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Barbara Harris, the actress who starred in the 1976 film Freaky Friday, has died. She was 83

By Alexia Fernández
August 21, 2018 07:36 PM
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Credit: Moviestore/REX/Shutterstock

Barbara Harris, the actress who starred in the 1976 film Freaky Friday, has died. She was 83.

Harris died on Tuesday from lung cancer in Scottsdale, Arizona, according to the Associated Press.

Her close friend Charna Halpern, who co-founded the iO Theater in Chicago, confirmed the news on Facebook.

“My friend and an amazing famous actress Barbara Harris passed away early this morning, Halpern wrote. “My favorite memories of her were her sense of humor and how she made me laugh.”

“If you haven’t seen her movies-watch Family Plot and A Thousand Clowns,” she added. “Those are two of my favorites. I’ll miss her. Hopefully her friends, Del and Severn will meet her and help her in her passing.”

Harris portrayed Ellen Andrews, the mother, in Freaky Friday, who switches bodies with her daughter Annabel (Jodie Foster). The film came out in 1976 and that same year she starred in Alfred Hitchcock’s last film, Family Plot.

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Barbara Harris in Nashville
| Credit: Paramount/Getty

In 1975, Harris made waves in the film Nashville with her performance of “It Don’t Worry Me” as Winifred after the film’s violent climax.

Harris also starred in Peggy Sue Got Married opposite Nicolas Cage and Kathleen Turner.

The actress was remembered by the Second City improv theater in Chicago, where she was one of the performers in the organization’s first cast.

“It all began with Barbara Harris. When lights came up for the very first time at The Second City on opening night in 1959, it was Barbara in the spotlight, a place she truly belonged,” the theater wrote in a tweet dedicated to Harris.

“More than anything, her wit and warmth are what paved the way for so many of us at Second City, and we are lucky and thankful to be associated with an artist of her caliber,” they tweeted. “Condolences to the many loved ones and fans who will miss her one-in-a-million spirit.”

Actress Bonnie Hunt also remembered Harris, tweeting on Tuesday, “Ms. Harris like Elaine May, set the bar. When I worked @TheSecondCity I’d watch & rewatch tapes of their genius on stage. Respect, admiration & gratitude for the example they set, strong self-respecting women, humor at the top of their intelligence, simply brilliant. #timeless.”

Ed Asner, a close friend of the star, also remembered her in a sweet tribute on Twitter.

“Goodnight sweet lady. You were a force. I will miss your calls,” he wrote.

Harris earned an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress in the 1971 film Who Is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me?

After retiring from acting, Harris focused on teaching. When asked in 2002 if she missed her career, Harris told the Phoenix New Times she never in it to be an actress but rather to be with people in that indursty.

“Well, if someone handed me something fantastic for 10 million dollars, I’d work again. But I haven’t worked in a long time as an actor,” she said. “I don’t miss it. I think the only thing that drew me to acting in the first place was the group of people I was working with: Ed Asner, Paul Sills, Mike Nichols, Elaine May.”

She added, “And all I really wanted to do back then was rehearsal. I was in it for the process, and I really resented having to go out and do a performance for an audience, because the process stopped; it had to freeze and be the same every night. It wasn’t as interesting.”

Harris has no living relatives, according to the AP.