Harold Russell only had a major role in one film, but it assured his place in cinema history. He was born in Nova Scotia and raised in Boston, MA. Losing both hands to a grenade explosion in World War II, Russell later appeared in the military-produced educational film "Diary of a Sergeant", although someone else provided the voiceover narration. After seeing that film and noting an All-American ease and likability in the non-actor, William Wyler cast Russell as the quiet hometown boy Homer Parrish in "The Best Years of Our Lives" (1946). The drama about war veterans returning home won seven Oscars, including Russell's for Best Supporting Actor. He also received a special award from the Academy "for bringing hope and courage to his fellow veterans".
While he had a three-picture contract with Samuel Goldwyn, there were few other film opportunities awaiting Russell despite his awards. Returning to Massachusetts, he enrolled at Boston University and later published an autobiography, "Victory in My Hands", in 1949. While pursuing a career in business, Russell continued to work over much of the next four decades serving on presidential commissions and lobbying for disabled veterans and the physically challenged. He made a return to features as card-playing barfly in "Inside Moves" (1980) and undertook the role of a disabled World War II veteran in George Hickenlooper's "Dogtown" (1997). In 1992, Russell caused a minor stir in Hollywood by offering his Oscar at auction in an effort to pay medical costs incurred by his wife's illness. The statue was sold for $60,000, with the bulk ($50,000) going to the performer.