Canadian actor-writer Don Harron dies at age 90
TORONTO (AP) — Don Harron, who entertained TV audiences in Canada and the U.S. with his comic alter ego Charlie Farquharson and helped bring the Canadian classic novel “Anne of Green Gables” to the stage, died Saturday. He was 90.
Harron’s eldest daughter Martha said her father died Saturday morning surrounded by family at his Toronto home after choosing not to seek treatment for cancer.
The wit and humor that landed him roles on CBC radio and television programs continued to define her father to the very end, Martha Harron said.
“He was still sharp. He was still capable of being funny even though his voice was barely above a whisper,” she said. “It’s horribly sad, but it’s beautiful too.”
Harron introduced his Farquharson character — a country bumpkin from rural Ontario dressed in a frayed grey cardigan sweater who poked fun at almost anything Canadian— on a CBC television revue in 1952, drawing inspiration from a stint working on an Ontario farm. He went on to perform as Farquharson on the long-running U.S. TV variety show “Hee Haw.” He also wrote many books under the name of Charlie Farquharson.
He also appeared regularly on U.S. TV shows in the 1960s, including “The F.B.I,” ″Mission Impossible,” ″12 O’Clock High,” ″The Outer Limits,” and “Dr. Kildare.”
Harron helped create a musical version of “Anne of Green Gables,” the Lucy Maud Montgomery novel about a red-haired orphan living on Prince Edward Island, for a CBC TV production in 1955.
“I said I’d been reading a book to my kids called ‘Anne of Green Gables’ and it seems to me that this little girl has such an imagination that the only way you can really realize it would be in song,” Harron recalled in a 2014 Canadian Press interview.
Nine years later, the TV version was adapted into a stage production.
The play has been performed for more than 50 consecutive years at the Charlottetown Festival on Prince Edward Island— a fact Harron sees as a stroke of good fortune.
Harron’s granddaughter, Zoe Cormier, said Harron was drawn to projects about strong Canadian women, including a musical about Canadian artist Emily Carr entitled “The Wonder of it All.”
Harron was born in Toronto in 1924 and, according to his own accounts in past interviews, got his start in show business at an early age.
Harron began his career as a cartoonist drawing caricatures of people at banquets in the 1930s before landing an audition for CBC radio.
Cormier said Harron’s intellectual passions nearly led him down a very different career path than the one that made him famous.
His passion for philosophy earned him scholastic awards at the University of Toronto.
“He’s one of the few people that I would describe as a true polymath,” Cormier said. “Anything he ever put his hand to he excelled at.”
In his later years, Harron was an advocate for the elderly, appearing as Charlie Farquharson in public service ads to encourage other seniors to use canes, scooters and walkers.
He is survived by his partner Claudette Gareau and his three daughters, some of whom have followed him into show business.
Mary Harron has directed such films as “American Psycho,” and Kelly Harron is working to turn the “Anne of Green Gables” musical into a film.