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Rosemary Harris Collection

Identifier: MC-0024

Scope and Contents

This collection is comprised of material collected by Rosemary Harris. Included are her extensive collection of theatre programs as well as material related to her acting career; the Association of Producing Artists, founded by her first husband, Ellis Rabb; The Kennedy Center Honors Gala; and the careers of her husbands, actor and producer Ellis Rabb and author and NCSA co-founder John Ehle.

The collection contains newpaper and magazine clippings, correspondence, photographs, ephemera, and copies of fourteen of Ehle's books. Awards given to Harris and Ehle are also included, along with Ehle's regalia and several of Rabb's handwritten manuscripts describing his family history. Of particular note is Harris's collection of theatre programs spanning multiple decades and continents. Some of these programs feature photos of well-known actors and actresses including Tim Curry, Maggie Smith, Christopher Walken, and Judi Dench, among others.


  • 1922-2020


Conditions Governing Access

Open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.

Archives collections may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information which is protected under federal or state privacy laws, the North Carolina Public Records Act (N.C.G.S. § 132 1 et seq.), and Article 7 of the North Carolina State Personnel Act (Privacy of State Employee Personnel Records, N.C.G.S. § 126-22 et seq.). Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in the collections without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which the University of North Carolina School of the Arts assume no responsibility.

Biographical Note

Rosemary Harris was born 19 September 1927 in Ashby, England to Stafford Berkeley Harris and Enid Maude Francis Campion. Harris' father was a member of the Royal Air Force, and Harris spent much of her childhood in India where he was stationed. Harris attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) from 1951-1952, made her Broadway debut in 1952, and performed often in the United States and United Kingdom. In 1963, Harris performed at the opening of the National Theatre Company founded by Laurence Olivier, now known as the Royal National Theatre.

In December 1959, Harris married actor and producer Ellis Rabb, who founded of the Association of Producing Artists (APA) in January of the following year. Harris performed in a number of APA productions including her Tony-Award winning role as Eleanor of Aquitaine in The Lion in Winter. Harris and Rabb divorced in 1967 but maintained a connection and continued to collaborate on projects and corresponded until Rabb's death in 1998.

Harris married North Carolina author John Ehle in October 1967. The couple settled in Winston-Salem, and their daughter, Jennifer Ehle, was born in 1969, who would go on to graduate from the North Carolina School of the Arts (NCSA) in 1988 and become a Tony Award-winning actress.

In 1976, Harris won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie for her role in the BBC television series Notorious Woman. In 1978, Harris received the Golden Globe for her portrayal of the family matriarch in Holocaust. In 1980 she received an honorary doctorate from NCSA, and in 1986 was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame. Harris has won 4 Drama Desk Awards and has been nominated nine times for Tony Awards, winning Best Actress in 1966 for her role as Eleanor of Aquitane. In 2007, she was awarded the North Carolina Award for fine arts, and she received a Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre award in 2019.

Today, Harris is well known for playing Spider-Man's aunt, May Reilly Parker, in the Spider-Man film trilogy from 2002-2007. She never retired and in 2018 took over the role of Mrs. Higgins in a Broadway revival of My Fair Lady. Harris is highly involved with NCSA, conducting master classes and serving as guest director for a 1987 production of The Royal Family. Harris also narrated the 2020 film production of The Nutcracker, and continues to serve as a Member Emeritus on the Board of Visitors.

Ellis Rabb was born 20 June 1930 in Memphis, Tennessee and went on to attend the University of Arizona as well as Carnegie Institute of Technology. Rabb founded the Association of Producing Artists (APA) in 1960, a company of actors and producers performing a repertory of modern and classical works including on- and off-Broadway performances, residencies, and tours. Rabb directed a number of productions for the APA and other companies and wrote numerous scripts for theatre, film, and television that primarily went unproduced. The APA disbanded in 1970. Rabb passed away on 11 January 1998.

