News Column

Julie Harris remembered: She was a familiar face on L.A. stages

August 26, 2013

YellowBrix

Aug. 26--Julie Harris, who died Saturday at 87, was often described as a Broadway legend, having received a total of six Tony Awards during her career. But like many stage actresses of her generation, Harris frequently toured and spent a lot of time performing in theaters far away from New York.

Her itinerant theater career often took her to Southern California, where she performed in several stage productions over the years when she wasn't otherwise busy working in film or television.

In an interview with The Times in 1959, she said she didn't believe "the theater in this country is just New York."

Harris brought her signature performance in "The Belle of Amherst" to the Los Angeles area more than once. A version of her solo show, in which she plays Emily Dickinson and a menagerie of other characters, opened at the Laguna Playhouse in 2000, with Harris reprising her Tony-winning performance.

The actress played the role on Broadway in 1976. Later that same year, she took her performance to L.A. at the Huntington Hartford Theatre in Hollywood.

During the '50s, Harris performed in a few productions at the Biltmore Theatre in downtown L.A. (The opulent venue has since been demolished.) In 1952, she brought "I Am a Camera" to the Biltmore, having won the Tony for her performance as Sally Bowles.

Harris similarly reprised her Tony-winning performance as Joan of Arc in "The Lark" at the Biltmore in 1956. Three years later, she teamed with her then-husband Manning Gurian in "The Warm Peninsula," which she also performed on Broadway.

In 1980, Harris appeared alongside Charles Durning in a production of "On Golden Pond" at the Ahmanson Theatre. A review in The Times described Harris as one of "our most sensual actresses. That's not to be confused with voluptuous. She's still spare and small. But when she sits in her rocking chair ... you can feel the rocker, the old pink bathrobe, the warmth of the coffee mug against her cheek."

Harris reteamed with Durning in "The Gin Game," which played at the Wilshire Theatre in 1998.

Her other L.A. appearances included a touring production of "Driving Miss Daisy" that came to the Henry Fonda Theatre in 1989, and a few radio-theater productions for L.A. Theatre Works, including 1996 recordings of Tennessee Williams' "The Glass Menagerie" and Athol Fugard's "The Road to Mecca."

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