Jonathan Harris, American character actor, Died at 87


Jonathan Harris died on November 3, 2002 at the age of 87; he was an American character actor.

Two of his best-known roles were as the timid accountant Bradford Webster in the TV version of The Third Man and the prissy villain Dr. Zachary Smith of the 1960s science fiction television series Lost in Space.

Born on November 6, 1914, in the Bronx, New York City, his parents were Sam and Jennie Charasuchin, Russian Jewish immigrants who eked out a living in Manhattan’s garment district.

His family resided in a six-tenant apartment complex. To raise money, his mother took in boarders, some of whom were given Jonathan’s bed, forcing Jonathan to sleep on dining room chairs.

He discarded his Bronx accent and began to cultivate more sophisticated English tones. Although he could seldom afford tickets, Broadway plays were also an interest.

Before graduating in 1931, at the age of 16, from James Monroe High School, he had also developed interests in archaeology, Latin, romantic poetry and Shakespeare.

He had difficulty fitting in with his peers, who included classmate Estelle Reiner, mother of future actor/director Rob Reiner); with the exception of his girlfriend, Gertrude Bregman, whom he subsequently married.

Harris returned to television, where he landed a co-starring role opposite Michael Rennie in The Third Man, from 1959-65. He played “Bradford Webster,” an eccentric, cowardly assistant.

Half the episodes were shot in London, England; the rest were filmed in Hollywood. Harris’s teenaged son would visit the set at this time, and Harris did whatever he could to bridge the gap between father and son and tried to make up for lost time.

The character did not appear in the original 1965 pilot episode, nor did the robot. The series was already in production when he joined the cast and starring/co-starring billing had already been contractually assigned.

So Harris successfully negotiated to receive “Special Guest Star” billing on every episode.

Also starring on the show were several established and popular actors including: Guy Williams as Professor John Robinson; June Lockhart, as John’s wife, Dr. Maureen Robinson; Mark Goddard, as the Jupiter 2’s pilot, Judy Robinson’s mutual attraction and Dr. Smith’s hot-blooded adversary, Major Don West; Angela Cartwright, as the Robinson’s middle child, Penny Robinson; and two new stars: Marta Kristen, as their oldest child, Judy Robinson and Billy Mumy, as their youngest child and loyal friend to Dr. Smith, Will Robinson.
Harris died from a blood clot in his heart while receiving therapy at an Encino-area hospital for a chronic back problem.