Cub Reporter Interview: Julie Harris

julie harris

Julie Harris died. What an actress. My interview with her, when she portrayed Emily Dickinson in Belle of Amherst, was an early lesson in the freelance journalism business. Besotted with Emily Dickinson, I saw her in that one-woman play in Philadelphia and went backstage with my daughter, age 13. Harris agreed to speak to me by telephone at her next stop, St. Louis.

Harris had just made a movie, The Hiding Place, based on the true story about Corrie Ten Boom, the Dutch Christian who survived a Nazi concentration camp and managed to forgive her captors.
corrie ten boom
That book made a deep impression on me (it fueled my desire to memorize Bible verses in case I was ever trapped without a book, either incarcerated or lost in the woods or whatever).

So I assumed Harris was a Christian. I sold a story on her to a national Christian magazine, and then set about to track her down — because somehow she had failed to tell me how to reach her. Publicity agents were not helpful to a newbie writer, but I knew she was in St. Louis, so I methodically called all the hotels in St. Louis until, bingo, I found her and we talked for about 15 minutes.

Then the story fell apart. Julie Harris was a very spiritual person, but she avowed that the deities that she valued most highly were, in this order, Gandhi, Mother Theresa, and Christ. Maybe the first two were reversed.

That wasn’t sufficient for the Christian magazine. I don’t think I ever managed to sell the story to any publication, but I did get to talk to the actress I adored. The Hiding Place seems to have passed into oblivion; it was not even mentioned in the New York Times article. RIP, Corrie Ten Boom and Julie Harris.

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