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Friday
Jul252014

Truth Tell: Barbara Harris is Underappreciated

A Happy 79th birthday to Barbara Harris. She hasn't acted in such a long time but she was often just wonderful on the screen with unique rhythm, energy and comic ability.

I'm not sure that anything about Alfred Hitchcock's Family Plot (Hitch's last feature in 1976) totally works but if you could argue that any of it does it's either the cemetery scene or anything involving Barbara Harris's performance as a con-artist psychic. The movie is frustrating since it feels half formed and its inarguably flabby:  every time you need the editing too tighten it up which would have made everything, including the memorable actors (Karen Black and Bruce Dern are also on hand), pop. It just keeps the scene going.

Barbara Harris's largest claim to fame these days is her Golden Globe nominated work in the original Freaky Friday (1976) wherein she switched bodies with her tomboy daughter Jodie Foster but my favorite Harris performance ever is her role as "Albuquerque" in Robert Altman's masterpiece Nashville (1975)

It don't worry me.
It don't worry me.
You may say that I'm not free. It don't worry me ♫ 

 I'd be okay with the entire 1975 Supporting Actress Oscar lineup just being ladies from Nashville, all told. 

Exit Music. Here's Barbara Harris doing bits from "On a Clear Day You Can See Forever," a role she originated on Broadway in 1965 to the tune of a Tony nomination before Barbra Streisand took over in the film version five years later.

 

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Reader Comments (15)

Yes! Happy Birthday Mrs. Harris. she is now retired in Phoenix I believe. she's one of my favorites because of her zany personality. love her in Freaky Friday, The Apple Tree, and her Oscar nominated role is also really great!

July 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLola

My favorite movie role was her role as the social worker in A Thousand Clowns . The classic Barbara Harris role .

July 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLeslie19

She makes me break down at the end of Nashville she's so perfect. One of the great movie moments.
Also, that's John Cullum from Northern Exposure with her! I had no idea he was a musical man.

July 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMike in Canada

Mike -- oh yeah. He still does Broadway. That's actually the only way i knew him was fron stage musicals. He's great on stage.

July 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I love her in A Thousand Clowns and in Plaza Suite. She made an impression on me. I auditioned for Plaza Suite many years ago for an amateur production. I got the part basically due to playing Barbara Harris playing Muriel Tate.

July 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterErin in Flagstaff

I totally agree with your choice of Nashville as her best role, that ending is seared into my brain. A wonderful actress who deserved more roles and more acclaim. Btw. Harris may not have been so widely known to the public, however she was highly appreciated by critics - and cinephiles.

July 26, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLadyEdith

I think her performance in Freaky Friday is one of the all time greatest in comedy.

July 26, 2014 | Unregistered Commentero.s.

The girl can make flowers grow at a moment's notice?

So... basically she's the proto-"Lucy"?

July 26, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

Exactly why i love this site / blog....you remind us of actors like the distinctive Barbara Harris, who otherwise drift off into never land. Thanks for the reminder. "Peggy Sue....the penis....STAY AWAY FROM IT!"

July 26, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJimmy

So unique it's a shame she didn't find more success on screen. I know she was very respected so perhaps she didn't enjoy film making. She was quite wonderful in The Seduction of Joe Tynan. She took a role that could have been a standard nothing, Alan Alda's wronged wife, and made it memorable.

July 26, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterjoel6

Joel6 -- i've never seen that one and keep meaning too.

Evan - double feature!

July 26, 2014 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Happy Birthday Mom ;)

July 26, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

Nathaniel-It's a good not great movie but definitely worth checking out. Beside Barbara Harris, it has a not uninteresting story to tell plus Melvyn Douglas who's very good. Of course it's one of Meryl's few early supporting roles when she was just a promising performer.

July 26, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterjoel6

Great piece. She is/was underappreciated even back in the day. My favorite of her movies is also the Best Picture-nominated (should have won) A Thousand Clowns. He costars are Jason Robards, Martin Balsam, and William Daniels. I don't think it's available on DVD, which is a shame.

July 26, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSean Troutman

I loved her in Peggy Sue Got Married too!

July 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRM

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