There is always a struggle, a striving for something bigger than yourself in all forms of art. And even if you don’t achieve greatness, even if you fail, which we all must, everything you \do in your work is somehow connected with your attitude toward life, your deepest secret feelings. Rex Harrison
On this day in 1908, Reginald Carey Harrison made his debut in the world. His father was a cotton broker. They lived at Derry House in Huyton, Lancashire. He adopted the nickname “Rex” because he was taken with the meaning of it – “king.” He said he once heard someone call their dog, Rex, and thought it had a nice ring. He was educated at Liverpool College. Rex made his first stage appearance at the age of 18 and it was almost his last. He dashed out on stage to deliver his line and completely blanked out. I can totally relate.
We know of Rex Harrison for his many stage roles as well as his significant performances in the movies, “Cleopatra” and “My Fair Lady.” He loved the hat he wore in “My Fair Lady” and it became his trademark from then on.
This dashing Englishman, was married six times. I guess he and Elizabeth Taylor had a lot of things in common and plenty to talk about while filming “Cleopatra.” He divorced his first wife in 1942 and married actress Lilli Palmer the following year. While married to her, he had an affair with another actress, Carole Landis. She committed suicide after spending the night with Harrison. He discovered her body the next day. A scandal arose when he waited several hours before reporting her death to the police. Of course his marriage ended and he was released from his contract with Fox. His career suffered a minor setback.
He gained a reputation as a womanizer, but was also considered to be very charming and debonair. Once he punched Frank Sinatra for what he thought to be advances on his then wife, Lilli Palmer. They later became best of friends. Only in Hollywood. He was also known to be abrupt with his fans. I guess with fame, you don’t have to be nice to those who made you famous.
Harrison was awarded several Golden Globe awards and was nominated for many others. He also received the Academy Award for best actor in “My Fair Lady.” He dedicated the award to Julie Andrews and Audrey Hepburn – his costars in the Broadway production and movie. He was honored by the Queen of England, with knighthood in 1989.
Sir Rex Harrison died in 1990 of pancreatic cancer only three weeks after his last stage appearance. He undoubtedly held to the old adage that the show must go on. His ashes were strewn over the grave of wife, Lilli Palmer.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, REX!