Comparatively speaking, this installment shall qualify as lighter fare to one’s loyal readers.
The author is cognizant some regular visitors may not remember the subject of this installment or perhaps never had the opportunity to view the classic show that brought this particular actor to public prominence. During the 1960’s, the late veteran Hollywood character actor, Johnathan Harris, added what was perhaps the only saving grace or entertainment value to an otherwise short-lived and pathetically juvenile science fiction and fantasy television series, entitled “Lost in Space”.
Although over the course of his career, Harris compiled an impressive resume, starring on Broadway and on the silver screen from decades before, it wasn’t until he assumed the iconic television role of Lost in Space’s Doctor Zachary Smith, the villainous scoundrel with a heart of gold, that he gained celebrated renown and became a recognizable celebrity.
But, Harris was hiding a secret, and as an accomplished man of the theater prior to working in the medium of television, he had certainly learned all the necessary tricks of the theater’s trade in creating inscrutable masks for an array of characters.
The persona of Jonathan Harris, those eccentric affectations that became synonymous with the man who allegedly grew up in the Bronx, New York, but nonetheless rose to fame and fortune in the theater and then on to starring on American television, were nothing more than purposefully created theatrical flourishes.
Indeed, Harris was yet another example of a celebrated actor hiding behind a well-crafted mask.
As it turns out, however, in the case of Harris, one speculates he harbored personal reasons in choosing to adopt a pseudonym while starring as the incomparable Doctor Zachary Smith.
And perhaps, given Harris’s genuine identity, his reasons for doing so were by no means sinister in nature. Rather, they had everything to do with preserving what he perceived to be his theatrical and artistic integrity.
Historically, for most of those who have successfully tread the boards of the greatest theaters, both in Europe and in America, the mediums of cinema, and especially that of television, are looked upon with disfavor, perhaps even with disdain. To pose an analogy, this reaction is likely tantamount to how one might imagine the great Leonard Bernstein may have felt, if he had been asked by his orchestra’s board of directors to suddenly replace selections and interpretations of the great classics of Brahms, Beethoven, and Bach, with renditions of popular rap or hip-hop.
The great man of the theater, Sir Alec Guinness, when once asked by BBC television presenter Tony Bilboa, why he never began acting in films until his later years, replied, “Well,” he disdainfully began, “I never wanted to, if I’m going to act in films, it must be in a role I’ve already performed in the theater. Because you see,” he added, “though I am an actor…yes, I’m sure, I am first and foremost a man of the theater.”
For great actors such as the late Guinness, such snobbish attitudes towards the medium of cinema and television were perhaps justified. After all, when one is on stage in front of a theater’s live, capacity audience, there is nowhere to hide while bathed in the footlights, and an actor cannot rely on pre or post-production editing or the expertise of a good director while the action is taking place to help create a good performance for them. While onstage, they must deliver on demand or risk immediate and even career ending scorn. The theater serves, for all intents and purposes, as the actor’s ultimate crucible from which to conjure the fires of artistic immortality.
For still other actors possessing a similar tenure in the theater however, considerations of Hollywood’s alluring glitter and mass notoriety, along with the acquisition of great fame and fortune, become too tempting to ignore, despite whatever reservations.
For the famous host actor and accomplished man of the theater who portrayed actor Jonathan Harris, one imagines similar temptations may have held sway before deciding to take the plunge into a starring role on a prime time television program watched by millions.
That this famous man of the theater acquired perhaps greater fame, fortune and renown in America while portraying a television character and earning his place as a memorable fixture of American pop culture, rather than for his esteemed theatrical reputation is, in the final analysis, quite extraordinary and even ironic.
FAKE RESUME OF JONATHAN HARRIS
As one has pointed out ad nauseum, celebrity biographies are often rife with anomalies and strange curiosities, dubious elements which, though often unquestioned by public and press alike, are nonetheless revealing when thoroughly investigated. With our present subject, television actor Jonathan Harris, one did not have to venture very far to discover this interesting tidbit at Wikipedia concerning Harris’s incipient acting career, which, not surprisingly, is also marked with telltale numerology:
“At age 24 (6=33/high-degree Scottish Rite Freemasonry), he (Harris) prepared a fake resume and tried out for a repertory company at the Millpond Playhouse in Long Island, New York, and appeared in several of the troupe’s plays, prior to landing a spot in the company. In 1942 (7, Zayin/Kabbalah mind weapon), Harris won the leading role of a Polish officer in the Broadway play The Heart of a City. Adopting a Polish accent, he advised the producers that his parents were originally from Poland. In 1946, he starred in a Flag is Born, opposite Quentin Reynolds and Marlon Brando.”
You see folks, sometimes, mainstream sources cannot help but admit to their egregious lies.
Not surprisingly, after decades of leading roles on both Broadway and television, Harris became sought after as a voice actor, and provided a number of voices for the animated blockbusters A Bug’s Life and Toy Story. Another telltale clue as to the true identity of Jonathan Harris are these curious details. From 1959 until 1965, the very year he landed a role in American television’s Lost in Space, Harris starred on television in The Third Man. Apparently, half the show’s episodes were filmed in London rather than Hollywood.
The cover story as to why this was allowed to happen, is that Harris wanted to bridge the gap of a dormant relationship with his estranged son. But, one’s intuition indicates there was another, more plausible reason why the show’s producers were willing to make such a highly irregular concession.
