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Jonathan Harris

Jonathan Harris

Overview
Jonathan Harris was an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 stage
Stage (theatre)
In theatre or performance arts, the stage is a designated space for the performance productions. The stage serves as a space for actors or performers and a focal point for the members of the audience...

 and film
Film
A film, also called a movie or motion picture, is a series of still or moving images. It is produced by recording photographic images with cameras, or by creating images using animation techniques or visual effects...

 character actor
Character actor
A character actor is one who predominantly plays unusual or eccentric characters. The Oxford English Dictionary defines a character actor as "an actor who specializes in character parts", defining character part in turn as "an acting role displaying pronounced or unusual characteristics or...

. Two of his best-known roles were as the timid accountant Bradford Webster in the TV version of The Third Man
The Third Man
The Third Man is a 1949 British film noir, directed by Carol Reed and starring Joseph Cotten, Alida Valli, Orson Welles, and Trevor Howard. Many critics rank it as a masterpiece, particularly remembered for its atmospheric cinematography, performances, and unique musical score...

, and the comic villain Dr. Zachary Smith, in the 1960s sci-fi television series, Lost in Space
Lost in Space
Lost in Space is a science fiction TV series created and produced by Irwin Allen, filmed by 20th Century Fox Television, and broadcast on CBS. The show ran for three seasons, with 83 episodes airing between September 15, 1965, and March 6, 1968...

. Near the end of his career, he provided the voice of "Manny", a praying mantis in the animated feature A Bug's Life
A Bug's Life
A Bug's Life is a 1998 American computer animated adventure comedy film produced by Pixar and released by Walt Disney Pictures in the United States on November 25, 1998. A Bug's Life was the second Disney·Pixar feature film after Toy Story, and the third American computer-animated film after Toy...

.

The second of three children, Harris was born to a poor family in The Bronx, New York.
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Encyclopedia
Jonathan Harris was an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 stage
Stage (theatre)
In theatre or performance arts, the stage is a designated space for the performance productions. The stage serves as a space for actors or performers and a focal point for the members of the audience...

 and film
Film
A film, also called a movie or motion picture, is a series of still or moving images. It is produced by recording photographic images with cameras, or by creating images using animation techniques or visual effects...

 character actor
Character actor
A character actor is one who predominantly plays unusual or eccentric characters. The Oxford English Dictionary defines a character actor as "an actor who specializes in character parts", defining character part in turn as "an acting role displaying pronounced or unusual characteristics or...

. Two of his best-known roles were as the timid accountant Bradford Webster in the TV version of The Third Man
The Third Man
The Third Man is a 1949 British film noir, directed by Carol Reed and starring Joseph Cotten, Alida Valli, Orson Welles, and Trevor Howard. Many critics rank it as a masterpiece, particularly remembered for its atmospheric cinematography, performances, and unique musical score...

, and the comic villain Dr. Zachary Smith, in the 1960s sci-fi television series, Lost in Space
Lost in Space
Lost in Space is a science fiction TV series created and produced by Irwin Allen, filmed by 20th Century Fox Television, and broadcast on CBS. The show ran for three seasons, with 83 episodes airing between September 15, 1965, and March 6, 1968...

. Near the end of his career, he provided the voice of "Manny", a praying mantis in the animated feature A Bug's Life
A Bug's Life
A Bug's Life is a 1998 American computer animated adventure comedy film produced by Pixar and released by Walt Disney Pictures in the United States on November 25, 1998. A Bug's Life was the second Disney·Pixar feature film after Toy Story, and the third American computer-animated film after Toy...

.

Early life


The second of three children, Harris was born to a poor family in The Bronx, New York. His parents were Sam and Jennie Charasuchin, Russian immigrants who eked out a living in Manhattan
Manhattan
Manhattan is the oldest and the most densely populated of the five boroughs of New York City. Located primarily on the island of Manhattan at the mouth of the Hudson River, the boundaries of the borough are identical to those of New York County, an original county of the state of New York...

's garment district. His family resided in a six-tenant apartment complex. To raise money, his mother took in boarders, some of whom were given Jonathan's bed, forcing Jonathan to sleep in the dining room. From the age of 12, he worked as a pharmacy clerk. While there was little money for luxuries, Jonathan's father took efforts to expand his son's cultural horizons. This included trips to the Yiddish Theatre
Yiddish theatre
Yiddish theatre consists of plays written and performed primarily by Jews in Yiddish, the language of the Central European Ashkenazi Jewish community. The range of Yiddish theatre is broad: operetta, musical comedy, and satiric or nostalgic revues; melodrama; naturalist drama; expressionist and...

, where he was encouraged by his father to listen to opera. Young Jonathan was enthralled. He discarded his Bronx accent and began to cultivate more sophisticated English tones.

