R.I.P. Cynthia Harris, who wooed King Edward in ‘Edward and Mrs. Simpson’ and played Sylvia in ‘Mad About You’

She also appeared on the big screen with Barbra Streisand and had guest roles on Kojak, Three’s Company and The Bob Newhart Show.

The Everett Collection

Read to Me

Cynthia Harris was destined to become an actor, even if no one else believed it. In a video interview for The Actors Company Theatre, which she co-founded in 1993, Harris revealed “My parents didn’t approve of even thinking of acting.” But she was persistent. “The only thing I ever wanted for my birthday from the time I was old enough to speak practically was ‘I’d like to go see a play.’”

She began taking acting classes at age 12 and continued her studies at Smith College, where she graduated in 1955. Though she had the drive, breaking into the industry didn’t come right away. She worked as a stage manager and understudy for years before taking the stage herself.

She made her screen debut in the 1968 ballet film Isadora. A few years later she appeared in the Barbra Streisand movie Up the Sandbox helmed by Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back director Irvin Kershner.

On television, she won roles in episodes of The Bob Newhart Show, Kojak and Three’s Company. She also starred in two short-lived sitcoms, Sirota’s Court with Michael Constantine and the hour-long comedy co-created by Joan Rivers Husbands, Wives and Lovers. In 1978, she played Wallis Simpson, an American woman who falls in love with England’s King Edward, in the 1930s historical miniseries Edward and Mrs. Simpson. The series won an Emmy Award and Harris was nominated for a BAFTA for her performance.

In the 1980s, Harris played Marcie Phillips in two episodes of Archie Bunker’s Place and had a regular role as Iris Hubbard in the first season of L.A. Law. She also appeared in Benson, The Powers of Matthew Star and The Equalizer.

On the big screen, she was in 1982’s Tempest with John Cassavetes and Susan Sarandon, the underrated gem Reuben, Reuben and the Tom Selleck-Steve Guttenberg-Ted Danson comedy Three Men and a Baby.

Harris’ best-known role came in 1993. She joined the Paul Reiser sitcom Mad About You as Reiser’s mom, Sylvia. She starred in the show from the second to the seventh season and even came back for the 2019 reboot.

Cynthia Harris passed away this week. She was 87.

 
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Nala92129 11 days ago
She was the only, best choice to play Wallis Warfield Simpson.
Runeshaper 14 days ago
R.I.P. Cynthia Harris. Sounds like she a had a very fulfilling career (-:
cperrynaples 14 days ago
Harris was in the first scene of LA Law where she discovered the body of a deceased partner! I'll always remember Corbin Berensen calling dibs on his office...LOL!
Moody cperrynaples 14 days ago
I'd love to see LA Law again. I miss that show.
lowellden Moody 13 days ago
You may get sort of a chance. Blake Underwood is producing a new version and will be starring in it, and some of the old cast will be back.
Pacificsun cperrynaples 13 days ago
Such a good Show. They should all be that good!!
Pacificsun Moody 13 days ago
I know, why wouldn't they re-run a great serial like that one! The precursor to many now that have run for almost a decade!
cperrynaples lowellden 13 days ago
I think you must mean Blair Underwood! But yes I'm shocked it's not streaming somewhere like Hulu!
Pacificsun 14 days ago
I couldn't put the name to the face, but thankfully the link was provided (we appreciate that). Next to Ms. Harris' interview happened to be Carol Burnett (1979) w/ Dick Cavett. In my generation at least there was no better interviewer than Mr. Cavett. Consumate. A lot of those actors didn't even realize they were being "interviewed" because he did it with conversation that the interviewee just had to follow up. Watching the CB interview, easy to get distracted and off track through her humor (because she deflected a bit). But Cavett hound-dogged her (in a good way!) to the end, for the point to be made. If you go out there to watch Ms. Harris, hope you'll include the one with Burnett too.
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