Could it have been, that Harris wasn’t from the Bronx, New York, as most mainstream biographies indicate, and that London, England, was his genuine place of residence? Harris’s mainstream biographers also make reference to the fact Harris chose to adopt an aristocratic bearing, accompanied by an upper-class British dialect, simply because the actor thought doing so would be fortuitous in acquiring greater employment opportunities as a serious stage actor.
Nevertheless, could it have been, Harris’s persona was not an eccentric affectation after all, but a genuine reflection of his true background and British heritage?
DOCTOR ZACHARY SMITH
Perhaps most extraordinarily, when considering the television legacy of the character of Doctor Zachary Smith, the charming but turncoat scoundrel with the heart of gold who became the unquestioned star attraction of the short-lived, but popular American prime time, science fiction program, Lost in Space, the original idea for Harris’s character was to be cast only as a temporary role for the show’s pilot episode.
However, the network’s writers and producers for Lost in Space quickly rewrote the script, soon after the program’s debut on American network television in the fall of 1965, when it became readily apparent to television viewers Jonathan Harris had managed, and while cast only as a bit character, to completely and utterly steal the show.
“Silence, you blithering bucket of bolts,” Smith’s uncanny alliterations would often chide Lost in Space’s hapless robot.
It was such alliterative and amusing lines, uttered with expert comic and dramatic timing by the indelible character of Doctor Zachary Smith, that made actor Jonathan Harris so instantly beloved by prime time American television audiences.
Though Lost in Space was initially marketed as a dramatic science fiction show, Harris, with his campy theatricality and unforgettable wit, transformed the show into a high comedic set piece reminiscent of camp burlesque, and though Harris crafted his character primarily as a villainous and cowardly scoundrel, Doctor Zachary Smith would always, in the end, see the error of his ways and somehow, manage to draw out some traces of ironic heroism at the most crucial moments to do the right thing and save the day.
At the dawn of the space age in 1969, Lost in Space suffered a serious blow, when the show’s producers soon learned that Harris would not be renewing his contract. Instead, he elected to leave the show to do what he loved best – performing on stage.
Rather than frantically scrambling to search for an immediate cast replacement, the network brass instead opted to cancel the show completely.
Soon though, the show found a home in syndication, and through the years, gathered together generations of cult admirers attracted to and entertained by Harris’s highbrow brand of theatrical camp.
Though in retrospect, it was probably wise to have left a top-rated show before its popularity collapsed into inevitable decline, there could have been another, more plausible reason Harris chose to leave the show.
SIR LAURENCE OLIVIER
Certainly, an introduction to the career of Sir Laurence Olivier isn’t required.
Suffice to say, Olivier is still regarded as perhaps the greatest actor to have ever graced the theater stages of Europe and America. Like other stars of the theater, Olivier eventually decided to seek out roles on the Hollywood silver screen, and quickly landed an award winning role in Stanley Kubrick’s Spartacus, cast as the villainous and tyrannical Roman general, Crassus.
Before starring in another landmark cinema production, 1978’s Boys from Brazil with Gregory Peck, Olivier was cast in The Shoes of the Fisherman with his renowned colleague of the British stage, John Gielgud, which debuted in American cinema’s on November 14, 1968. Given, that voice analysis and ear biometrics strongly indicate Olivier likely performed under the pseudonym of Jonathan Harris, it is also likely the shooting schedule of The Shoes of the Fisherman, which was shot in Rome, began to interfere with Harris’s role on television’s Lost in Space.
Considering that a renowned actor such as Olivier would have held the prospect of starring in important cinema roles in greater esteem than continuing on with the comparatively juvenile Lost in Space, and perhaps while also in observation that more lucrative film roles would be immediately forthcoming, could it have been, he then decided to retire his alter ago, Harris, from the American television airwaves?
Jonathan Harris: https://goo.gl/images/1rJpYn
Upon observing Lost in Space had gained a sizable cult following over the decades while in syndication, NBC’s top brass decided, in late 2002, to produce a two-hour movie entitled Lost in Space: The Journey Home.
The project was cancelled however, upon Harris’s alleged death.
Could it be more accurate to say, Olivier AKA Harris merely decided to permanently retire from his profession to lead a quite life away from his adoring public?
What is more noteworthy still, is that prior to the offer from NBC to star in the Lost in Space television special, Olivier AKA Harris became well sought after to appear at autograph conventions, where hordes of cult devotees of Lost in Space reportedly waited in long queues just to meet the actor who portrayed their most beloved and memorable character.
Harris’s former and fellow cast members, however, who were also present at such conventions, went virtually ignored.
Could it have been too, considering biographies indicate Olivier died in 1989, that the accomplished British stage actor couldn’t help himself while basking in the limelight adoration afforded to him as Harris’s Doctor Zachary Smith?
Could it have also been the case, despite his low regard for the medium of television, Olivier recognized he had achieved what is an actor’s ultimate delight; he had created a character that transcended the television medium, one that had touched millions of people to such a great magnitude, they were willing to wait in long lines just to get a glimpse of the man who had, for a short time, portrayed him?
After all, folks, actors are basically gigantic hams, and nothing fulfills a greater desire than to experience the great spectacle of enormous fame.
And, maybe, just maybe, Harris decided to hang around long after his host actor, Olivier, had already died, because, like any great actor, he couldn’t resist the roar of applause while bathed in the white hot spotlight of the stage.