Although he could seldom afford tickets, Broadway
Broadway theatre
Broadway theatre, commonly called simply Broadway, refers to theatrical performances presented in one of the 40 professional theatres with 500 or more seats located in the Theatre District centered along Broadway, and in Lincoln Center, in Manhattan in New York City...

 plays were also an interest. Before graduation from James Monroe High School
James Monroe High School (New York)
For schools with a similar name, see James Monroe High School.James Monroe High School was a comprehensive high school located at 1300 Boynton Avenue and E 172nd Street in the Soundview section of the Bronx....

 in 1931 (at age 16), he had also become interested in archeology, Latin, romantic poetry and, inevitably, Shakespeare. He didn't fit amongst his peers (especially Estelle Reiner
Estelle Reiner
Estelle Reiner , described by The New York Times as "matriarch of one of the leading families in American comedy", was an actress, the wife of Carl Reiner, and the mother of Rob Reiner, Sylvia Anne Reiner and Lucas Reiner...

 — mother of future actor/director, Rob Reiner
Rob Reiner
Robert "Rob" Reiner is an American actor, director, producer, writer, and political activist.As an actor, Reiner first came to national prominence as Archie and Edith Bunker's son-in-law, Michael "Meathead" Stivic, on All in the Family. That role earned him two Emmy Awards during the 1970s...

, who was one of his classmates) with the exception of his girlfriend, Gertrude Bregman, whom he subsequently married.

In 1932, aged 17, he legally changed his named from "Charasuchin" to "Harris", apparently without informing his parents. That same year, Harris's work at the pharmacy led him to attending Fordham University
Fordham University
Fordham University is a private, nonprofit, coeducational research university in the United States, with three campuses in and around New York City. It was founded by the Roman Catholic Diocese of New York in 1841 as St...

 in New York
New York
New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...

, where he majored in pharmacology
Pharmacology
Pharmacology is the branch of medicine and biology concerned with the study of drug action. More specifically, it is the study of the interactions that occur between a living organism and chemicals that affect normal or abnormal biochemical function...

. He graduated in 1936, and worked in several drugstores (chemists).

Stage


Acting was Harris's first love. At 24, he prepared a fake résumé and tried out a repertory company at the Millpond Playhouse in Long Island, New York and appeared in several of this troupe's plays, prior to landing a spot in The Red Company. In 1942, Jonathan won the leading role of a Polish officer in the Broadway
Broadway theatre
Broadway theatre, commonly called simply Broadway, refers to theatrical performances presented in one of the 40 professional theatres with 500 or more seats located in the Theatre District centered along Broadway, and in Lincoln Center, in Manhattan in New York City...

 play The Heart of a City. Adopting a Polish accent, he advised the producers that his parents were originally from Poland
Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

. In 1946, he starred in A Flag Is Born, opposite Quentin Reynolds
Quentin Reynolds
Quentin James Reynolds was a journalist and World War II war correspondent.As associate editor at Collier's Weekly from 1933 to 1945, Reynolds averaged twenty articles a year...

 and Marlon Brando
Marlon Brando
Marlon Brando, Jr. was an American movie star and political activist. "Unchallenged as the most important actor in modern American Cinema" according to the St...

.

Television


Harris became a popular character actor for 30 years on television, making his first guest appearance on an episode of The Chevrolet Tele-Theatre in 1949. The part led to other roles in such shows as: The Web, Lights Out
Lights Out (radio show)
Lights Out is an extremely popular American old-time radio program, an early example of a network series devoted mostly to horror and the supernatural, predating Suspense and Inner Sanctum...

, Goodyear Television Playhouse
Goodyear Television Playhouse
The Goodyear Television Playhouse produced live television dramas from 1951 to 1957 during the "Golden Age of Television".Sponsored by Goodyear, the hour-long anthology series was telecast Sundays at 9pm on NBC...

, Sanford and Son
Sanford and Son
Sanford and Son is an American sitcom, based on the BBC's Steptoe and Son, that ran on the NBC television network from January 14, 1972, to March 25, 1977....

, 2 episodes of Hallmark Hall of Fame
Hallmark Hall of Fame
Hallmark Hall of Fame is an anthology program on American television, sponsored by Hallmark Cards, a Kansas City based greeting card company. The second longest-running television program in the history of television, it has a historically long run, beginning in 1951 and continuing into 2011...

, Armstrong Circle Theatre
Armstrong Circle Theatre
Armstrong Circle Theatre is an American anthology drama television series which ran from 1950 to 1957 on NBC, and then until 1963 on CBS. It alternated weekly with The U.S. Steel Hour.-Synopsis:...

, 3 episodes of Studio One
Studio One (TV series)
Studio One is a long-running American radio–television anthology series, created in 1947 by the 26-year-old Canadian director Fletcher Markle, who came to CBS from the CBC.-Radio:...

, Telephone Time, Schlitz Playhouse of Stars
Schlitz Playhouse of Stars
Schlitz Playhouse of Stars, is a weekly CBS anthology television series, was telecast on Friday nights from 1951 until 1959. Offering both comedies and drama, the series was sponsored by Schlitz beer...

, Climax!, The Outlaws
The Outlaws (1960 TV series)
Outlaws is an NBC Western television series, starring Barton MacLane as U.S. marshal Frank Caine, who operated in a lawless section of Oklahoma Territory about Stillwater. The program aired 50 one-hour episodes from September 29, 1960, to May 10, 1962. The first season was shot in black-and-white,...

