Former Broadway performer Julie Harris died on Saturday at the age of 87. Harris was one of the scene’s most honored performers and was known for several iconic roles.
Actress and family friend Francesca James announced Harris’ death, which was attributed to congestive heart failure.
James explained that Harris suffered a strokes in 2001 while in Chicago for a production of Claudia Allen’s Fossils. The Associated Press notes that the actress suffered a second stroke in 2010.
Julie Harris made her Broadway debut in a 1945 short-lived play titled It’s A Gift. Five years later, the 24-year-old was cast as Frankie in The Member of the Wedding.
Critics fell in love with Harris and the actress called the play “the beginning of everything big for me.” She also appeared in the 1952 film version with her original Broadway co-stars, Ethel Waters and Brandon De Wilde. She received an Academy Award nomination for her performance.
USA Today notes that Julie Harris went on to win a record five Tony Awards for best actress in a play. She also received a sixth Tony,a lifetime achievement award, in 2002. The only woman close to her is Angela Lansbury, who has won four Tonys in the best actress-musical category.
James, who knew Harris for about 50 years, stated of her fellow actress, “She was, really, the greatest influence on my life.” James added, “I’m still in sort of a place of shock.”
While Harris played James Dean’s romantic interest in East of Eden and also had roles in films like The Haunting and Reflections in a Golden Eye, her biggest successes were on stage. She once commented, “The theater has been my church. I don’t hesitate to say that I found God in the theater.”
Harris also won two Emmy Awards for performances in two Hallmark Hall of Fame presentations: Little Moon of Alban and Victoria Regina. Funeral arrangements for Julie Harris are pending.