New York Times

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p.47, col. 5

Mrs. Renee Harris, New York's first woman theatrical producer, a survivor of the sinking of the Titanic, died yesterday at Doctor's Hospital. She was 93 years old and lived at 140 West 69th Street.
A former owner of the Hudson Theatre here, Mrs. Harris became a theatrical producer after her husband, Henry B. Harris, a leading producer, was lost on the Titanic.
"For months," she once wrote, "after the sinking of the Titanic I was in a dreadful state of nerves and thought I should never be able to concentrate upon anything again. It was a frightful sensation. Then one memorable day I recalled the words of Mr. Harris: 'You are a better businessman than I am.'"
Mrs. Harris's first play was "Damaged Goods," starring Richard Bennett. It dealt with the problems of syphilis. She helped many actors to begin their careers. For "The Noose," she gave a bit part to a nightclub chorus girl named Barbara Stanwyck. She gave Judith Anderson her first roles on Broadway.
During the Depression, Mrs. Harris fared poorly and had to give up the Hudson. Recently she commented:
"When I'm on 44th Street, I turn my back on the Hudson. It's a movie house with sex pictures."
As a producer, she regularly read about 10 plays a month.
"Reading plays provides much of the fun in this business," she once said. "Especially do I enjoy reading the poor plays. They are usually sincere attempts, and contain situations which are funny, but impossible to produce."
She met Mr. Harris while she was a legal secretary, attending law school at night, and soon she began to read plays for him and to attend rehearsals. He once told Edgar Selwyn:
"I never take an important step without consulting Renee. If anything happened to me, she could pick up the reins."
On April 14, 1912, Mrs. Harris fell down a stairway aboard the Titanic and broke her elbow. Later that evening, the Harrises were playing double Canfield in their outside stateroom. Mrs. Harris noticed that "my clothes, which had been swinging on their hangers a moment before, suddenly stopped swinging.
"We didn't feel the impact with the fatal iceberg," she said later.
Mrs. Harris, at the urging of her husband, John Jacob Astor and Isidor Straus, left the Titanic in the last lifeboat.
She became a good friend of Walter Lord, author of "A Night to Remember," the book he wrote about the sinking. He sent her a copy of "A Time to Stand," a story about the Alamo, inscribed: "For Renee, who has done everything in her full and exciting life except defend the Alamo."
The plucky survivor of the Titanic was remarried three times. Her other husbands were Lester B. Consolly, L. Marvin Simmons and Zach C. Barber.
"If I had my life to live over, I wouldn't change it," she said many years ago. "After all, I had 10 wonderful, happy, superb, unforgettable years with my first husband. He spoiled me for any other man in the world. I have had four marriages--but really only one husband."

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Encyclopedia Titanica (2003) RENEE HARRIS, 93, FIRST WOMAN TO PRODUCE PLAYS HERE, IS DEAD (New York Times, Wednesday 3rd September 1969, ref: #283, published 28 August 2003, generated 2nd August 2021 09:18:50 PM); URL :