Barbara Barrie
Birth Date:
May 23, 1931
Birth Place:
Chicago, Illinois, USA
Famous for:
Her role in Suddenly Susan
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One Potato, Two Potato


Entering show business in the mid 1950s, Barbara Barrie first gained recognition as the star of the interracial love story “One Potato, Two Potato” (1964), where she picked up a Cannes Film Festival Award for her portrayal of Julie Cullen Richards. Over 15 years later, she again achieved success with her scene stealing role of Dennis Christopher's mom in “Breaking Away” (1979), from which she picked up an Oscar nomination. She has also acted in “Private Benjamin” (1980), “End of the Line” (1987), “Judy Berlin” (1999, netted an Independent Spirit nomination), “30 Days” (1999, written and directed by her son Aaron Harnick), “Second Best” (2004) and “Frame of Mind” (2009). The versatile performer nabbed Emmy nominations for her supporting role in the failed TV spin off “Breaking Away” (1980-1981), where she recreated the role of Evelyn Stohler from the feature film of the same name, and for her guest roles in “Law & Order” (1992, as Mrs. Mrs. Bream) and “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” (2003, as Paula Haggerty). She is also known for playing Hal Linden's wife in “Barney Miller” (1975-1978) and Brook Shields' grandmother in “Suddenly Susan” (1996-2000). Barrie's long list of television credits include series roles on “Love of Life”(1960), “Diana” (1973), “Tucker's Witch” (1982), “Reggie” (1983), “Double Trouble” (1984-1985), “The Phil Silvers Show” (1957-1959) and “Backstairs at the White House” (1979) and guest stints in countless TV series, including “Trapper John, M.D,” “Once and Again,” “Pushing Daisies,” “Surviving Suburbia” and “Army Wives.” She has also portrayed characters in many TV films and miniseries. On stage, Barrie is probably best recalled as Sarah in the Broadway production of “Company” (1970), where she won a Tony nomination.

Apart from acting, Barrie is an accomplished author. She has released two critically acclaimed novels for young adults that are titled “Lone Star” (1989) and “Adam Zigzag” (1995).

Barrie is the widow of TheatreworksUSA founder Jay Harnick (together from 1964 until his death in 2007) and they had two children together. A colon cancer survivor, Barrie was on the set of the TV miniseries “Scarlett” (1994) in Charleston, South Carolina, when she became ill and passed out. She was rushed to a nearby hospital and the following day they discovered she had cancer. Her cancer treatment proved successful and she wrote the memoir “Second Act: Life After Colostomy and Other Adventures” in 1997.

Barbara Ann Berman

Childhood and Family:

Barbara Barrie was born Barbara Ann Berman on May 23, 1931, in Chicago, Illinois, to Frances Rose and Louis Berman. Growing up in Texas, she attended the University of Texas in Austin, Texas, and received her BFA in the early 1950s. She later studied acting at the Herbert Berghof Studio in New York.

On July 23, 1964, Barbara married Jay Malcolm Harnick. They would remain together for over forty years until Harnick's death on February 27, 2007. Harnick was the founder and longtime artistic director of TheatreworksUSA. Barbara and her husband had two children, daughter Jane Caroline Harnick (born in 1966) and son Aaron Louis Harnick (born in 1969).

Breaking Away


Barbara Barrie made her New York stage debut in “The Wooden Dish” in 1955. The following year, she branched out to the big screen with the unaccredited part of Mary Lou Decker in George Stevens' masterpiece “Giant,” which starred Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, James Dean and Carroll Baker. She went on to snag a recurring role on CBS’ “The Phil Silvers Show,” playing a nurse named Edna during 1957 to 1959, and also portrayed various roles in the syndicated cop series “Decoy” (1958).

In the early 1960s, Barrie joined the cast of the CBS long running daytime drama “Love of Life” in the role of Ginny Crandall. She went on to play episodic roles in a string of TV shows, such as “The United States Steel Hour” (1961), “Route 66,” “The Untouchables,” “Naked City” (all 1962), “Dr. Kildare,” “The Twilight Zone” and “Alcoa Premiere” (all 1963) before scoring her first large feature film role in the Hall Bartlett directed drama “The Caretakers” (1963), where she portrayed Edna. Barrie graduated to a leading role the next year when she portrayed Julie Cullen Richards on Larry Peerce's “One Potato, Two Potato” (1964), opposite Bernie Hamilton. The drama was nominated for an Oscar for Best Writing, Story and Screenplay - Written Directly for the Screen and brought Barrie the Best Actress honor at the 1964 Cannes Film Festival.

From 1965 to 1969, Barrie guest starred in TV series, including “The Fugitive,” “Ben Casey,” “Rawhide,” “The Trials of O'Brien,” “Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre,” “Ironside” and “The Invaders.” She also returned to the New York Shakespeare Festival in 1965 and 1969. She had made her first performance in the festival in 1960.

In 1970, Barrie was cast as Sarah in the original Broadway production of Stephen Sondheim's “Company.” For her good acting job, she was nominated for a 1971 Tony nomination in the category of Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical. She reappeared on the small screen in 1972 in television’s “To Be Young, Gifted, and Black,” which starred Blythe Danner. She then landed the regular role of Norma Brodnik on the brief lived comedy series “Diana” (NBC, 1973), starring Diana Rigg, and after the cancellation of the show, joined the cast of the Hal Linden led sitcom “Barney Miller,” which premiered on January 23, 1975, on ABC. Portraying Elizabeth Miller, she stayed with the show until 1978.

