Debonair British leading actor of pleasant, if limited, range, on stage since 1924; films only occasionally gave him the right material
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Rex Harrison BiographyBorn in Huyton, Lancashire, Rex Harrison joined the Liverpool Repertory Company at the age of 16, began in films in 1929 and made his London stage début in 1930. In 1936, after an unsuccessful screen test for Warner’s, he was signed to an exclusive contract with Alexander Korda, following it with his stage performance in French without Tears, which established him as a star and provided him with a type – elegant and charming – that he played for most of his career.
In the mid-1940s, Harrison went to Hollywood under contract to Twentieth Century-Fox, but his stay there came to a sudden end after the scandal resulting from his affair with the actress Carole Landis, which ended with her suicide.
His best screen performances were as Professor Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady (repeating his stage success), Adolphus Cusins in Major Barbara, Charles Condomine in Blithe Spirit and Vivian Kenway in The Rake’s Progress.
Rex Harrison’s six wives included Lilli Palmer (1942–57), Kay Kendall (1957–59) – whom he married knowing that she was dying from leukaemia, a fact that he kept from her, and Rachel Roberts (1962–71). He was knighted in 1989.