, The Twilight Zone
The Twilight Zone (1959 TV series)
The Twilight Zone is an American anthology television series created by Rod Serling, which ran for five seasons on CBS from 1959 to 1964. The series consisted of unrelated episodes depicting paranormal, futuristic, dystopian, or simply disturbing events; each show typically featured a surprising...

, Bonanza
Bonanza
Bonanza is an American western television series that both ran on and was a production of NBC from September 12, 1959 to January 16, 1973. Lasting 14 seasons and 430 episodes, it ranks as the second longest running western series and still continues to air in syndication. It centers on the...

, The Rogues
The Rogues (TV series)
The Rogues is an American television series that appeared on NBC from September 13, 1964 to April 18, 1965, starring David Niven, Charles Boyer, and Gig Young as a related trio of former conmen who could, for the right price, be persuaded to trick a very wealthy and very unscrupulous mark...

, The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet, among many others.

Harris returned to television, where he landed a co-starring role opposite Michael Rennie
Michael Rennie
Michael Rennie was an English film, television, and stage actor, perhaps best known for his starring role as the space visitor Klaatu in the 1951 classic science fiction film The Day the Earth Stood Still. However, he appeared in over 50 other films since 1936, many with Jean Simmons and other...

 in The Third Man
The Third Man
The Third Man is a 1949 British film noir, directed by Carol Reed and starring Joseph Cotten, Alida Valli, Orson Welles, and Trevor Howard. Many critics rank it as a masterpiece, particularly remembered for its atmospheric cinematography, performances, and unique musical score...

, from 1959-65. He played Bradford Webster, an eccentric, cowardly assistant. Half the episodes were shot in London, England; the rest were filmed in Hollywood. Harris' teenaged son would visit the set at this time, and Harris did whatever he could to bridge the gap between father and son and tried to make up for lost time.

From 1963-65, Harris co-starred in the sitcom The Bill Dana Show
The Bill Dana Show
The Bill Dana Show was a United States comedy series starring Bill Dana and Jonathan Harris. The plot followed the daily lifestyle of Latin American, Jose Jiminez, as a bellhop in a New York hotel...

. He played Mr. Phillips, the pompous manager of a posh hotel who is constantly at odds with his bumbling Bolivian bellhop, "José Jiménez" (Bill Dana). This formula presaged the popular John Cleese
John Cleese
John Marwood Cleese is an English actor, comedian, writer, and film producer. He achieved success at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and as a scriptwriter and performer on The Frost Report...

 hotel comedy, Fawlty Towers
Fawlty Towers
Fawlty Towers is a British sitcom produced by BBC Television and first broadcast on BBC2 in 1975. Twelve television program episodes were produced . The show was written by John Cleese and his then wife Connie Booth, both of whom played major characters...

.

Don Adams
Don Adams
Don Adams was an American actor, comedian and director. In his five decades on television, he was best known as Maxwell Smart in the television situation comedy Get Smart , which he also sometimes directed and wrote. Adams won three consecutive Emmy Awards for his portrayal of Smart...

 rounded out the cast as an inept house detective — his character, dialog, and other comedy bits would soon carry over into his "Maxwell Smart" role on Get Smart
Get Smart
Get Smart is an American comedy television series that satirizes the secret agent genre. Created by Mel Brooks with Buck Henry, the show starred Don Adams , Barbara Feldon , and Edward Platt...

. In similar fashion, several of Harris' one-liner
One-liner joke
A one-liner is a joke that is delivered in a single line. A good one-liner is said to be pithy.Comedians and actors use this comedic method as part of their act, e.g...

s from the show (such as "Oh, the pain!"), along with many character mannerisms, became part of the Dr. Zachary Smith character on Lost in Space. In an apparent homage to his earlier role, Harris played a similarly pompous diplomat on Get Smart in 1970. His female assistant is named "Zachary". He also guest-starred on The Ghost & Mrs. Muir
The Ghost & Mrs. Muir (TV series)
The Ghost & Mrs. Muir is a situation comedy based on the 1947 film The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, which was based on the 1945 novel by R.A. Dick. It starred Hope Lange as Carolyn Muir, a young widow who rents Gull Cottage, near the fictional fishing village of Schooner Bay, Maine along with her two...

. His last series guest-starring role was on an episode of Fantasy Island
Fantasy Island
Fantasy Island is the title of two separate but related American fantasy television series, both originally airing on the ABC television network.-Original series:...

.

