Birthday: June 24, 1904
Died At Age: 91
Sun Sign: Cancer
Also Known As: Wonga Philip Harris
Born Country: United States
Born in: Linton, Indiana, United States
Famous as: Comedian
Height: 6'0" (183 cm), 6'0" Males
Spouse/Ex-: Alice Faye (m. 1941), Marcia Ralston (m. 1927–1940)
father: Grant Harris
mother: Dolly Harris
children: Alice Harris, Phil Harris Jr, Phyllis Harris
Died on: August 11, 1995
place of death: Rancho Mirage, California, USA
Cause of Death: Heart Attack
Phil Harris was an American comedian, singer, actor and voice actor. Nicknamed ‘Old Curly’ by his peers, he rose from humble origins and made it big in life by the sheer dint of his talent. In later years, he often joked about his heritage making self-deprecating remarks, however, he always identified himself as a Southerner and that love came through in one of his most iconic songs ‘That’s What I Like About the South’. Phil breathed life into the words scripted for him. His personal take on how Baloo the Bear from Disney movie ‘The Jungle Book’ should talk and sound like, was so impressive that the Disney staff rewrote the complete movie to incorporate the characters’ personalities with the actors who were doing their voices, adding a unique touch to the movie. He was also an accomplished golfer, and had won several amateur tournaments.
Childhood & Early Life
Wonga Philip Harris was born on the 24 June 1904 in a small town called Linton, located about 80 miles from Indianapolis, in a coal-mining camp. His father was a musician and circus bandmaster and his mother also worked with the circus. They moved their family to Nashville when Phil was 6 years old.
His first break was given to him by his dad who hired him to play drums in the circus. He formed his own band known as Dixie Syncopaters and toured with them for two years before starting his solo performances.
You May Like
Continue Reading Below
His 1932 formation of a new orchestra saw much success and led him towards radio. Phil became a household name and quickly gained popularity with his comic timing as a regular on Jack Benny’s radio show from the year 1936 to 1952, and on went to do his own show with wife Alice from 1946 to 1954.
His voice was quite unique with a pronounced Southern accent and he sang more like he was talking, yet he has given some amazing songs like ‘That’s What I Like About the South’, ‘Smoke That Cigarette’, ‘Woodman, Spare that Tree’, ‘What They Say About Dixie’, and ‘The Preacher and the Bear’. His song for the movie ‘The Bare Necessities’, earned an Oscar nomination and surged his popularity during his later years.
Movies & Television Career
Phil Harris left behind a fabulous resume with his filmography including movies like ‘Why Be Good’(1929), ‘Melody Cruise’ (1933), short-film ‘So This Is Harris!’ (1933), which won the Oscar for best short subject live action film, short-film ‘Double or Nothing’ (1936), ‘Turn Off the Moon’ (1937), short-film ‘Romancing Along’ (1937), ‘Harris in the Spring’ (1937) , ‘Man About Town’ (1939), ‘Buck Benny Rides Again’ (1940), ‘Dreaming Out Loud’ (1940), ‘I Love a Bandleader’ (1945), ‘Wabash Avenue’ (1950), ‘Here Comes the Groom’ (1951), ‘The Wild Blue Yonder’ (1951), a cameo in ‘Starlift’ (1951), ‘The High and the Mighty’ (1954), ‘Anything Goes’ (1956), Good-bye, My Lady’ (1956), ‘The Big Sell’ (1960), ‘The Wheeler Dealers’ (1963), ‘The Patsy’ (1964), ‘The Cool Ones’ (1967), and ‘The Gatling Gun’ (1971).
Apart from movies, he featured in a lot of television show episodes as himself, like ‘This Is Your Life’ in 1957 and 1984, ‘The Milton Berle Show’ (1966), ‘The Dean Martin Show’ from 1966 to 1970, ‘The Johnny Cash Show’ 1969, ‘This Is Tom Jones’ (1970), ‘Dinah!’ (1975), and ‘The Disney Family Album’ in 1985.
He also played other characters on TV, such as pianist Phil Stanley in ‘The Lucy Show’, Flaming Arrow in ‘F Troop’, Clarence Simmons in ‘Ben Casey’, Will Fields in ‘Fantasy Island’, and Harvey Cronkle in ‘The Love Boat’.
He had a deep distinctive tone and did voice-overs for movies such as ‘Robin Hood’, ‘The Jungle Book’, ‘The Aristocats’ and ‘Rock-a-Doodle’, which was his last film role in 1991, before he retired.
Family & Personal Life
Phil Harris married his first wife, Australian actress Marcia Ralston on the 2 September 1927. The couple had met during one of Phil’s concert performances and stayed married for 13 years till their divorce in 1940. They had adopted a boy and named him Phil Harris Junior.
Following the separation, he married American singer and actress Alice Jeanne Faye on 12 May 1941. The couple had two girls, Alice born on 19 May 1942 and Phyllis born on 22 April 1944.
Phil Harris died on the 11 August 1995 at his home in Rancho Mirage California, due to a heart-attack and his wife Alice passed away three years later succumbing to stomach cancer. Both of them rest at Cathedral City’s Forest Lawn Cemetery. They are survived by their daughters, grand-children and great-grandchildren.