Rosemary Harris
Harris in 2007
Rosemary Ann Harris

(1927-09-19) 19 September 1927 (age 96)
Ashby, Suffolk, England
Years active1948–present
(m. 1959; div. 1967)
(m. 1967; died 2018)
ChildrenJennifer Ehle

Rosemary Ann Harris (born 19 September 1927) is an English actress. She is the recipient of an Emmy Award, a Golden Globe Award, and a Tony Award as well as nominations for an Academy Award, a BAFTA Award, and three Laurence Olivier Awards. Harris was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame in 1986, and she won the Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre in 2017.

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 for portraying Eleanor of Aquitaine in The Lion in Winter (1966). Her other Tony-nominated roles were in Old Times (1972), The Royal Family (1976), Heartbreak House (1984), Pack of Lies (1985), Hay Fever (1986), A Delicate Balance (1996), Waiting in the Wings (2000), and The Royal Family (2010).

She won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie for her portrayal of George Sand in the BBC serial Notorious Woman (1976), and the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Television Series Drama for playing Berta Palitz Weiss in the miniseries Holocaust (1978). For her performance in the historical drama film Tom & Viv (1994) she was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Harris is also known for her portrayal of May Parker, the paternal aunt of Peter Parker in Sam Raimi's Spider-Man (2002), Spider-Man 2 (2004), and Spider-Man 3 (2007).

Early life

Harris was born on 19 September 1927 in Ashby, Suffolk,[1] the daughter of Enid Maude Frances (née Campion) and Stafford Berkeley Harris.[2][3] One of her grandmothers was from Kronstadt in the Habsburg Empire (today Romania).[4][5] Her father was in the Royal Air Force, and as a result, Harris' family lived in India during her early childhood.[6][7][8] She attended convent schools, and later studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art from 1951 to 1952.[9][10]


1948–1965: Rise to prominence

John Williams, Maurice Evans, and Harris in the 1958 NBC production of Dial M for Murder

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.[11] She first appeared in New York City in 1951 in Moss Hart's Climate of Eden,[12] and then returned to Britain for her West End debut in The Seven Year Itch which ran for a year at the Aldwych.[13]

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.[14] 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.[15]

Harris with Richard Burton in the CBS television production of Wuthering Heights (1958)

Her first film followed, Beau Brummell (1954) with Stewart Granger and Elizabeth Taylor,[11] 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. The following year she portrayed Desdemona in a television production of William Shakespeare's Othello directed by Tony Richardson Harris acted opposite Paul Rogers, Robert Hardy, and Nigel Davenport. In 1957 she appeared in two episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. In 1958 she acted alongside John Williams, and Maurice Evans in the NBC production of Dial M for Murder. That same year she portrayed Catherine Linton acting alongside Richard Burton who portrayed Heathcliff in the CBS television production of Emily Brontë's 1847 novel Wuthering Heights. By 1959, the Association of Producing Artist (APA) was established, and she and Rabb were married on 4 December of that year.[16][17]

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.[18] She reprised her role in the 1963 British film adaptation acting opposite Olivier, Michael Redgrave, and Joan Plowright. In 1964, she was Ophelia to Peter O'Toole's Hamlet in the inaugural production of the Royal National Theatre of Great Britain.[19] She returned to Broadway portraying Megara in Herakles at the Lyceum Theatre. That same year she portrayed Alice Sycamore in You Can't Take it With You. She also appeared in an off-Broadway production of George Bernard Shaw's Man and Superman at the Phoenix Theatre.

1966–1999: Theatre roles and acclaim

Harris at the Chichester Festival Theatre, 1962

Harris gained acclaim working further with the APA, and was cast as Eleanor of Aquitaine in The Lion in Winter opposite Robert Preston's Henry II at the Ambassador Theatre. She received praise for the role as well as the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play.[20] Rabb directed her one last time as Natasha in War and Peace in 1967, the same year they agreed to divorce.[16][17] A little while later, Harris married the American writer John Ehle.[21] 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.[22] Ehle was the manager for this Stouffer Foundation program. In 1968 she portrayed Gabrielle Chandebisse in the film A Flea in Her Ear based on the 1907 French farce of the same name by Georges Feydeau. She acted with Rex Harrison and Louis Jourdan.[23] She received Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play nominations for her roles as Anna in Harold Pinter's Old Times (1971) and Julie Cavendish in George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber's The Royal Family (1975).

During this time she portrayed Blanche DuBois in the Tennessee Williams play A Streetcar Named Desire (1973) and Portia in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice (1973). 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 Primetime 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 and James Woods. Also in 1978 she acted in Franklin J. Schaffner's science-fiction thriller The Boys from Brazil acting with Gregory Peck, Laurence Olivier, James Mason, and Denholm Elliott. The film received critical acclaim and earned three Academy Award nominations.