As Doctor Zachary Smith in Lost in Space


Harris beat out two other actors for the role of conniving, cowardly agent Dr. Zachary Smith on Lost In Space
Lost in Space
Lost in Space is a science fiction TV series created and produced by Irwin Allen, filmed by 20th Century Fox Television, and broadcast on CBS. The show ran for three seasons, with 83 episodes airing between September 15, 1965, and March 6, 1968...

for CBS. The character did not appear in the original 1965 pilot episode (nor did The Robot). The series was already in production when he joined the cast and the starring/co-starring billings had already been contractually assigned, so Harris received a "Special Guest Star" credit on every episode. Also starring on the show were several popular actors including: Guy Williams as Prof. John Robinson, June Lockhart
June Lockhart
June Lockhart is an American actress, primarily in 1950s and 1960s television, but with memorable performances on stage and in film too. She is remembered as the mother in two TV series, Lassie and Lost in Space. She also portrayed Dr...

 as John's wife, Maureen Robinson, Mark Goddard
Mark Goddard
Mark Goddard is an American film actor who has starred in a number of television programs. He portrayed Major Don West, the space adversary of Dr. Zachary Smith in the cult 1960s CBS series, Lost in Space, and Detective Sgt...

 as Dr. Smith's long-suffering/handsome space adversary, Maj. Don West, and Angela Cartwright
Angela Cartwright
Angela Margaret Cartwright is an English-born American actress primarily known for her roles in movies and television...

 as middle child, Penny Robinson, including a couple unfamiliar stars such as: Marta Kristen
Marta Kristen
Marta Kristen is an American actress.The naturally blonde-haired Kristen is best-known for her role as Guy Williams's and June Lockhart's beautiful daughter, Judy Robinson, in the television series Lost in Space...

 as John's and Maureen's older child, Judy Robinson and Bill Mumy
Bill Mumy
Charles William "Bill" Mumy, Jr. is an American actor, musician, pitchman, instrumentalist, voice-over artist and a figure in the science-fiction community. He is known primarily for his work as a child television actor....

 as John's and Maureen's younger child and friend of Dr. Smith, Will Robinson.

A strong bond developed between Harris, Mumy, and some of the rest of the cast during the show's three-year tenure, despite Guy Williams's jealousy off the set of Space, and all thanks to Harris's contribution. From its debut, it was successful, even though midway through the first season, it had competition from another newcomer, Batman
Batman (TV series)
Batman is an American television series, based on the DC comic book character of the same name. It stars Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward as Robin — two crime-fighting heroes who defend Gotham City. It aired on the American Broadcasting Company network for three seasons from January 12, 1966 to...

, which dominated the ratings. The show continued the tradition of such successful 1960s sci-fi series such as Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea
Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (TV series)
Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea is a 1960s American science fiction television series based on the 1961 film of the same name. Both were created by Irwin Allen, which enabled the movie's sets, costumes, props, special effects models, and sometimes footage, to be used in the production of the...

. Midway through the first season, due to Harris' popularity on the show, he began to rewrite the dialogue. Allen
Irwin Allen
Irwin Allen was a television and film director and producer nicknamed "The Master of Disaster" for his work in the disaster film genre. He was also notable for creating a number of television series.- Biography :...

 approved his changes and gave him carte blanche to become a writer. Harris stole the show, mainly via a list of alliterative insults that soon worked their way into popular speech. When the show was renewed for its third and final season, it remained focused on Harris's character, Dr. Smith. While the series was still solidly placed in the middle of the ratings pack, the writers appeared to run out of fresh ideas, and the show was unexpectedly canceled in 1968, after 83 episodes.

One of Harris's co-stars, Mark Goddard, said of the show's eventual shift toward Harris's character, "I guess it was because they felt that the people wanted to see more of the Robot and Jonathan. Originally, when it was more science fiction, Irwin can really do those things so beautifully. So he really took those away from himself when he wanted to deal with the Robot and Jonathan playing games, cooking souffles, or whatever else." Goddard was also asked if he had gotten along well with other castmates, other than Harris & Mumy, "No. There was a lot of tension on the set for the three years it was filmed. There was always a lot of tension, because the shows started going more toward the Robot and Smith. There were hard feelings from especially Guy and June, and also myself, but not as heavy as them, because they were originally sold as being the stars of the show when it began. It ended up that Harris became the star of the show," the last thing that he said, "I was friendly with everyone, pretty much. I think there was a period for a couple of months when I was angry at Jonathan Harris, for the same reasons, feeling that he was getting too many shows thrown his way. But we talk today. I see him, and there's no animosity between us. But I also had my disagreements with Guy Williams. When they started taking shows away from Guy, giving more to Jonathan, then Guy would come in and demand whatever I had in the show: any confrontations with Smith, or to save the kid, or anything. He'd end up doing all of that and I was the one that got squeezed out; I was doing almost nothing. There was one time where I went in to do a bit and had learned my lines, and was all ready to do my scene, when Guy started reading my lines. I said 'What's going on?' and he said 'This is my scene now.' They had given the lines to him. And that's where I got angry and walked off." After a reunion of the entire surviving cast on June 14, 1995, Goddard continued to stay in touch with Harris until his friend's death, late in 2002.

