Profiles In Secret Balling: Rex Harrison Edition

By Emily Chambers | Celebrity | July 7, 2015 |


If the recent posts about Eartha Kitt and Peter O’Toole have taught me anything, it’s that Old Hollywood stars were straight-up freaks. And I say that in the most supportive, sex- positive definition of the word. Way to go, Eartha Kitt. I am impressed and jealous. And Peter O’Toole, your deep dicking numbers are amazing to the point of being ridiculous.

But while O’Toole’s quantity of boning might hold some sort of dead actor record, the quality of unbelievable boning belongs to Rex Harrison. Yes, that Rex Harrison.
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Henry Higgins/ Dr. Dolittle himself was a world class baller. And sure, he doesn’t have the same numbers as O’Toole, but he was doing something serious to the women he was bedding. For starters, the guy was married six times. Given Hollywood’s penchant for repeat marriages, that’s not all that impressive. But Harrison’s six marriages were effing bonkers.

His first marriage, to Colette Thomas, ended in 1942; the following year, he married Lilli Palmer. And while married to Palmer, he began an affair with actress Carol Landis. Who killed herself in 1948 after spending the evening with Harrison. As someone who has been personally touched by suicide, I know that the suicidal thinking and reasoning is rarely coherent and can’t be attributed to just one problem. So I’m not arguing that Landis killed herself because of her failed relationship with Harrison. Yet.

Now given that he was cheating, it shouldn’t be surprising that Harrison’s marriage to Palmer didn’t survive. Or that it didn’t survive because of Harrison’s mistress. What should be surprising is when the marriage ended. And that the mistress in question was an entirely different woman named Kay Kendall. See after Landis’ death, Palmer and Harrison stayed together for another nine years. They only ended the marriage after Harrison asked for a divorce so he could marry his mistress Kendall who had recently been diagnosed with leukemia. That divorce, by the way, was contingent on the fact that Palmer would wait for and remarry Harrison after Kendall passed.

Yeah. Harrison told his wife he was leaving her for another woman, but demanded that she agree to take him back at some future date.
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(No, Palmer did not feel compelled to keep up her end of the bargain. She married Carlos Thompson shortly after her divorce, and stayed married to him until her death in 1986.)

But in this case you could maybe argue that Harrison was trying to do the right thing. He had cheated on and probably mistreated both of his wives so far, but now he was trying to do right by at least woman in his life. He would marry Kay Kendall and nurse her until the end. And also never, ever tell her she was dying of leukemia instead letting her believe she had an iron deficiency.

What. The. Fuck, Rex?
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That’s not giant balls or killer dicking. That’s just effing bonkers. And we’re only halfway through his wives. And, man, the next one is a doozy.

In 1962 Harrison married Rachel Roberts who he divorced in 1971. Their relationship appears to have continued in at least some way though until 1980. When after a final attempt to win Harrison back failed, Roberts killed herself. And again, Roberts’ underlying issues with depression and substance abuse clearly played a role in her death. But for those of you keeping track at home, this is the second woman Harrison boned who killed herself.

Also Harrison managed to fit in an entire marriage and divorce into the same time period it took Roberts to decide that she couldn’t live without him. Following his pattern of not letting the marriage bed get cold in between spouses, Harrison married Elizabeth Reese- Williams in 1971, and divorced her in 1975. As far as I can tell, there were no significant deaths related to this union.

Harrison finally took a bit of a break (at least from actual matrimony, probably not from ladies altogether) until 1979. At that point he married that last Mrs. Rex Harrison, a woman named Merica Tinker. Harrison and Tinker were together until a different significant death: his in 1990. There aren’t any notable mistresses from this marriage though. So I guess he just needed to sow some wild oats and finally settled down at … only 71- years- old.

Maybe after winning his first Tony for his role as Henry VIII in Anne of the Thousand Days, he was just going follow in that guy’s footsteps until the bitter end. I can’t really support Harrison’s methods or his treatment of women, but damnit if his record isn’t impressive. And to his credit, he might have known on some level how terrible his behavior was.
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H/T: Old Loves. You massive time suck, you.


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