Jonathan Harris (born Jonathan Daniel Charasuchin; November 6, 1914 – November 3, 2002) was a voice actor on the animated series The Angry Beavers.
The second of three children, Harris was born to a poor family on November 6, 1914, in the Bronx, New York City. His parents were Sam and Jennie Charasuchin, Russian Jewish immigrants who eked out a living in Manhattan's garment district. His family resided in a six-tenant apartment complex. To raise money, his mother took in boarders, some of whom were given Jonathan's bed, forcing Jonathan to sleep on dining room chairs. From the age of 12, he worked as a pharmacy clerk.
While there was little money for luxuries, Jonathan's father took efforts to expand his son's cultural horizons. This included trips to the Yiddish Theatre, where he was encouraged by his father to listen to opera. Young Jonathan was enthralled. He discarded his Bronx accent and began to cultivate more sophisticated English tones. Although he could seldom afford tickets, Broadway plays were also an interest. Before graduating in 1931, at the age of 16, from James Monroe High School, he had also developed interests in archaeology, Latin, romantic poetry and Shakespeare. He had difficulty fitting in with his peers, who included classmate Estelle Reiner, mother of future actor/director Rob Reiner; with the exception of his girlfriend, Gertrude Bregman, whom he subsequently married. In 1932, he legally changed his name from "Charasuchin" to "Harris," apparently without informing his parents. That same year, Harris's work at the pharmacy led him to attend nearby Fordham University where he majored in pharmacology. He graduated from Fordham in 1936 and, for a time, worked in various drugstores.
Throughout his long life, Jonathan had a number of hobbies: gourmet cooking, watching movies, reading, traveling, painting, magic, playing piano (he played a piano teacher in a 1968 episode of Bewitched), listening to opera, spending time with children, gardening and knitting. He also did some dancing in his spare time. According to the A&E Biography, on season 3, episode 19 (The Promised Planet) of Lost In Space, Jonathan's character, Dr. Smith, did a groovy 1960s dance with Penny and Will Robinson (Angela Cartwright and Bill Mumy).
Personal life and death
Jonathan was married to his childhood sweetheart, Gertrude Bregman, from 1938 until his death in 2002. She died of natural causes, at the age of 93, on August 28, 2007. They had one child, Richard, born 1942.
Harris's father, Sam Charasuchin, was struck by a car while crossing the street, in New York City, in 1977. He was 93 years old at the time of his death.
In late 2002, Harris and the rest of the surviving cast of the TV series were preparing for an NBC two-hour movie entitled Lost In Space: The Journey Home. However, two months before the movie was set to film, he was taken to the hospital with what he thought was a back problem. But on November 3, 2002, just one day before he was scheduled to return home, Harris died of a blood clot to the heart. He was 87 years old, just 3 days shy of his 88th birthday.
He is interred in Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery, in Westwood Village, in Los Angeles. His funeral eulogists included long time friends: director Arthur Hiller; former Twentieth Century Fox television executive and producer Kevin Burns; and fellow Lost in Space castmate Bill Mumy.
- Julius Caesar
- Aaker, Everett. "Jonathan Harris," p.252 (at Google Books) of Encyclopedia of early television crime fighters, McFarland, 2006.
- Jonathan Harris Trivia at the Internet Movie Database
- Lost In Space: The Journey Home
- Eric Pace (2002-11-05). "Jonathan Harris, 87, Dr. Smith In 60's TV Series 'Lost in Space'". The New York Times. "Jonathan Harris, a versatile character actor perhaps best known for his role as the villainous Dr. Smith in the science-fiction fantasy series Lost in Space on CBS television, died on Sunday in Los Angeles. He was 87 and lived in the Encino section of Los Angeles. He had been hospitalized for a back injury, but died of a blood clot, a spokesman for the family said."
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