After studying at the London Academy of Dramatic Art (LAMDA), Harris made his professional debut on stage with Joan Littlewood's company at the Theatre Royal Stratford East, appearing in Brendan Behan's The Quare Fellow. He went on to star as the loveable scoundrel Sebastian Dangerfield in the West End production of JP Donleavy's The Ginger Man.
In the 1960s, Harris' screen career took off with films such as This Sporting Life, Mutiny on the Bounty, The Guns of Navarone, Major Dundee, Hawaii, The Red Desert and Caprice and, in 1970, A Man Called Horse.
His most enduring - and suitably crossover - role was, however, as the legendary King Arthur in Lerner and Loewe's musical King Arthur. Though the stage role was created by Harris' friend and former 'hellraiser' Richard Burton, Harris took the crown (and a Golden Globe Award) for the 1967 film and wisely bought the rights to the show, which he revived and starred in many times on stage in the West End and on Broadway. In the end, it was Camelot that made him a multi-millionaire.
Over the past decade, after years of drink problems and Hollywood neglect, Harris has resurfaced with character parts in a number of big-budget film projects, not least The Field, Patriot Games, Unforgive, Gladiator and the Harry Potter series.
- by Terri Paddock