In between the two shows, Barrie worked on a string of TV films, including “Koska and His Family” (1973), “For the Use of the Hall” (1975, as Charlotte), “Tell Me My Name” (1977), “Child of Glass” (1978), and “Summer of My German Soldier” (1978). She also took on the supporting role of Kaati Fludjicki in the 1977 Emmy nominated TV miniseries “Harold Robbins' 79 Park Avenue,” which starred Lesley Ann Warren and Marc Singer, and appeared in episodes of “The ABC Afternoon Playbreak” (1973), “Mary Tyler Moore” (1974), “Bronk,” “McMillan & Wife” (both 1975) and “Disneyland” (1978). In 1979, after portraying the small role of Dodie Brattle in the acclaimed TV miniseries “Roots: The Next Generations” and the recurring role of Mrs. Mamie Eisenhower on four episodes of “Backstairs at the White House,” Barrie appeared in the movie “The Bell Jar,” which reunited her with “One Potato, Two Potato” director Larry Peerce, and Peter Yates' coming of age drama “Breaking Away” (both 1979). As the supportive mother of the bicycle racing obsessed Dave Stohler (played by Dennis Christopher) in the latter film, the actress was nominated for a 1980 Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role.

Barrie recreated her Oscar nominated role of Evelyn Stohler in the television series adaptation “Breaking Away,” which ran on ABC from 1980 to 1981. In spite of the series’ short life span, Barrie received an Emmy nomination in 1981 for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series. Barrie then experienced a huge box office success with the hit “Private Benjamin” (1980), in which she was cast as Harriet Benjamin, the mother of the title character (played by Goldie Hawn).

Throughout the early 1980s, the actress could also be seen in the made for TV films “To Race the Wind” (1980), “Barefoot in the Park” (1981), “The Children Nobody Wanted” (1981), “Not Just Another Affair” (1982), “Two of a Kind” (1982) and “All Together Now” (1984) and in episodes of “American Playhouse” (1982) and “Trapper John, M.D.” (1984). She returned to series TV as a regular on the short lived CBS supernatural detective series “Tucker's Witch” (1982, as Ellen Hobbes) and the comedy series “Reggie” (1983, as Elizabeth Potter), a remake of the 1970s British show “The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin.” From 1984 to 1985, she portrayed Aunt Margo on the NBC short lived sitcom “Double Trouble.”

In 1987, Barrie played Mrs. Amberville on the popular miniseries “I'll Take Manhattan” (CBS), based on the novel of the same name by Judith Krantz. The same year, she also worked with Kevin Bacon in the independent film “End of the Line,” which was directed and co-written by Jay Russell, and James Belushi and John Ritter in Dennis Fieldman's “Real Men.” The next year, she was cast with Ned Beatty in the dramatic film “After the Rain,” played Mrs. Drake in the NBC biopic “Winnie,” starring Meredith Baxter, and supported Bea Arthur and Richard Kiley in ABC’s “My First Love.”

After guest spots in “thirtysomething,” “Babes” and the TV films “Kojak: Flowers for Matty” and “Guess Who's Coming for Christmas,” Barrie was put back in the spotlight with her memorable performance of Mrs. Bream in the “Law & Order” episode “Vengeance” (1992) and was nominated for a 1992 Emmy in the category of Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for her acting job. She then landed a two episode role in “ABC Afterschool Specials” (also 1992, played Anne Charney), portrayed Tony Randall's wife, Gloria, on the CBS television movie “The Odd Couple: Together Again” (1993), was reunited with Meredith Baxter in the drama “My Breast” (CBS, 1994) and teamed up with Joanne Whalley, Timothy Dalton and Stephen Collins in the Emmy winning miniseries “Scarlett” (1994).

In 1995, Barrie returned to the stage in “After-Play,” by Anne Meara. She also won the role of Helen “Nana” Keane in the popular NBC sitcom “Suddenly Susan” (1996-2000). While on the series, Barrie provided the voice of Alcmene in the Disney 1997 animated film “Hercules,” a 1998 episode of the cartoon series “Hercules,” and the 1999 direct to video sequel “Hercules: Zero to Hero.” In addition, she supported JoBeth Williams and Michael Ontkean in Lifetime's “A Chance of Snow” (1998) and portrayed a Jewish mother in the comedy “30 Days” (1999), the feature directorial debut of her son Aaron Harnick, who also served as the writer. In Eric Mendelsohn's “Judy Berlin” (1999), she was cast as Suzan Berlin and received a nomination for Best Supporting Female at the 2000 Independent Spirit Awards for her fine acting job. In 2000, Barrie appeared in the independent film “$pent,” starring Jason London, in an episode of “Once and Again” and in the off-Broadway play “Current Events.”

Barrie resurfaced on TV in 2003 when she made a guest appearance in “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.” Playing Paula Haggerty in the episode “Perfect,” she earned a 2003 Emmy nomination for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series. During the next few years, she appeared in Eric Weber's comedy film “Second Best” (2004), starring Joe Pantoliano, played the recurring role of Phyllis in “Dead Like Me” (2, episodes, 2004), worked in the made for TV film “Fathers and Sons” (2005, played Ruth) and offered a notable appearance as Mamma Jacobs in an episode of “Pushing Daisies” called “Girth.” She then appeared in the Carl T. Evans dramatic movie “Frame of Mind” (2009, portrayed Thelma) and guest starred in “Surviving Suburbia” and “Army Wives” (also 2009). Barrie will portray Yetta Monopoli in Marc Meyers' drama “Harvest” (2009), opposite Robert Loggia, Jack Carpenter, Victoria Clark and Arye Gross, and Eve in Jeff Lipsky's “Twelve Thirty” (2010), with Mamie Gummer and Karen Young.


  • Cannes Film Festival: Best Actress, “One Potato, Two Potato,” 1964

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