Paula's Cinema Club, Outspoken & Freckled, and Once Upon A Screen are hosting their annual What a Character! Blogathon on December 4th. It is the 10th anniversary of this highly anticipated event! Thank you, Paula, Kellee, and Aurora.
Born in Lancashire and raised in London by her working-class family, young Kathleen aspired to the theatre and while attending RADA in 1914 - 1915 was the recipient of the Du Maurier Bronze Medal. Love entered the actress's life and she was married to John Back from 1916 to his passing in 1960. The family would grow with two sons and a daughter. Her husband's work took the family to Argentina and Spain. A return to England in the 1920s opened up avenues for Kathleen's career.
Emlyn Williams' 1935 stage success Night Must Fall featured Kathleen in the role of the housekeeper Mrs. Terence and she recreated the role in the 1937 film produced by MGM. Dame May Whitty was Oscar-nominated for recreating her role as Mrs. Bramson.
More bits and uncredited roles would follow Night Must Fall, but the always notable actress would garner more memorable performances and films throughout the years including The Ghost Train, and Major Barbara in 1941. In Which We Serve, the WW2 morale booster written by and starring Noel Coward, who co-directed with David Lean gave Kathleen the plum role of Mrs. Blake, the mother to seaman "Shorty" played by John Mills.
In 1947 we go to a Holiday Camp with the Huggetts. Joe and Ethel Huggett played by Jack Warner and Kathleen Harrison take their family away for the summer. The popularity of the family with audiences would lead to sequels and some tweaking of the family as originally met. The follow-up was Here Come the Huggetts, 1948, Vote for Huggett, and The Huggetts Abroad, 1949. Meet the Huggetts was a popular radio program starring Warner and Harrison which ran from 1951 to 1963.
Terrence Rattigan's play The Winslow Boy, based on an Edwardian court case opened in 1946 and the 1948 film version featured two of the original cast members, Kathleen Harrison as the maid Violet and Mona Washbourne as Miss Barnes, a journalist of the sob sister sort.
Turn the Key Softly, 1953 finds Kathleen in the murky world of film noir in a film based on a novel by John Brophy which follows three women on their first day of freedom after being released from Holloway Prison. Yvonne Mitchell plays Monica who was led into crime by her boyfriend. Joan Collins plays prostitute Stella. Kathleen Harrison is a poverty-stricken shoplifter, Granny Quilliam.
Cast a Dark Shadow, 1955 is another film noir starring Dirk Bogarde as a charming psychopath who kills his older wife played by Mona Washbourne (see The Winslow Boy) for her money. He even goes so far as to cheat the maid Emmy played by Kathleen out of her paltry bequest.
Here's another trio of actresses with whom to reckon, Estelle Winwood, Dame Sybil Thorndyke, and Kathleen Harrison in Alive and Kicking, 1958 as three retirees who run away from a senior's home. Go, girls!
The 1966-1967 television series Mrs. Thursday, saw Kathleen as a charlady whose late employer left her his fortune and company. Quite a step up that came with quite a few problems. Created by playwright Lord Ted Willis with Kathleen Harrison in mind, the program was a popular comedy-drama that explored the good and the ill that came with Alice Thursday's luck. The show ran for three series of 38 episodes, and a few of them can be found on YouTube. The working actress was now a star thanks to the television success.