Bill Mumy said about Harris' guest role that in his first episode, "It was actually implied that this villainous character that sabotaged the mission and ended up with us, was going to be killed off after a while." Mumy added, "Jonathan played him as written, which was this really dark, straight-ahead villain, who was trying to murder women and children." Mumy also said of Harris's work on Space, "And we'd start working on a scene together, and he'd have a line, and then in the script I'd have my reply, and he'd say, 'No, no, no, dear boy. No, no, no. Before you say that, The Robot will say this, this, this, this, this, this, and this, and then, you'll deliver your line.'" Bill also said of Harris' portrayal, "He truly, truly singlehandledly created the character of Dr. Zachary Smith that we know — this man, we love-to-hate, coward who would cower behind the little boy, 'Oh, the pain! Save me, William!' That's all him!" About the show's cancellation, Mumy said, "I don't know what happened. All I know is that we were all told we're coming back. Then, you know we got a call that we weren't." The death of Harris' father in 1977 drew Harris and Mumy closer. The two kept in touch for almost 35 years until Harris' death. On June 14, 1995, Mumy and the rest of the crew paid tribute to series' creator Irwin Allen, who died late in 1991. In 1996, Mumy was reunited with Harris alongside Leonard Nimoy
Leonard Nimoy
Leonard Simon Nimoy is an American actor, film director, poet, musician and photographer. Nimoy's most famous role is that of Spock in the original Star Trek series , multiple films, television and video game sequels....

 (of Star Trek
Star Trek: The Original Series
Star Trek is an American science fiction television series created by Gene Roddenberry, produced by Desilu Productions . Star Trek was telecast on NBC from September 8, 1966, through June 3, 1969...

fame), at a Disney World convention. It was also reported in 1997 that Mumy, Harris and the rest of the surviving cast appeared on the inside cover of TV Guide
TV Guide
TV Guide is a weekly American magazine with listings of TV shows.In addition to TV listings, the publication features television-related news, celebrity interviews, gossip and film reviews and crossword puzzles...

to promote the new movie, while the Sci-Fi Channel
Sci Fi Channel (United States)
Syfy , formerly known as the Sci-Fi Channel and SCI FI, is an American cable television channel featuring science fiction, supernatural, fantasy, reality, paranormal, wrestling, and horror programming. Launched on September 24, 1992, it is part of the entertainment conglomerate NBCUniversal, a...

 would feature a Lost in Space marathon. In the actual 1965 television premiere of Lost in Space, the blast-off of the Jupiter 2 is set in the future on October 16, 1997. The Sci-Fi Channel began the Lost in Space marathon in real-time 32 years later on October 16, 1997.

Typecasting


Although he is considered something of a cult icon for this role, Harris became typecast as the fey villain. Allen cast him as a villainous "Pied Piper" in an episode of Land of the Giants
Land of the Giants
Land of the Giants was an hour-long American science fiction television program lasting two seasons beginning on September 22, 1968 and ending on March 22, 1970. The show was created and produced by Irwin Allen. Land of the Giants was the fourth of Allen's science fiction TV series. The show was...

. Approached by Irwin Allen
Irwin Allen
Irwin Allen was a television and film director and producer nicknamed "The Master of Disaster" for his work in the disaster film genre. He was also notable for creating a number of television series.- Biography :...

, a second time, to star in a children's series, Jumbalina and the Teeners, Harris turned it down. In 1970, Harris played the role of another not-so-likeable villain, when he guest starred as the Bulmanian Ambassador in the Get Smart
Get Smart
Get Smart is an American comedy television series that satirizes the secret agent genre. Created by Mel Brooks with Buck Henry, the show starred Don Adams , Barbara Feldon , and Edward Platt...

episode, "How Green Was My Valet." A more favorable guest role of Harris' was his portrayal of Charles Dickens
Charles Dickens
Charles John Huffam Dickens was an English novelist, generally considered the greatest of the Victorian period. Dickens enjoyed a wider popularity and fame than had any previous author during his lifetime, and he remains popular, having been responsible for some of English literature's most iconic...

 in a 1963 episode of Bonanza
Bonanza
Bonanza is an American western television series that both ran on and was a production of NBC from September 12, 1959 to January 16, 1973. Lasting 14 seasons and 430 episodes, it ranks as the second longest running western series and still continues to air in syndication. It centers on the...

. He also appeared in two 1961 episodes of The Twilight Zone
The Twilight Zone (1959 TV series)
The Twilight Zone is an American anthology television series created by Rod Serling, which ran for five seasons on CBS from 1959 to 1964. The series consisted of unrelated episodes depicting paranormal, futuristic, dystopian, or simply disturbing events; each show typically featured a surprising...

.

Premier voice-over actor and guest starring roles


Harris spent most of the remainder of his career as a voice actor, heard in television commercials as well as cartoons such as Channel Umptee-3
Channel Umptee-3
Channel Umptee-3 was a Saturday morning animated television series created by Jim George and produced by Norman Lear that aired on The WB in 1997. Ogden Ostrich, Sheldon S...

, The Banana Splits, My Favorite Martians, Rainbow Brite
Rainbow Brite
Rainbow Brite was a character franchise introduced by Hallmark Cards in 1983, with the animated television series starting the following year....

, Darkwing Duck
Darkwing Duck
DarkWing Duck is an American animated television series produced by The Walt Disney Company that ran from 1991–1992 on both the syndicated programming block The Disney Afternoon and Saturday mornings on ABC. It featured the eponymous anthropomorphic duck superhero whose alter ego is mild-mannered...

