Richard Harris was an Irish actor and singer who appeared in many films, notably as King Arthur in the 1967 film Camelot, as well as the 1981 revival of the stage musical. He played an aristocrat captured by American Indians in A Man Called Horse (1970), a gunfighter in Clint Eastwood's Western film Unforgiven (1992), Emperor Marcus Aurelius in Gladiator (2000), and Albus Dumbledore in the first two Harry Potter films: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (2001) and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002), the latter of which was his final film role. He was replaced by Michael Gambon for the remainder of the series. Harris had a number-one singing hit in Australia and Canada, and a top-ten hit in the United Kingdom, Ireland, and United States with his 1968 recording of Jimmy Webb's song "MacArthur Park." In 2020, he was listed at number 3 on The Irish Times list of Ireland's greatest film actors.
Harris was born on 1 October 1930, in Limerick. He was schooled by the Jesuits at Crescent College. A talented rugby player, he appeared on several Munster Junior and Senior Cup teams for Crescent, and played for Garryowen. Harris's athletic career was cut short when he caught tuberculosis in his teens. He remained an ardent fan of the Munster Rugby and Young Munster teams until his death, attending many of their matches, and there are numerous stories of japes at rugby matches with actors and fellow rugby fans Peter O'Toole and Richard Burton.
After recovering from tuberculosis, Harris moved to Great Britain, wanting to become a director. He could not find any suitable training courses, and enrolled in the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA) to learn acting. He had failed an audition at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) and had been rejected by the Central School of Speech and Drama, because they felt he was too old at 24. While still a student, he rented the tiny "off-West End" Irving Theatre, and there directed his own production of Clifford Odets' play Winter Journey (The Country Girl). After completing his studies at the Academy, he joined Joan Littlewood's Theatre Workshop. He began getting roles in West End theatre productions, starting with The Quare Fellow in 1956, a transfer from the Theatre Workshop. He spent nearly a decade in obscurity, learning his profession on stages throughout the UK.
- "The 50 greatest Irish film actors of all time – in order" (13 June 2020). Retrieved on 25 July 2020.
- "He was one of the most outstanding film stars of his time", Irish Independent (27 October 2002). Retrieved on 10 December 2007.
- Severo, Richard (26 October 2002). "Richard Harris, Versatile And Volatile Star, 72, Dies", The New York Times. Retrieved on 10 December 2007.
- "Limerick rugby full of heroes".. Wesclark.com (24 May 2002). Retrieved on 8 November 2011.
- "Entertainment | Obituary: Richard Harris", BBC News (25 October 2002). Retrieved on 10 November 2012.
- Michael Feeney Callan (1 December 2004). Richard Harris: Sex, Death & the Movies. Robson Books. ISBN 978-1-86105-766-2.
- Richard Harris at the Internet Movie Database
- Harris' Bar Limerick: A Bar in Limerick City Dedicated to Richard
- The Round Table, The Richard Harris Fansite
- Richard Harris file at Limerick City Library, Ireland
- Obituary by Paul Bond at the World Socialist Web Site
- Dumbledore Quotes site
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