Richard Harris, the passionate Irish actor who played King Arthur in the film version of Lerner and Loewe's Camelot, and later on tour and for TV, died Oct. 25 at a London hospital, according to news reports.
Mr. Harris, 72, was reportedly receiving treatments for Hodgkin's Disease after becoming ill earlier this year.
Although the craggy-faced, blond-haired Mr. Harris was introduced recently to a new generation of fans playing Prof. Dumbledore in "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," his most widely-known role was as the troubled King Arthur in the 1967 film, "Camelot," a role first created on the musical stage by Richard Burton, in 1960. Burton returned to the role for a national tour and New York City stop in 1980. Mr. Harris ascended into that tour, taking the production around the country and back to Broadway in 1981.
Although he himself admitted that some of his performances were erratic, and he did take a leave from the tour briefly, many embraced his committed and passionate portrayal of the English king who, legend has it, sowed the seeds of democracy. Where Burton seemed elegant and born to the role, Mr. Harris seemed to have it thrust upon him, and his Arthur was full of conflict and regret. His work in the latter-day production was preserved on a cast album (to say nothing of the 1967 soundtrack, which had Vanessa Redgrave as Guinevere).
In 1982 Mr. Harris appeared in a TV version of Camelot, a taping of the stage show. Born Oct. 1, 1930, in Limerick, Ireland, Mr. Harris trained at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art and had a reputation not only as an imposing classics worthy actor but as man who liked to drink, often in the company of fellow actors Peter O'Toole and Richard Burton. His stories about partying with his co-stars are legendary.
He made his professional stage debut in Brendan Behan's The Quare Fellow in Stratford. In 1959, he played the lead in the West End production of J.P. Donleavy's The Ginger Man, based on the novel about a young Irish student on a tear through Dublin pubs and women.
Among his many films are "A Man Called Horse" and its sequels, "Unforgiven," "Gladiator" and "The Field." He was nominated for an Oscar for the last, as well as for "This Sporting Life," the 1963 film which made him a star. "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" will be released in November, and he was to play Prof. Dumbledore in the third picture in the series, set for release in 2004.
Mr. Harris also had a brief and bizarre singing career. His marathon 1969 recording of the Jimmy Webb's "MacArthur Park" may be one of the oddest hit records of the rock era.
His son Jared Harris is a stage and film actor.