During the 1950s, ‘60s and 70s, Julie Harris—eventually collecting five acting Tonys—didn’t appear in a new production every year. But she almost did. And I missed few of them. (Between 1945 and 1997 she’s listed as helping populate 33 productions.) Harris was my favorite stage actress—and if talking “favorites” has a sophomoric ring to it, that’s just too bad.
In 1955, I saw her as Joan of Arc in Lillian Hellman’s adaptation of Jean Anouilh’s The Lark, directed by Joseph Anthony (whose name is all but forgotten now but shouldn’t be). Was the performance—for which Harris won the second of her five Tonys—indelible? Kinda. At barely taller than five feet, she gave a demonstration of the paradoxical combination of vulnerability and invincibility I’ve never seen equaled. For her final speech (delivered in exaltation at the coronation King Charles for whom Joan of Arc campaigned), Harris was the stage equivalent of an everlasting light.
Twice monthly, ArtsNash is delighted to feature articles from our partner The Clyde Fitch Report. The contributors to CFR cast their journalistic eyes on the worlds of arts and politics. Follow The Clyde Fitch Report on Facebook and Twitter. David Finkle is the author of the preceding article, one of a series in The Aisle Seat for CFR.