World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Harold Russell

Article Id: WHEBN0000660337
Reproduction Date:

Title: Harold Russell  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: The Best Years of Our Lives, Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, 1946 in film, RJ Mitte, Haing S. Ngor
Collection: 1914 Births, 2002 Deaths, 20Th-Century American Male Actors, Academy Honorary Award Recipients, American Amputees, American Male Film Actors, American Military Personnel of World War II, Best Supporting Actor Academy Award Winners, Boston University Alumni, Canadian Amputees, Canadian Emigrants to the United States, Canadian Male Film Actors, Canadian Male Television Actors, Canadian People of Scottish Descent, Deaths from Myocardial Infarction, People from North Sydney, Nova Scotia, People Without Hands, United States Army Soldiers
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Harold Russell


Harold Russell
Russell in the film The Best Years of Our Lives for which he won two Academy Awards.
Born Harold John Russell
(1914-01-14)January 14, 1914
North Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada
Died January 29, 2002(2002-01-29) (aged 88)
Needham, Massachusetts
Spouse(s) Rita Russell-Nixon (1944-1978)
Betty Marshalsea (1981-2002)
Children Adele, Gerald

Harold John Avery Russell [2](January 14, 1914 – January 29, 2002) was a Canadian-American World War II veteran who became one of only two non-professional actors to win an Academy Award for acting (the other being Haing S. Ngor). Russell also holds the unique honor of receiving two Academy Awards for the same role.


  • Background 1
  • The Best Years of Our Lives 2
  • Later years 3
  • Filmography 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


Harold Russell was born in North Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada and moved to Massachusetts with his family in 1921,[3] after his father's death in 1920.[4]

In 1941, he was so profoundly affected by the December 7 attack on Pearl Harbor that he enlisted in the Army on the following day.

While an Army instructor, and training with the U.S. 13th Airborne Division at Camp Mackall, North Carolina, on June 6, 1944, a defective fuse detonated an explosive he was handling while making a training film.[5] As a result, he lost both hands and was given two hooks to serve as hands. After his recovery, and while attending Boston University as a full-time student, Russell was featured in an Army film called Diary of a Sergeant about rehabilitating war veterans.

The Best Years of Our Lives

When film director William Wyler saw the film on Russell, he cast him in The Best Years of Our Lives with Fredric March and Dana Andrews. Russell played the role of Homer Parrish, a sailor who lost both hands during the war.

For his role as Parrish, Russell won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in 1947. Earlier in the ceremony, he was awarded an honorary Oscar for "bringing hope and courage to his fellow veterans." The special award had been created because the Board of Governors very much wanted to salute Russell, a non-professional actor, but assumed he had little chance for a competitive win. It was the only time in Oscar history that the Academy has awarded two Oscars for the same performance.

Upon completion of the film, Wyler told Russell to return to school since there "weren't many roles for actors without hands." Russell returned to Boston University and graduated with a business degree in 1949.

Russell authored two autobiographies, Victory in My Hands (1949) and The Best Years of My Life (1981).

Later years

Russell appeared in only two other films after his debut, Inside Moves in 1980 and Dogtown in 1997. He also appeared in an episode of Trapper John, M.D. in 1981 and a two-part episode of the television series China Beach in 1989.

Russell became active in AMVETS, serving three terms as National Commander. As such, he wrote to President Truman in 1951, supporting his decision to dismiss General MacArthur. In his letter, Russell wrote: "The issue is whether the ultimate civil authority of the United States can tolerate actions in contempt of constitutional lines of authority. Any lessening of civil power over military power must inevitably lead away from democracy."

From the early 1960s to the late 1980s, Russell served as the Chairman of the President's Commission on Employment of the Handicapped, an unpaid position.

In 1992, Russell needed money for his wife's medical expenses. In a controversial decision, he consigned his Oscar for Best Supporting Actor to Herman Darvick Autograph Auctions, and on August 6, 1992, in New York City, the Oscar sold to a private collector for $60,500. Russell defended his action, saying, "I don't know why anybody would be critical. My wife's health is much more important than sentimental reasons. The movie will be here, even if Oscar isn't."[6] The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has required all Oscar recipients since 1950 to sign an agreement forbidding them from selling their award;[7] as a pre-1950 winner, Russell was exempt from this provision.

Russell died of a heart attack on January 29, 2002, 15 days after his 88th birthday, and is buried in Lakeview Cemetery in Wayland, Massachusetts.[6]


Year Film Role Notes
1946 The Best Years of Our Lives Homer Parrish Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
Honorary Academy Award
Golden Globes - Special Award for Non-professional acting
1980 Inside Moves Wings
1981 Trapper John, M.D. Leo Hopkins TV episode - "The Days of Wine and Leo"
aka: "Harold Russell Story"
1989 China Beach Uncle Conal TV episodes - "The World, Pts. 1 & 2"
1997 Dogtown Blessed William


  1. ^ Cameron Rollins, Beth. "1930 US Census". Ancestry .com. 
  2. ^ Cameron Rollins, Beth. "Nova Scotia Historical Vital Statistics". Nova Scotia Genealogy. 
  3. ^ [2]
  4. ^ Cameron Rollins, Beth. "Nova Scotia Historical Vital Statistics". Nova Scotia Genealogy. 
  5. ^ "Harold Russell Dies at 88; Veteran and Oscar Winner". New York Times. 
  6. ^ a b Bergan, Ronald (2002-02-06). "Harold Russell; Brave actor whose artificial hands helped him win two Oscars". The Guardian. Retrieved 2008-02-05. 
  7. ^ Rothman, Heathcliff (2006-02-16). "I'd Really Like to Thank My Pal at the Auction House". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-02-05. 

External links

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Hawaii eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.