Harold Russell

Actor, Writer, Meat cutter
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 ... Read more »
Born: 01/13/1914 in Sydney, Nova Scotia, CA

Filmography

Actor (5)

Goldwyn 2001 - 2002 (TV Show)

Actor

Dogtown 1998 (Movie)

Blessed William (Actor)

Inside Moves 1980 (Movie)

Wings (Actor)

The Best Years of Our Lives 1946 (Movie)

(Actor)

Biography

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.

Relationships

Betty Russell

Wife
Married 1981 until his death 2002

Rita Russell

Wife
Married 1944 until her death 1978

Adele Russell

Daughter
mother, Rita Russell survived him

Gerald Russell

Son
mother, Rita Russell survived him

EDUCATION

Boston University

Boston , Massachusetts

Rindge Technical High School

Cambridge , Massachusetts 1933

Milestones

1997

Third film role in "Dogtown"

1992

Made headlines when he became the first living actor to auction off his Academy Award to pay for medical bills for his first wife who was suffering from heart failure

1980

Made one-shot return to film acting in "Inside Moves"

1949

Published autobiography "Victory in My Hands"

1946

Film acting debut, "The Best Years of Our Lives"; received Oscar as Best Supporting Actor as well as an honorary award ; cast in role after director William Wyler viewed "Diary of a Sergeant"

1943

Lost both hands in a stateside explosives accident while preparing blasting caps on June 6 (D-Day)

Worked as a lobbyist for disabled veterans and the physically challenged

Raised in the Cambridge, Massachusetts, area

Served in WWII as a paratrooper and instructor in explosives

After graduating from high school, worked as a meat cutter for a local supermarket

Appeared in "Diary of a Sergeant", an educational film made by the US military for handicapped veterans; although he portrayed the titular sergeant, another person's voice was used in the narration

Signed to a four picture deal by Samuel Goldwyn

Bonus Trivia

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Russell holds the distinction of being the only actor to receive two Academy Awards for the same role.

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"My life is a series of things that just happen." --Harold Russell to The Boston Globe, July 31, 1998.

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