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Earl Hamner, Jr.
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Jonathan Harris
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HARRIS, JONATHAN
(Jonathan Charasuchin 1914–2002).American actor.

SCIENCE FICTION, FANTASY, AND HORROR FILM CREDITS
Acted in: "The Devil to Pay" (1950), "The Devil in Glencairn" (1951), episodes of Lights Out; The Big Fisherman (Frank Borzage 1959); "Rumpelstiltskin" (1958), "The Reluctant Dragon," "The House of the Seven Gables" (1960). episodes of Shirley Temple's Storybook; "Twenty-Two," "The Silence" (1961), episodes of The Twilight Zone; Lost in Space (tv series) (1965-1968); "Love Is a Toothache" (1968), episode of The Ghost and Mrs. Muir; "Samantha on the Keyboard" (1968), "Paul Revere Rides Again" (1970), episodes of Bewitched; "How Green Was My Valet" (1970), episode of Get Smart; "Pay the Piper" (1970), episode of Land of the Giants; "Since Aunt Ada Came to Stay," episode of Night Gallery (1971); Uncle Croc's Block (tv series) (1975-1976);  "The Astrologer" (1976), episode of Monster Squad; "The Flies," "The Draught" (1976), episodes of Ark II; Space Academy (tv series) (1977); Battlestar Galactica (tv series; voice) (1978-1979); "The Look Alikes/Winemaker" (1979), episode of Fantasy Island.

Provided voice for animated films: The Banana Splits Adventure Hour (tv series) (1968-1970); Lost in Space (tv special) (1973); My Favorite Martians (tv series) (1973-75); Rainbow Brite and the Star Stealer (Bernard Deyriès and Kimio Yabuki 1985); "Terror in Atlantis" (1985), episode of Challenge of the GoBots; Rainbow Brite (tv series) (1986); Foofur (tv series) (1986); Pinocchio and the Emperor of the Night (Lou Scheimer 1987);  Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Lights (tv series) (1987); "Sherlock Holmes in the 23rd Century" (1988), two-part episode of BraveStarr; Happily Ever After (John Howley 1990);  "In Like Blunt" (1992), episode of Darkwing Duck; Problem Child (tv series) (1993-1994); The Twisted Tales of Felix the Cat (tv series) (1995); "Convention of Evil," "Boogie with the Man" (1996), episodes of The Mask; "Poil Jammed/The Who That I Am/A Picture Says a 1000 Words" (1996),  episode of The Spooktacular New Adventures of Casper; "Transmission: Impossible" (1996), episode of Quack Pack; "The Final Face Off" (1996), episode of  Mighty Ducks; Freakazoid! (tv series) (1996-1997); "Target" (1997), episode of Superman; "Be Careful What You Wish For" (1997), episode of Extreme Ghostbusters; "The Return of Hydro-Man" (1997), two-part episode of Spider-Man; Channel Umptee-3 (tv series) (1997); "Friends, Romans, Beavers!/Big Round Sticky Fish Thingy" (1998), episode of The Angry Beavers; A Bug's Life (John LASSETER and Andrew STANTON 1998); A Bug's Life (video game) (as Jonathan Smith) (1998); Toy Story 2 (Lasseter, Ash Brannon, and Lee Unkrich 1999); "Tag Team," "A Zoo Out There" (2000), episodes of Buzz Lightyear of Star Command; Hubert's Brain (short) (Phil Robinson and Gordon Clark 2001); The Bolt Who Screwed Christmas (short) (John Wardlaw 2009).

 
It is easy to imagine Jonathan Harris working as a pharmacist, wearing a white coat and dispensing advice in a clipped, condescending manner, but while that was his original career goal, young Jonathan Charasuchin resolved instead to become an actor, first on the Broadway stage, and later on television. He legally changed his name to Jonathan Harris and, like another all-American boy, Vincent PRICE, adopted an affected, almost-British accent in order to provide himself with a patrician aura. Like Price, he initially specialized in serious roles, as he was twice called upon to play the Devil in episodes of the early anthology series Lights Out, and he was perfunctorily unsympathetic to a distressed patient in a memorable episode of The Twilight Zone, "Twenty-Two." But he found his true home in comedy, spending two seasons serving as boss and comic foil to Bill Dana's Jose Jimenez on The Bill Dana Show. If that show had been renewed for a third season, Harris almost certainly would not have a place in this encyclopedia; but its cancellation in 1965 made him available for another role that would forever change his career.

As Irwin ALLEN's new science fiction series, Lost in Space, went into production, somebody evidently realized that the cast Allen had assembled was, even by his low standards, extraordinarily dull and unappealing, except for the perpetually underestimated June LOCKHART and talented child actor Billy MUMY. Emergency surgery was in order, so two characters were hastily added: a Robot, modeled after Forbidden Planet's ROBBY THE ROBOT, and a saboteur to serve as a recurring villain. Harris earned the second role, and although the initial plan was to make Dr. Smith earnestly sinister and to eventually write him out of the story, Harris gradually made the character transparently duplicitous and comically inept, a toothless opponent who could easily be thwarted by the resourceful Mumy and Robot and hence a tolerable if annoying member of the Robinson family. While always billed as a "Special Guest Star," Harris effectively became the star of the series, as every episode focused on his latest scheme to ally himself with some absurd alien to abandon the Robinsons and return to Earth, with Mumy and the Robot on hand to interfere with his machinations and, usually, rescue Smith from perils of his own devising. Eventually, the plots were veering toward unprecedented heights of inanity—the talking vegetables are usually presented as the most notorious example—but if one considered the program a science fiction comedy, which it what it had become, it could be appreciated on its own terms as entertaining nonsense, thanks to Harris's efforts.

Lost in Space might have continued long after its third season, but when CBS reduced its budget, Allen decided to bring it to an end, so Harris kept himself busy with a number of guest appearances, including unremarkable visits to Bewitched, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, Land of the Giants, Get Smart, and Night Gallery. But in the 1970s, he discovered that he could profit from his past experience in a prominent science fiction series to garner roles in similar projects. He was most prominent in the Saturday-morning series Space Academy, endeavoring to serve as the avuncular mentor to a corps of young space cadets, without enormous success, but he provided the execrable Battlestar Galactica with rare sparkles of life as the voice of an exasperated Cylon robot.

Precisely at the age of sixty-five, and perhaps uncoincidentally after a final appearance at the notorious Rest Home for Has-Been Actors, Fantasy Island, Harris resolved to retire from screen acting, even resisting an appeal to make a cameo appearance in the 1998 film version of Lost in Space. He remained very active, however, as a voice for animated films, usually episodes of fittingly forgotten series, though he also worked for major films like Happily Ever After, A Bug's Life, and Toy Story 2. When he died at the age of eighty-eight, after a long and productive career, one could say that he had found the perfect prescription for success.

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