, Happily Ever After, Problem Child, Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Light
Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Light
Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Light was originally a range of action figures from Hasbro, released in 1987. This action figure range was promoted by two different media, telling the stories of the characters...

(giving a masterclass in sycophancy as lackey to the main villain), Freakazoid!
Freakazoid!
Freakazoid! is an American animated television series created by Steven Spielberg, Bruce Timm, and Paul Dini for the Kids' WB programming block of The WB. The series chronicles the adventures of the title character, Freakazoid, a manic, insane superhero who battles with an array of super villains....

(reprising the Smith character and dialogue under the name "Professor Jones,") A Bug's Life
A Bug's Life
A Bug's Life is a 1998 American computer animated adventure comedy film produced by Pixar and released by Walt Disney Pictures in the United States on November 25, 1998. A Bug's Life was the second Disney·Pixar feature film after Toy Story, and the third American computer-animated film after Toy...

, Buzz Lightyear of Star Command
Buzz Lightyear of Star Command
Buzz Lightyear of Star Command is an American animated science fiction/adventure/comedy series produced by Walt Disney Television. The character is from the planet Zurtron. The series originally aired on UPN and ABC from October 2000 to January 2001 as part of Disney's One Saturday Morning...

and Toy Story 2
Toy Story 2
Toy Story 2 is a 1999 American computer animated film directed by John Lasseter and co-directed by Lee Unkrich and Ash Brannon. It is the sequel to the 1995 film Toy Story, released by Walt Disney Pictures and the third film to be produced by Pixar...

. He also had several cameo
Cameo appearance
A cameo role or cameo appearance is a brief appearance of a known person in a work of the performing arts, such as plays, films, video games and television...

 and guest appearances, including Zorro, Bewitched
Bewitched
Bewitched is an American situation comedy originally broadcast for eight seasons on ABC from 1964 to 1972, starring Elizabeth Montgomery, Dick York and Dick Sargent , Agnes Moorehead, and David White. The show is about a witch who marries a mortal and tries to lead the life of a typical suburban...

, Fantasy Island
Fantasy Island
Fantasy Island is the title of two separate but related American fantasy television series, both originally airing on the ABC television network.-Original series:...

, Sanford and Son
Sanford and Son
Sanford and Son is an American sitcom, based on the BBC's Steptoe and Son, that ran on the NBC television network from January 14, 1972, to March 25, 1977....

and Uncle Croc's Block. Harris also provided the voiceover of the Cylon character "Lucifer" on the original Battlestar Galactica
Battlestar Galactica (1978 TV series)
Battlestar Galactica is an American science fiction television series, created by Glen A. Larson. It starred Lorne Greene, Richard Hatch and Dirk Benedict and ran for one season in 1978–79. After cancellation, its story was continued in 1980 as Galactica 1980 with Adama, Lieutenant Boomer and...

series.

Harris taught drama and gave voice lessons to Chuck Norris
Chuck Norris
Carlos Ray "Chuck" Norris is an American martial artist and actor. After serving in the United States Air Force, he began his rise to fame as a martial artist and has since founded his own school, Chun Kuk Do...

 where Norris credited him in Good Guys Wear Black
Good Guys Wear Black
Good Guys Wear Black is a 1978 action film starring Chuck Norris. This was the third film to feature Norris as the star.- Brief Plot :Chuck Norris plays John T. Booker, a former Vietnam Green Beret and a member of a group known as the Black Tigers. He is drawn into a web when members of the group...

.

He starred in the Saturday morning children's series Space Academy
Space Academy
Space Academy was a live-action sci-fi children's television program produced by Filmation that originally aired Saturday mornings on the CBS television network, from September 10, 1977, to December 17, 1977. A total of fifteen half-hour episodes were made.-Cast:The program starred veteran actor...

and Uncle Croc's Block
Uncle Croc's Block
Uncle Croc's Block was a short-lived, hour-long live-action/animated series on ABC, produced by Filmation Associates.-History:A spoof of kid shows, Charles Nelson Reilly played the titular Uncle Croc, who hated his job as the show's host. Also featured were Alfie Wise as his sidekick Mr...

in the mid-seventies, and was a well-known TV spokesman for the International House of Pancakes. In 2009 his final performance was finally released. He had done a recording session in 2001 for a short animated film titled The Bolt Who Screwed Christmas
The Bolt Who Screwed Christmas
The Bolt Who Screwed Christmas is an independent animated short film and a parody or satire of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas!". The film features the final performance of actor and voice over artist Jonathan Harris and co-stars Tress MacNeille....

 in which he plays the Narrator and "The Bolt". He died about a year after his recording session, long before the independent film was completed. The film also features voiceover work by Bill Mumy
Bill Mumy
Charles William "Bill" Mumy, Jr. is an American actor, musician, pitchman, instrumentalist, voice-over artist and a figure in the science-fiction community. He is known primarily for his work as a child television actor....

