Mrs Irene Harris

Irene Harris

Mrs René Harris (née Irene Wallach), 36, was born on 15 July 1876 in Washington, D.C., to Philip Wallach (born ca. 1831 in Prussia, d. 1888), who had worked at a loan office and Rachel Edith Hilzheim (born 28 July 1842 in Ohio; d. 21 September 1929 in New York City). Her parents had married 20 August 1862 in the District of Columbia, USA.

There were nine children born to the family. Her known brothers and sisters were Seligman ’Sol’ Colfax, b. 22 May 1863 (d. 1953), Goldina, b. 1864, Eugenia ’Jennie,’ b. June 1867, (Emily) Maud, b. 8 September 1871 (d. 1944 in New York City as Mrs. Samuel Jerome King), Samuel H., b. 4 November 1872 (d. 31 August 1935 in New York City), Edna Iola, b. 10 January 1874 (d. 1963 in New York), Herbert Philip, b. 25 September 1883 (d. 25 May 1952 in Florida), and Edgar Smith, b. 4 June 1884 (d. 10 September 1953 in New York City).

René married Henry (“Harry”) Burkhardt Harris on 22 October 1899 in Manhattan, New York.

The couple boarded the Titanic at Southampton, they occupied cabin C-83 (ticket number 36973).

As Gregg Jasper and Randy Bigham have written in their biography of Renee Harris, Broadway Dame:

“Five days into the voyage, Sunday, April 14, the Harrises were still enjoying their shipboard routine. But a portent of the looming tragedy came when Renée suffered a freak injury that afternoon. She had been playing poker with her husband and six others in the B-Deck suite of millionaire Thomas Cardeza; Harry had asked her to ‘sit in,’ as she put it, in order to keep out a man suspected of being a cardsharp. When Harry pointed him out to her earlier, she was surprised he ‘looked so virtuous.’ Renée remembered “stakes were a dollar a chip” and that she was ‘ahead by $90’ when the summons for dinner was sounded: ‘We played our game of poker on an enclosed deck just outside the main stairway. Heeding the bugle call for dressing, I was making my way to my stateroom when in descending the stairs I slipped, I believe, on a greasy spot left by a tea cake. I took a header down six or seven steps.’ Incidentally, although it’s been incorrectly stated that her accident occurred on Saturday, Renée was clear in various published accounts, as well as in a letter to Gregg Jasper, that she “fell down the stairs the afternoon of the tragedy.”

René Harris was rescued in Collapsible D. When she boarded the Carpathia she was accommodated in a cabin vacated by the artist Colin Campbell Cooper and his wife Emma. Mr Campbell would later record the rescue in two paintings.

After Harry’s death, René discovered to what extent he was in debt. After arranging with creditors to repay what her husband owed them, she continued his business as a producer and manager of the Hudson, Harris and Fulton theaters.  She was the first woman theatrical producer and manager on Broadway as well as the only female theater owner in New York.

René Harris produced and managed some of the most successful plays on the American stage during her 20 year career, including Damaged Goods (1913), Twin Beds (1914) and Friendly Enemies (1918). In the 1920s, she launched the careers of Barbara Stanwyck, Judith Anderson and Moss Hart. The biggest musical hit at the Hudson Theatre during her ownership was Hot Chocolates (1929) in which Louis Armstrong made his Broadway debut. 

She remarried three times but was always known professionally as Mrs. Henry B. Harris. She sold the Harris Theatre in 1920, her lease was up on the Fulton Theatre in 1921 and she lost the Hudson Theatre in foreclosure in 1932.

René, who changed the spelling of her first name to Renée by 1940, remained active throughout her life. She participated in the promotional campaign for the 1955 bestselling book A Night to Remember by Walter Lord as well as the 1958 film based on the book. 

She died on 2 September 1969 at age 93.

Pictures

Irene Harris in 1962
New York Daily News  (1962) 
IRENE HARRIS IN 1962
Irene Harris in 1959
Tampa Times  (1959) 
IRENE HARRIS IN 1959
Irene Harris in 1935
Daily News (NY)  (1935) 
IRENE HARRIS IN 1935
Rene Harris in 1928
(1928) 
RENE HARRIS IN 1928
Rene Harris Barber passport 1923
(1923) 
RENE HARRIS BARBER PASSPORT 1923
Irene Harris in 1923
Vancouver Daily World  (1923) 
IRENE HARRIS IN 1923
Rene Harris 1922 passport
(1922) 
RENE HARRIS 1922 PASSPORT
Irene Harris in 1919
(1916) 
IRENE HARRIS IN 1919
MRS HENRY B. HARRIS, Formerly Miss Irene Wallach, of Washington
Washington Times  (1912) 
MRS HENRY B. HARRIS, FORMERLY MISS IRENE WALLACH, OF WASHINGTON
Crypt engraving for Rene Harris, Ferncliff Mausoleum, Hartsdale, N.Y.
CRYPT ENGRAVING FOR RENE HARRIS, FERNCLIFF MAUSOLEUM, HARTSDALE, N.Y.
Irene Harris
IRENE HARRIS
Titanic Survivors at A Night to Remember Screening
Irene Harris
IRENE HARRIS
Irene (Renee) Wallach Harris
IRENE (RENEE) WALLACH HARRIS
 

Articles and Stories

Titanica! (2019) 
NEW BOOK FOCUSES ON THE FORGOTTEN CAREER OF MRS. HENRY B. HARRIS
Titanica! (2018) 
COLLAPSIBLE LIFEBOAT D, THE LAST BOAT TO BE LOWERED.
Titanica! (2011) 
LINER ENTHUSIAST RECOUNTS HIS 1968 MEETING WITH RENEE HARRIS
Variety (1969) 
New York Times (1969) 
Boston Daily Globe (1922) 
New York Times (1914) 
Ballymena Observer (1913) 
The Washington Post (1913) 
(1912) 
Billboard Magazine (1912) 
Daily Home News (1912) 
New York Times (1912) 
New York Times (1912) 
Washington Times (1912) 
Daily Home News (1912) 
New York Times (1912) 
Washington Herald (1912) 
Washington Times (1912) 
New York Times (1912) 
New York Times (1912) 
Washington Times (1912) 
 

Comment and discuss

Mrs Irene Renee Harris (77 posts)
Henry Harris (33 posts)
Pellegrino re HarrisDuffGordons (15 posts)
Rene Harris (14 posts)
What caused Irene Harris broken arm (7 posts)
Mrs Renee Irene Harrisb strange encounter (5 posts)
Rene Harris and the Hudson Theater (4 posts)
Rene Harris (3 posts)
Did Irene Harris have any children? (3 posts)
HARRIS Mr Henry Birkhardt Shannon Noel Harris (1 post)
Rene Harris's Article in Liberty Magazine (1 post)
Looking for pictures of Rene Irene Harris (1 post)

Credits

Randy Bryan Bigham, USA
Peter Engberg, Sweden
Michael A. Findlay, USA
Phillip Gowan, USA
Gregg Jasper, USA
Arthur Merchant, USA

References and Sources

New York Times, September 3, 1969, Obituary
Randy Bryan Bigham & Gregg Jasper (2019) Broadway Dame: The Life & Times of Mrs. Henry B. Harris.
Search archive British and Irish newspapers online

Link and cite this biography

Encyclopedia Titanica (2020) Irene Harris (ref: #150, last updated: 9th June 2020, accessed 1st July 2020 11:12:52 AM)
URL : https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/titanic-survivor/irene-harris.html