Richard Harris [Richard St. John Harris] (1930-2002) b. Limerick, Ireland.
Born in Limerick, Ireland, on October 1, Richard Harris trained at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, and was a graduate of Joan Littlewood’s Theatre Workshop. He appeared in a number of British films during the late 1950s, debuting with Shake Hands with the Devil (1959), and was often associated with Irish related subjects. His performance as Frank Machin in This Sporting Life (1963) gave him international recognition, a Best Actor award from Cannes and an Oscar nomination. A landmark performance in the British New Wave, his representation of masculinity owes more to the individualism of the American Method school than to the social naturalism of Albert Finney. It was a level of performance he did not repeat, though it revealed a current of masochism in Harris’ career (and his life) which he drew on more graphically in A Man Called Horse (1970).
He sang semi-tunefully as King Arthur opposite Vanessa Redgrave in Joshua Logan’s Camelot (1970), but Harris’s career in the 1970s and 1980s became more marked for its boozy scandals than for his acting. Due to the lack of appealing film offers and a series of flops Harris decided to quit films entirely during the early 1980s. Since his recent return to Ireland, however, he has won an Oscar nomination for his part in Jim Sheridan’s The Field (1990), was memorably masochistic in Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven (1992), and played the war-weary Emperor Marcus Aurelius in Gladiator (2000). Latterly, Harris found a new generation of fans thanks to his screen portrayal of Harry Potter’s wise old mentor and professor Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001).