Jonathan Harris Biography


Birthday: November 6, 1914 (Scorpio)

Born In: Bronx, New York, United States

Jonathan Harris was a noted American actor, best remembered for playing supporting roles mumerous television series and films. He was born and brought up in Bronx, New York, but got rid of his Bronx accent when he decided to become an actor. He also changed his surname from ‘Charasuchin’ to ‘Harris’, as the latter was easier to pronounce. Interestingly, Harris graduated in pharmacology from the ‘Fordham University’ and worked in different drugstores before embarking on an acting career. He first performed on stage, appearing in more than 100 productions, before moving to Los Angeles to make his screen debut. He first came in the limelight for portraying the role of a timid accountant in television series ‘The Third Man’. He ultimately earned the status of a cult icon for his role in ‘Lost in Space’. He spent the later part of his career voice acting in numerous animated productions as well as commercials. He continued doing voice-overs almost until his death at the age of 87.
Quick Facts

Also Known As: Jonathan Daniel Charasuchin

Died At Age: 87


Spouse/Ex-: Gertrude Bregman

father: Sam

mother: Jennie Charasuchin

children: Richard Harris

Jewish Actors Actors

Height: 5'11" (180 cm), 5'11" Males

Died on: November 3, 2002

place of death: Los Angeles, California, United States

Cause of Death: Blood Clots

City: Bronx, New York

U.S. State: New Yorkers

More Facts

education: Fordham University

Childhood & Early Years
Jonathan Harris was born on November 6, 1914 as Jonathan Daniel Charasuchin in Bronx, New York City. His father Sam Charasuchin was employed in Manhattan’s garment district, while his mother Jennie Charasuchin was a homemaker. He was the second child of his parents and had two sisters named Allene and Rosalie.
Born into an improvised Russian-Jewish immigrant family, Harris grew up in a six-storey tenement. In order to make extra money, his mother often rented some portion of their home. During such times, Jonathan had to give up his room and move to the dining room, where he slept on chairs.
Despite their limited means, his parents made sure that he received proper education. They also took him to see Yiddish plays and encouraged him to listen to operas on the radio. To help his parents financially, he started working as stock boy in a local pharmacy at the age of 12.
Harris grew up speaking with a Bronx accent, but slowly began to detest it. By the time he was in high school, he started watching British movies in order to cultivate an English accent. In high school, he developed interests in the Latin language, Shakespeare, romantic poetry and archaeology.
He developed a love for acting while he was studying in ‘James Monroe High School’, from where he graduated in 1931. In the following year, he and his siblings legally changed their surname to Harris because they considered their family name unpronounceable.
He enrolled in the ‘Fordham University’ in 1932 with a new surname. He graduated from there with a degree in pharmacology in 1936. Thereafter, he began his career, working in different drugstores.
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Jonathan Harris got his first acting job in 1939 with a fake resume. He joined a repertory company at the Millpond Playhouse in Long Island, New York and went on to appear in 16 plays for them.
In 1942, he made his Broadway debut in ‘The Heart of a City’, appearing in a leading role. In the play, he was essaying the role of a Polish officer, therefore, he was required to speak with a Polish accent. Since he was clueless about the Polish accent but wanted to do the part, he made one up, claiming that his Polish immigrant parents spoke like that.
After spending the war years entertaining American troops in the South Pacific, Harris starred alongside Marlon Brando in the play ‘A Flag Is Born’ (1946). It was followed by production like ‘The Madwoman of Chaillot’ (1948-1950), ‘The Grass Harp’ (1952), ‘Hazel Flagg’ (1953) and ‘The Teahouse of the August Moon’ (1953-1956).
In 1948, he moved to Los Angeles, where he debuted on television, appearing in one episode of ‘The Chevrolet Tele-Theatre' in 1949. It was followed by ‘Lights Out’ (2 episodes, 1950-1951), ‘Studio One’ (4 episodes, 1951-1957), Kraft Television Theater (1 episode, 1958), and Zorro (3 episodes, 1959).
In 1951, Harris started voice acting in films, recording for the role of Birds in the Walt Disney production ‘Alice in Wonderland’. His first appearance on the big screen was in the 1953 movie ‘Botany Bay’, in which he played the role of Tom Oakley.
His first big break came in 1959 when he was cast in the mystery television show ‘The Third Man’. He appeared in 72 episodes as the dour and humorless assistant, Bradford Webster. Concurrently, he also worked in other TV productions, including 40 episodes of ‘The Bill Dana Show’ (1963-1965).
The biggest break of Harris’s acting career came in 1965 when he began to star as Dr. Zachary Smith in ‘Lost in Space’. He worked in 83 episodes of the series that ran until 1968 and established him as a plumy villain and cult icon.
After ‘Lost in Space’ concluded, the character actor continued to appear in various TV productions, including series like ‘Uncle Croc's Block' (1975) and ‘Space Academy’ (1977). When he stopped enjoying playing the villain on screen, he decided to change the course of his career.
In 1978, Harris emerged as a successful voice artist, working in nine episodes of the animated series ‘Battlestar Galactica’. He spent the remainder of his career providing voiceovers for numerous productions, including animated films, television series and commercials. His last work as a voiceover artist was in the series 'Buzz Lightyear of Star Command' (2000).

Major Works
Jonathan Harris is best remembered for playing the role of Dr. Zachary Smith in the CBS science fiction television production ‘Lost in Space’. Appearing as a double agent, his character was to be killed after a while. But he became so popular with the viewers that the creators made his character a series regular.
Family & Personal Life
Jonathan Harris married his childhood sweetheart and schoolmate Gertrude Bregman in 1938. Their only son Richard Harris was born in 1942.
Harris died of a blood clot in the heart while receiving therapy for a chronic back problem at a hospital on November 3, 2002. He was interred in Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery, Westwood Village, Los Angeles.
In late 2002, Harris and the surviving cast of the television series ‘Lost in Space’ were preparing to film a movie titled ‘Lost in Space: The Journey Home’ for NBC. However, the project could not be completed after Harris's death.

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