, Angela Cartwright
Angela Cartwright
Angela Margaret Cartwright is an English-born American actress primarily known for her roles in movies and television...

 and Marta Kristen
Marta Kristen
Marta Kristen is an American actress.The naturally blonde-haired Kristen is best-known for her role as Guy Williams's and June Lockhart's beautiful daughter, Judy Robinson, in the television series Lost in Space...

, their parts added to the film after his passing as a small tribute with the film dedicated in his memory.

Later career


In 1990, Harris reunited with the cast of Lost In Space to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the show's debut, an event attended by more than 30,000 fans. Harris (alongside June Lockhart
June Lockhart
June Lockhart is an American actress, primarily in 1950s and 1960s television, but with memorable performances on stage and in film too. She is remembered as the mother in two TV series, Lassie and Lost in Space. She also portrayed Dr...

, Mark Goddard
Mark Goddard
Mark Goddard is an American film actor who has starred in a number of television programs. He portrayed Major Don West, the space adversary of Dr. Zachary Smith in the cult 1960s CBS series, Lost in Space, and Detective Sgt...

, Marta Kristen
Marta Kristen
Marta Kristen is an American actress.The naturally blonde-haired Kristen is best-known for her role as Guy Williams's and June Lockhart's beautiful daughter, Judy Robinson, in the television series Lost in Space...

, Bill Mumy
Bill Mumy
Charles William "Bill" Mumy, Jr. is an American actor, musician, pitchman, instrumentalist, voice-over artist and a figure in the science-fiction community. He is known primarily for his work as a child television actor....

 and Angela Cartwright
Angela Cartwright
Angela Margaret Cartwright is an English-born American actress primarily known for her roles in movies and television...

) also appeared in a 1995 television tribute to Irwin Allen
Irwin Allen
Irwin Allen was a television and film director and producer nicknamed "The Master of Disaster" for his work in the disaster film genre. He was also notable for creating a number of television series.- Biography :...

, who had died four years prior.

Harris reprised his role as Dr. Smith in the one-hour TV special Lost in Space Forever in 1998, and again in The Fantasy Worlds of Irwin Allen. However, unlike his costars in the original show (June Lockhart
June Lockhart
June Lockhart is an American actress, primarily in 1950s and 1960s television, but with memorable performances on stage and in film too. She is remembered as the mother in two TV series, Lassie and Lost in Space. She also portrayed Dr...

, Mark Goddard
Mark Goddard
Mark Goddard is an American film actor who has starred in a number of television programs. He portrayed Major Don West, the space adversary of Dr. Zachary Smith in the cult 1960s CBS series, Lost in Space, and Detective Sgt...

, Marta Kristen
Marta Kristen
Marta Kristen is an American actress.The naturally blonde-haired Kristen is best-known for her role as Guy Williams's and June Lockhart's beautiful daughter, Judy Robinson, in the television series Lost in Space...

 and Angela Cartwright
Angela Cartwright
Angela Margaret Cartwright is an English-born American actress primarily known for her roles in movies and television...

) he refused to make a cameo appearance in the motion picture version of Lost in Space
Lost in Space (film)
Lost in Space is a 1998 American science fiction film starring Gary Oldman and William Hurt. The film was shot in London and Shepperton, and produced by New Line Cinema. The plot is adapted from the 1965–1968 CBS television series Lost In Space...

later that year. He announced, "I've never played a bit part in my life and I'm not going to start now!" (Bill Mumy
Bill Mumy
Charles William "Bill" Mumy, Jr. is an American actor, musician, pitchman, instrumentalist, voice-over artist and a figure in the science-fiction community. He is known primarily for his work as a child television actor....

 also did not appear in the feature film.) Gary Oldman
Gary Oldman
Gary Leonard Oldman is an English actor, voice actor, filmmaker and musician.A member of the 1980s Brit Pack, Oldman came to prominence via starring roles in British films Meantime , Sid and Nancy and Prick Up Your Ears , with his performance in the latter bringing him his first BAFTA Award...

 played the part of Dr. Smith in the film, but as a more genuinely menacing and less likeable character than Harris' on TV. An episode of The Simpsons
The Simpsons
The Simpsons is an American animated sitcom created by Matt Groening for the Fox Broadcasting Company. The series is a satirical parody of a middle class American lifestyle epitomized by its family of the same name, which consists of Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie...

 has a cameo of "Dr. Smith" along with The Robot
Robot B-9
The B-9, Class M-3 General Utility Non-Theorizing Environmental Control Robot was a character in the television series Lost in Space. Known and addressed simply as "Robot", his full designation was only occasionally mentioned on the show.-History:...

; multiple episodes of Freakazoid had a character of a cowardly "Professor Jones"; in both "Professor Jones" utters his catchphrase "Oh, the pain!" In case there was any question about the parody, numerous characters would ask him, "Weren't you on a TV show with a robot?"