From 1979 to 1980 she starred in the CBS Western miniseries The Chisholms opposite Robert Preston. 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."[24] She played Ann Barrington in the Richard Eyre directed The Ploughman's Lunch (1983) written by Ian McEwan. She acted with Jonathan Pryce and Tim Curry. The film looks at the media world in Margaret Thatcher's Britain around the time of the Falklands War. Vincent Canby of The New York Times declared, "[the] film's most arresting character is Ann, a beautiful woman whose intelligence is demonstrated both in the writing and in Miss Harris's superlative performance."[25] She also took film roles in Crossing Delancey (1988) and The Delinquents (1989), and The Bridge (1992). She returned to Broadway acting in Neil Simon's Lost in Yonkers (1991).

For her role as Rose Haigh-Wood in the historical drama Tom & Viv she won the National Board of Review Award for Best Supporting Actress and received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Harris acted with Willem Dafoe and Miranda Richardson. The film was based on the 1984 play of the same name by Michael Hastings. She returned to Broadway in a revival of Edward Albee's A Delicate Balance (1996) for which she received a nomination for the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play. That same year she had a brief role as Player Queen in Kenneth Branagh's film adaptation of Hamlet (1996). 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).[26] In 1999 she starred in the Hugh Hudson directed film My Life So Far based on the Denis Forman book of the same name. Harris acted with Colin Firth, Irène Jacob, Malcolm McDowell, and Kelly Macdonald.


She had a recurring role 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). These films were critically acclaimed and were commercially successful. Directed by Sam Raimi they also starred Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, J.K. Simmons, Willem Dafoe and Alfred Molina.[27][28] Her film roles during this period included the supernatural horror film The Gift (2000) starring Cate Blanchett, the romantic comedy Blow Dry (2001) with Alan Rickman and Natasha Richardson, and the comedy-drama Being Julia starring Annette Bening. Harris appeared in the rotating cast of the Off-Broadway staged reading of Wit & Wisdom.[29] In 2007, she received the North Carolina Award for fine arts. Her husband, John Ehle, won the same award in 1972 for literature.[30] Also in 2007 she acted in Sidney Lumet's crime thriller Before the Devil Knows You're Dead for which she received the Gotham Independent Film Award for Best Ensemble Cast along with the cast.

Harris took limited film roles in the drama Is Anybody There? with Michael Caine, the romantic comedy This Means War starring Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine, and Tom Hardy, and the musical drama The von Trapp Family: A Life of Music (2015) with Matthew Macfadyen. She had a guest starring role in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (2010). 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.[31][32] She recently acted in the HBO limited series The Undoing (2020) as a guest actress and had a recurring role in the HBO Max comedy series Search Party (2022).

Personal life

Ehle and Harris settled in Winston-Salem, North Carolina,[7] 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.[33] 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.[34]



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 Season 2 Episodes 26,27: "I Killed the Count Parts 2 & 3"
Alfred Hitchcock Presents Dorothy Whitely Season 3 Episode 1: "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 and television

Year Association Category Title Results Ref.
1976 Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series Notorious Woman Won
1976 Golden Globe Award Best Actress in a Television Series – Drama Nominated
1978 Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series Holocaust Nominated
1978 Golden Globe Award Best actress in a Television Series - Drama Won
1984 BAFTA Award Best Actress in a Supporting Role The Ploughman's Lunch Nominated
1994 Academy Award Best Actress in a Supporting Role Tom & Viv Nominated
1994 National Board of Review Best Supporting Actress Won
2007 Critics' Choice Movie Award Best Acting Ensemble Before the Devil Knows You're Dead Nominated
2007 Gotham Award Best Ensemble Cast Won

Theatre accolades

Year Association Category Title Results Ref.
1966 Tony Awards Best Actress in a Play The Lion in Winter Won [35]
1972 Old Times Nominated [35]
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 Best Featured Actress in a Play The Royal Family Nominated
2019 Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre Won
1972 Drama Desk Award Best Performance Old Times Won [36]
1973 A Streetcar Named Desire Won [36]
1973 The Merchant of Venice Won [36]
1976 Actress in a Play The Royal Family Won
1984 Heartbreak House Nominated
1985 Pack of Lies Won
1996 A Delicate Balance Nominated
1981 Laurence Olivier Award Actress in a Revival All My Sons Nominated
1983 Heartbreak House Nominated
1993 Supporting Actress Lost in Yonkers Nominated
1962 Obie Award Distinguished Performance by an Actress The Tavern, The School for Scandal, The Seagull Won
1965 Judith, Man and Superman, War and Peace Won
2003 All Over Nominated


