- Jul 25, 1935
- Evanston, Illinois, USA
Bio: Barbara Harris began acting while still a teenager in Chicago, playing small parts in the Playwrights Theatre Club (whose other players included such youngsters as Edward Asner, Mike Nichols and Elaine May). She was also in "The Compass Players", the first ongoing improvisational theater troupe in America, directed by her then-husband Paul Sills (who founded the… More
Bio: Barbara Harris began acting while still a teenager in Chicago, playing small parts in the Playwrights Theatre Club (whose other players included such youngsters as Edward Asner, Mike Nichols and Elaine May). She was also in "The Compass Players", the first ongoing improvisational theater troupe in America, directed by her then-husband Paul Sills (who founded the theater based on principles created by his mother, Viola Spolin, the author of "Improvisation for the Theatre"). A more polished version of the Compass, called "The Second City", was an enormous hit in Chicago and was moved to Broadway, where she was nominated for a Tony. She starred in a series of notable stage productions, including "On a Clear Day You Can See Forever"; "Oh Dad Poor Dad"; "The Apple Tree" (Tony Award, 1967) and "Mother Courage". Her film credits include major roles in A Thousand Clowns (1965), Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mama's Hung You in the Closet and I'm Feeling So Sad (1967), Who Is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me? (1971), The War Between Men and Women (1972), Nashville (1975), Freaky Friday (1976), Family Plot (1976), Plaza Suite (1971), Movie Movie (1978), The Seduction of Joe Tynan (1979), The North Avenue Irregulars (1979), Second-Hand Hearts (1981), Peggy Sue Got Married (1986), Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988) and Grosse Pointe Blank (1997), and TV appearances included episodes of "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" (1955) and "Middle Ages" (1992).
Along with Elaine May, she is generally acknowledged to be one of the pioneering women in the field of improvisational theatre. Scenes she created with Alan Arkin, Severn Darden, Paul Sand and other celebrated members of the Second City and Compass companies are studied as masterpieces of the form. Most famous scenes: "Museum Piece" (with Arkin) and "First Affair" (with Darden).
Her mother, Natalie Densmoor, was an accomplished pianist, and her father, Oscar Harris, was a tree-surgeon who later became a businessman.
Won Broadway's 1967 Tony Award as Best Actress (Musical) for "The Apple Tree." This followed two previous Tony nominations: in 1962, as Best Supporting or Featured Actress (Musical) for "From the Second City," and, in 1966, as Best Actress (Musical) for "On a Clear Day You Can See Forever."
Was seriously considered for the role of "Neely O'Hara" in the 1967 film Valley of the Dolls. The character of Neely, based on Judy Garland and Betty Hutton, was later won by academy award winning actress Patty Duke.
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