Sunday, August 25, 2013

Julie Harris, 1925-2013

Julie Harris, Ethel Waters, and Brandon de Wilde in Member of the Wedding (1952)

The death was announced yesterday of actress Julie Harris. She was 87. Harris was apparently rather more prominent on Broadway, where she won five Tony awards. But she took the role she did on stage in Member of the Wedding and brought it to the screen, earning an Oscar nomination in the process.

Now, I have to admit that Member of the Wedding is a movie I seriously dislike. And a lot of that has to do with the character Julie Harris plays. First of all, I have a bit of trouble with the idea of 26-year-old Julie Harris playing a 12-year-old girl. If it were a 26-year-old man playing a 12-year-old boy, I think a lot of people would find it seriously creepy. Second, the character is just impossibly unlikeable. She's supposed to be the protagonist and a source of sympathy, but I can imagine people losing their temper and saying to the girl, "Shut your [insert long, long string of expletives here] mouth already!" Or, as I wrote in the original post, I was rooting for Ethel Waters' maid character to smack Julie Harris' character into the next county. But to be fair to Harris, a lot of the dislikability would come down to the lines she has to deliver, or the direction she's being given, which implies that Harris actually gave a very good performance.

Harris certainly gave a good performance in The Haunting, which is a film I also vastly prefer to Member of the Wedding. (Granted, that's not hard.) Harris also does a good job in East of Eden, although that's a movie I'm somewhat indifferent to, largely because I'm not the biggest fan of James Dean.

I don't know if TCM has any sort of tribute planned yet. I haven't watched TCM to see if a "TCM Remembers" spot has shows up. As for a tribute preƫmpting previously scheduled programming, I can't imagine that happening for at least another week -- they have to get through Summer Under the Stars first; Sundays in September are dedicated to Alfred Hitchcock, and Monday being Labor Day is the annual salute to the Telluride Film Festival. Then there's which ever day of the week is dedicated to the Star of the Month (Kim Novak, but I haven't checked which day it will be) and the Friday Night Spotlight. TCM should be able to get the rights to enough of her movies to do a tribute, though.

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