Obituary: British singer-actor Noel Harrison

  • Updated: October 22, 2013 - 9:50 PM
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British actor-singer Noel Harrison posed with Sara Tufnell after they were married in London in 1959. He died Saturday at age 79.

Photo: Press Association,

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NOEL HARRISON 1934-2013

British actor-singer Noel Harrison, best known for his recording of the Oscar-winning ballad “The Windmills of Your Mind” and as secret agent Mark Slate in NBC’s 1960s TV series “The Girl from U.N.C.L.E.,” died Saturday night. He was 79.

Harrison suffered a heart attack at his home in Ashburton, Devon, in England after performing at the village of Black Dog in Devon.

His wife, Lori Chapman, told the Press Association, “He will be loved and missed by more people than I ever knew.”

The son of Rex Harrison and his first wife, Collette Thomas, Harrison was a member of the British ski team and competed in the 1952 and 1956 Winter Olympics. But he soon left the slopes and began playing guitar and singing at nightclubs and bars around Europe before coming to America in 1965.

In 1966, he was cast opposite Stefanie Powers in “The Girl From U.N.C.L.E.,” which lasted one season.

“My darling friend Noel Harrison passed last night,” Powers posted on Twitter. “Let us all light a candle to speed him on his way — he deserves to fly with the angels.”

His recording of “The Windmills of Your Mind,” which was used as the theme music from the 1968 film “The Thomas Crown Affair,” was a top 10 hit in England. He released several albums including “Collage” and “Santa Monica Pier.”

On his website, Harrison wrote that he didn’t like being a celebrity in Hollywood. “There are lots of perks, pretty women all over you, good tables at fancy restaurants … but my marriage was crumbling and I felt as if I was exposing my emotional and distressed state in a fishbowl.”

He moved to Canada in the early 1970s, toured the United States in his father’s big stage hits “My Fair Lady” and “Blithe Spirit,” and returned in the late 1990s to England, where he continued to perform and record.

“We’re living in south Devon now, in the west of England,” Harrison said on his website. “There are grown children from my first two marriages, and grandchildren. I’m writing and playing music and trying to figure out who I am, what I really think, if anything, and if it matters. I’m pretty sure it doesn’t. Watch this space.”

Also noted: Major Owens, a former librarian, antipoverty activist and New York state senator who served 12 terms in the U.S. House and became the self-styled “Rappin’ Rep” for channeling his liberal advocacy into musical verse, died Monday at a hospital in Manhattan. He was 77.

The cause was congestive heart failure, said his wife, Maria Cuprill-Owens.

Owens, a Democrat, was first elected to the House in 1982 and boasted of his progressive voting record at a time when passionate liberals often found themselves on the fringes of power. He championed universal health care, education funding and minimum-wage legislation, and he fought to repeal gun rights, even publicly voicing his support to eliminate the Second Amendment because of the increased gun violence in schools. “I’m all alone on this one,” he once said.

Washington Post

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