John Marsden Ehle, Jr. was born 13 December 1925 in Asheville, North Carolina to John Marsden Ehle, Sr. and Gladys Starnes Ehle. Ehle served as an Army rifleman during World War II, and afterward received bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The author of 17 books, Ehle is sometimes referred to as the father of Appalachian literature. Serving as special assistant to Governor Sanford from 1962-1964, Ehle was a strong advocate for education and was instrumental in the establishment of the North Carolina School of the Arts, the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, and the North Carolina Governor's School. Sanford appointed Ehle to the Conservatory Committee whose efforts led directly to the establishment of NCSA by the General Assembly in 1963. Ehle received an honorary doctorate from the school in 1981. In 1990, a scholarship was created in his name to benefit NCSA's high school students studying music, and Ehle was inducted in to the Giannini Society in 1992. Ehle passed away on 24 March 2018.

Articles. (June 2019). Presenting Rosemary Harris. Retrieved 14 November 2022 from
Rosemary Harris Biography. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 14 November 2022 from
Rosenfeld, M. (1986). Rosemary Harris, Blissfully. The Washington Post.
Ellis Rabb Biography. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 14 November 2022 from
Sandomir, R. (2018). John Ehle, who rooted his novels in Appalachia, is dead at 92. The New York Times, 24A. Retrieved 14 November 2022 from
Whitaker, L. (2018). NCSA mourns the loss of founder John Ehle. UNCSA. Retrieved 14 November 2022 from


8.3 Linear Feet (8 document boxes, 22 oversize folders, 16 bound volumes, 34 photographic prints, 99 rolled photographic prints, 3 framed items, 2 vinyl records, 2 medals, 5 audio cassettes, 1 VHS tape, and 1 set of regalia.)

Language of Materials



This collection is comprised of material collected by Rosemary Harris including a large collection of over 300 theatre programs, awards and ephemera from her acting career, information on the Association of Producing Artists and The Kennedy Center Honors Gala, and material documenting the careers of her husbands, actor and producer Ellis Rabb and author and NCSA co-founder John Ehle.


This collection has been arranged in three series, two of which have been further arranged in subseries. Within each subseries, materials are arranged in chronological order with the exception of Series 1, Subseries 1, in which programs have been grouped alphabetically by theatre and then arranged chronologically. The series and subseries arrangement of the records is as follows: Series 1. Rosemary Harris Material, 1941-2020 Subseries 1. Programs, 1945-2019 Subseries 2. Manuscripts, Awards, and Ephemera, 1941-2020 Subseries 3. Books and Scripts, 1950-1981 Series 2. Ellis Rabb Papers, 1922-1997 Series 3. John Ehle Material, 1942-2014 Subseries 1. Manuscripts, Awards, and Ephemera, 1942-2014 Subseries 2. Books, 1957-1993

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donation of Rosemary Harris. John Ehle books transferred from UNCSA Library in August, 2020.

Related Materials

Rosemary Harris has been involved with the School of the Arts personally as well as through her marriage to John Ehle. Additional information about her may be found in RG-01: Office of the Chancellor, and RG-24: Photograph Collection. Harris directed an NCSA performance of "The Royal Family" in 1987; additional information about this performance can be found in the RG-25: School of Drama records, and RG-45: Program Collection.

Ellis Rabb's papers are held by the New York Public library, with a finding aid available online

John Ehle was instrumental in the founding of NCSA and additional material about him may be found in RG-01: Office of the Chancellor, RG-24: Photograph Collection, RG-27: Pulication Collection, and RG-06: UNCSA Foundation Collection. The John Ehle Papers are held at UNC's Wilson Special Collection Library, with a finding aid available online.

Processing Information

Creator's file names were used where available; archivist supplied descriptive folder titles where the creator did not include one. The collection was grouped into series based on the creator of the records and further arranged by format. Materials were placed in acid-free folders and boxes.

Guide to the Rosemary Harris Collection
Laura Silva
November 2022
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the UNC School of the Arts Archives Repository

1533 South Main St.
Winston-Salem North Carolina 27104 United States