During the months leading up to the film's release, the Sci-Fi Channel
Sci Fi Channel (United States)
Syfy , formerly known as the Sci-Fi Channel and SCI FI, is an American cable television channel featuring science fiction, supernatural, fantasy, reality, paranormal, wrestling, and horror programming. Launched on September 24, 1992, it is part of the entertainment conglomerate NBCUniversal, a...

 aired Lost In Space
Lost in Space
Lost in Space is a science fiction TV series created and produced by Irwin Allen, filmed by 20th Century Fox Television, and broadcast on CBS. The show ran for three seasons, with 83 episodes airing between September 15, 1965, and March 6, 1968...

marathons in many markets, in which each of the actors were interviewed. On April 9, 1998, Harris appeared as a guest on the talk show Late Night with Conan O'Brien
Late Night with Conan O'Brien
Late Night with Conan O'Brien is an American late-night talk show hosted by Conan O'Brien that aired 2,725 episodes on NBC between 1993 and 2009. The show featured varied comedic material, celebrity interviews, and musical and comedy performances. Late Night aired weeknights at 12:37 am...

, where Harris fondly reminisced about his Lost In Space days, admitting he would stay up nights thinking of new insults for The Robot ("bellicose bumpkin", "bubble-headed booby") because he enjoyed the interaction so much. Host O'Brien brought one of his characters, Pimp-Bot 5000 (a "robot pimp"), onto the set, and Harris went into character as Dr. Smith and proceeded to insult Pimp-Bot. Shying away from his usual dry, sarcastic, and often self-deprecating style, Conan confessed to Harris that he brought him on the show just to have him insult Pimp-Bot, and that the moment made his day.

Hobbies


Throughout his long life, Jonathan had a number of hobbies: cooking, watching movies, reading, traveling, painting, magic, playing piano, listening to opera, spending time with children, gardening and knitting. He also did some dancing in his spare time. According to the A&E Biography, on one episode of Lost In Space
Lost in Space
Lost in Space is a science fiction TV series created and produced by Irwin Allen, filmed by 20th Century Fox Television, and broadcast on CBS. The show ran for three seasons, with 83 episodes airing between September 15, 1965, and March 6, 1968...

, Jonathan's character, Dr. Smith, did a groovy 1960s dance with Penny and Will Robinson (Angela Cartwright
Angela Cartwright
Angela Margaret Cartwright is an English-born American actress primarily known for her roles in movies and television...

 and Bill Mumy
Bill Mumy
Charles William "Bill" Mumy, Jr. is an American actor, musician, pitchman, instrumentalist, voice-over artist and a figure in the science-fiction community. He is known primarily for his work as a child television actor....

).

Personal life


Jonathan was married to his high school sweetheart, Gertrude Bregman, from 1938 until his death. They have a son, Richard (born 1942).

Harris' father, Sam Charasuchin, was struck and killed in a car accident in New York City in 1977. He was 93 years old at the time of his death.

In late 2002, Harris and the rest of the surviving cast of the TV series were preparing for a two-hour movie entitled Lost In Space: The Journey Back Home. However, just before the movie was about to film, he was taken to the hospital where he had a back problem, which led to his suffering heart failure.

Harris was a mentor, and a close personal friend to writer/producer/director William Winckler
William Winckler
William Winckler is an American filmmaker best known for writing, producing and directing cult movies, horror films and English dubbed anime. He produced the English version of the classic Tatsunoko Production Co. Ltd. anime series Tekkaman the Space Knight, as well as the horror film Frankenstein...

.

Death


Jonathan Harris died on November 3, 2002, in Encino, California
Encino, Los Angeles, California
Encino is a hilly district of the city of Los Angeles, California, United States. Specifically, it is located in the central portion of the southern San Fernando Valley and on the north slope of the Santa Monica Mountains...

 of a blood clot to the heart, just three days before his 88th birthday. He was survived by his wife Gertrude and his son Richard, along with two sisters and two grandchildren. Among his eulogists was castmate and decades-long friend Bill Mumy
Bill Mumy
Charles William "Bill" Mumy, Jr. is an American actor, musician, pitchman, instrumentalist, voice-over artist and a figure in the science-fiction community. He is known primarily for his work as a child television actor....

. His widow, Gertrude (Bregman) Harris, died of natural causes, on August 28, 2007, at the age of 93.

Quotes

  • Jonathan on his characteristic accent: "I'm not British, just affected". (Source: biography.com)

  • On receiving a guest-starring role for every episode of Lost In Space: "That was the first time ever in history that anybody got Special Guest Star. I started that whole nonsense". (Source: brainyquote.com)

  • On the cancellation of Lost in Space: "When the curtain comes down, you're disappointed. Always, the curtain comes down. I've done so much work, and then the curtain comes down and you go on to something else". (Source: biography.com)

  • When his father finally arrived at the theatre to see his son: "He came to the dressing room, gave me a hug and a kiss and said, 'You belong here.' I never forgot it". (Source: biography.com)

  • Jonathan on trying his hand on being a leading man of the 1940s: "I thought I was Cary Grant. Oh, I looked into the mirror, and said, 'Yes, Yes. It's Cary Grant'. And then, I pulled myself together and said, 'Are you kidding?' You're a character man". (Source: biography.com)

External links