Remembering Barbara Harris: Watch her first onscreen role ever, on Alfred Hitchcock Presents
The actress best known for 'Freaky Friday' passed away at 83.
In 1961, Barbara Harris made her Broadway debut in the fall. Before winter that same year, the eye-catching talent would be seen on TV and by 1962, the actress already had in hand her first Tony Award. This would be considered a breathtaking start for any actor of any age.
For Barbara Harris in the '60s, though, things kept on moving quickly. By 1965, we'd see her on the big screen in Oscar-winning movies like A Thousand Clowns, Nashville and Golden Globe-winning classic movie gold like Freaky Friday. In 1971, she got her first Oscar nom for Best Supporting Actress for her appearance opposite Dustin Hoffman in Who Is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me? With intense eyes shaded by thick lashes and a bob of hair to frame her lovely face, she could be cute as a button or cool as an ice queen depending on the scene she found herself in.
In Harris' impressive career, she played so many great characters, from Fanny Eubanks in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels to Evelyn Kelcher in Peggy Sue Got Married. But blink and you may have missed the very first character she ever played on any screen. The show that took her from the stage to TV was Alfred Hitchock Presents, and it happened on a Tuesday in 1961 when the episode "Beta Delta Gamma" first aired.
In the episode, Harris plays Beth, one of a handful of college-aged kids enjoying a frat party. The plot goes like this: There's a guy at the party who's generally regarded as the best at everything and he's known to be pretty boastful about that fact. After that guy has a few drinks too many, he passes out, and the group decides to play a prank. To take the guy down a peg, when he awakes, they set it up so that he thinks he'd accidentally killed one of their friends in his drunken stupor. The only trouble is, their prank is too good, and they scare their friend too much. The prank goes terribly awry, and throughout the scene, it's Barbara Harris' Beth who's being the most playful and into the prank. Watch the clip below:
On the show when the prank reveal is finally made and the truth of how real the prank had become has set in, Harris' face goes through a complete transformation, and in it, there's that dark Hitchcock comedy that demonstrates how well the actress understood even the seemingly most frivolous dramatic roles. At just 26, she proved herself capable as any Hitchcock muse.
On Tuesday, August 21, Barbara Harris passed away at the age of 83.