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  2. ^ "anti-aircraft corps | august | smyth pigott | 1919 | 1083 | Flight Archive". Retrieved 5 January 2020.
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  4. ^ Rosemary Harris and the Picture: Madonna of the Slaughtered Jews Archived 15 February 2006 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved on 27 August 2011.
  5. ^ Hollywood made in Romania (partea a II-a). (8 December). Retrieved on 13 January 2013.
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  7. ^ a b Rosenfeld, Megan (30 March 1986). "Rosemary Harris, Blissfully". The Washington Post. Retrieved 4 August 2018.
  8. ^ Welsh, Anne Marie (29 September 2007). "Six decades on, Rosemary Harris's career is still in the 'Pink'". The San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved 4 August 2018.
  9. ^ Hischak, Thomas S. (2001). American Theatre: A Chronicle of Comedy and Drama, 1969–2000. Oxford University Press. p. 96. ISBN 978-0-19-512347-0.
  10. ^ Gussow, Mel (27 May 1996). "For Rosemary Harris, A Delicate Balance Of Her Art and Life". The New York Times. Retrieved 5 November 2017.
  11. ^ a b Gerard, Jeremy (27 January 2015). "Rosemary Harris On 'The Holocaust', Tom Stoppard & Liz Taylor: Conversations With Jeremy Gerard". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 4 August 2018.
  12. ^ Bordman, Gerald; Hischak, Thomas S. (2004). The Oxford Companion to American Theatre. Oxford University Press. p. 293. ISBN 978-0-19-516986-7.
  13. ^ Wearing, J. P. (2014). The London Stage 1950-1959: A Calendar of Productions, Performers, and Personnel. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield. p. 229. ISBN 978-0-8108-9307-8.
  14. ^ "National Theatre actress: 'I wasn't a bit nervous'". BBC Online. 22 October 2013. Retrieved 9 June 2016.
  15. ^ Ellis, Samantha (12 March 2003). "Hamlet, National Theatre, October 1963". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 9 June 2016.
  16. ^ a b "Harris, Rosemary 1927(?)-". Archived from the original on 14 December 2018. Retrieved 14 December 2018.
  17. ^ a b "Rosemary Harris Biography (1930?-)". Archived from the original on 29 June 2018. Retrieved 14 December 2018.
  18. ^ See the VHS recording of this performance issued by Arthur Cantor Films, New York.
  19. ^ "VIDEO: Watch Stage and Screen Legend Rosemary Harris Accept 2019 Lifetime Achievement Tony Award". BroadwayWorld. 9 June 2019. Retrieved 9 June 2019.
  20. ^ Reich, Ronni (25 February 2014). "Rosemary Harris returns to the New York stage". Retrieved 4 August 2018.
  21. ^ Sandomir, Richard (12 April 2018). "John Ehle, Who Rooted His Novels in Appalachia, Is Dead at 92". The New York Times. Retrieved 4 August 2018.
  22. ^ Glass, Ira; Secret, Mosi (8 September 2017). "Essay B". This American Life. WBEZ. Retrieved 24 January 2021. A transcript is also available.
  23. ^ "A Flea in Her Ear". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 25 January 2024.
  24. ^ O'Connor, John J. (12 October 1984). "TV Weekend; Virginia Woolf's 'To the Lighthouse'". The New York Times. New York City. Retrieved 9 June 2016.
  25. ^ Canby, Vincent (19 October 1984). "MOVIES: 'THE PLOUGHMAN'S LUNCH,' AN EXERCISE IN DUPLICITY". The New York Times. Retrieved 25 January 2024.
  26. ^ Kehr, Dave (16 June 2000). "AT THE MOVIES; A Resemblance? It's Only Natural". The New York Times. Retrieved 7 February 2010.
  27. ^ Salfino, Michael (28 June 2017). "Hold On, You're Spider-Man's Aunt May?". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 4 August 2018.
  28. ^ Monahan, Mark (25 January 2008). "The face is familiar: Rosemary Harris". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 11 January 2022. Retrieved 4 August 2018.
  29. ^ "Synopsis of Wit & Wisdom" at Theater Mania
  30. ^ North Carolina Award profile Archived 15 August 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  31. ^ Vine, Hannah (28 September 2018). "First Look at Tony Winner Rosemary Harris in My Fair Lady on Broadway". Playbill. Archived from the original on 16 November 2018. Retrieved 14 December 2018.
  32. ^ "Rosemary Harris returns to Broadway in My Fair Lady at Lincoln Center Theater". New York Theater Guide. 11 September 2018. Retrieved 14 December 2018.
  33. ^ Kavanagh, Julie; Avedon, Richard (13 May 1996). "Chameleons". The New Yorker. Retrieved 4 August 2018.
  34. ^ "Research Guide: Harry Ransom Center". Retrieved 4 December 2023.
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