
Folio Dynamene Episode: "A Phoenix Too Frequent"
DuPont Show of the Month Cathy Linton Episode: Wuthering Heights
1959 Encounter Norah Marsh Episode: "The Land of Promise"
1964 Profiles in Courage Mary S. McDowell Episode: "Mary S. McDowell"
1966 Blithe Spirit Elvira Condomine Television film
1967 Uncle Vanya Jelena Andrejewna Television film
1974 Notorious Woman George Sand Television miniseries; 7 episodes
1977 The Royal Family Julie Cavendish Television film
1978 Holocaust Berta Palitz Weiss Television miniseries; 4 episodes
1979–1980 The Chisholms Minerva Chisholm Television miniseries; 13 episodes
1983 To the Lighthouse Mrs. Ramsay Television film
1992 The Camomile Lawn Calypso (older) Television miniseries; 2 episodes
1994 Under the Hammer Hester Bovington Episode: "The Spectre at the Feast"
Summer Day's Dream Margaret Dawlish One-off production in the BBC's Performance series
1996 The Little Riders Grandma Roden Television film
Death of a Salesman Linda Television film
2004 Belonging May Television film
2010 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Francine Brooks Episode: "Wet"
2014 The Money Ellen Knox Television film
2020 The Undoing Janet Fraser Episode: "Trial by Fury"
2022 Search Party Beatrice 2 episodes


Year Title Role Venue
1952 The Climate of Eden Mabel Martin Beck Theatre, Broadway
1953–54 The Seven Year Itch The Girl Aldwych Theatre, London
1954 The Crucible Elizabeth Proctor Bristol Old Vic, London
1956 Troilus and Cressida Cressida Winter Garden Theatre, Broadway
1957 The Glass Eye Dorothy Witley ANTA Playhouse, New York
1958 Interlock Hilde ANTA Playhouse, New York
The Disenchanted Jere Halliday Coronet Theatre, Broadway
1960 The Tumbler Lennie Helen Hayes Theatre, Broadway
1963 Uncle Vanya Ilyena Chichester Festival Theatre, London
Hamlet Ophelia Old Vic Theatre, London
1965 Judith Judith Phoenix Theatre, Off-Broadway
Man and Superman Violet Robinson
War and Peace Natasha Rostova
Herakles Megara Lyceum Theatre, Broadway
1966 The Lion in Winter Eleanor Ambassador Theatre, Broadway
1966–67 The School for Scandal Lady Teazle Lyceum Theatre, Broadway
1966 Right You Are If You Think You Are Signora Ponza
We, Comrades Three Young Woman
1967 The Wild Duck Gina
You Can't Take it With You Alice Sycamore
War and Peace Natasha Rostova
1971–72 Old Times Anna Billy Rose Theatre, Broadway
1973 The Merchant of Venice Portia Vivian Beaumont Theatre, Broadway
A Streetcar Named Desire Blanche DuBois
1975–76 The Royal Family Julie Cavendish Brooklyn Academy of Music
Helen Hayes Theatre, Broadway
1977 The New York Idea Vida Phillimore Brooklyn Academy of Music
The Three Sisters Olga
1983 Heartbreak House Hesione Hushabye Circle in the Square Theatre, Off-Broadway
Theatre Royal, London
1985 Pack of Lies Barbara Jackson Royale Theatre, Broadway
1985–86 Hay Fever Judith Bliss Music Box Theatre, Broadway
1991–93 Lost in Yonkers Grandma Kurnitz Richard Rodgers Theatre, Broadway
Royal Strand Theatre, London
1994–95 An Inspector Calls Sybil Birling Royale Theatre, Broadway
1996 A Delicate Balance Agnes Plymouth Theatre, Broadway
1999 Waiting in the Wings May Davenport Walter Kerr Theatre, Broadway
Eugene O'Neill Theatre, Broadway
2002 All Over The Wife Gramercy Theatre, New York City
2005 The Other Side Levana Julak Manhattan Theatre Club, Off-Broadway
2007 Oscar and the Lady in Pink Performer Old Globe Theatre, San Diego
2008 Florence Gould Hall, New York City
2009 The Royal Family Fanny Cavendish Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, Broadway
2012 The Road to Mecca Miss Helen American Airlines Theatre, Broadway
2014 Indian Ink Eleanor Swan Laura Pels Theatre, Off-Broadway
2018−19 My Fair Lady Mrs. Higgins Vivian Beaumont Theatre, Broadway

Video games

Year Title Role Notes
1998 Dark Side of the Moon Miner Woman (voice role) PC version for Windows 95/98

Awards and nominations

Film accolades

Academy Award

Year Title Category Results
1994 Tom & Viv Best Actress in a Supporting Role Nominated

BAFTA Awards

Year Title Category Results
1984 The Ploughman's Lunch Best Actress in a Supporting Role Nominated

Gotham Awards

Year Title Category Results
2007 Before the Devil Knows You're Dead Best Ensemble Cast Won

Critics Choice Film Awards

Year Title Category Results
2008 Before the Devil Knows You're Dead Best Acting Ensemble Nominated

National Board of Review

Year Title Category Results
1994 Tom & Viv Best Supporting Actress Won

Television accolades

Primetime Emmy Award

Year Title Category Results
1976 Notorious Woman Best Lead Actress in a Limited Series Won
1978 Holocaust Nominated

Golden Globe Awards

Year Title Category Results
1976 Notorious Woman Best Actress in a Television Series – Drama Nominated
1978 Holocaust Won

Theatre accolades

Tony Awards

Year Title Category Results
1966 The Lion in Winter Best Actress in a Play Won
1972 Old Times Nominated
1976 The Royal Family Nominated
1984 Heartbreak House Nominated
1985 Pack of Lies Nominated
1986 Hay Fever Nominated
1996 A Delicate Balance Nominated
2000 Waiting in the Wings Nominated
2010 The Royal Family Best Featured Actress in a Play Nominated
2019 My Fair Lady Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre Won

Drama Desk Award

Year Title Category Results
1972 Old Times Best Performance Won
1973 A Streetcar Named Desire Won
1973 The Merchant of Venice Won
1976 The Royal Family Actress in a Play Won
1984 Heartbreak House Nominated
1985 Pack of Lies Won
1996 A Delicate Balance Nominated

Laurence Olivier Award

Year Title Category Results
1981 All My Sons Actress in a Revival Nominated
1983 Heartbreak House Nominated
1993 Lost in Yonkers Supporting Actress Nominated

Obie Award

Year Title Category Results
1962 The Tavern, The School for Scandal, The Seagull Distinguished Performance by an Actress Won
1965 Judith, Man and Superman, War and Peace Won
2003 All Over Nominated

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Rosemary Harris para niños

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