Phil Harris

Wonga Philip Harris (June 24, 1904 – August 11, 1995) was an American comedian, actor, singer, and jazz musician. As a voice actor, he played Baloo in The Jungle Book (1967), Thomas O'Malley in The Aristocats (1970), and Little John in Robin Hood (1973).

Phil Harris
Phil Harris 1956.JPG
Harris in 1956
Wonga Philip Harris

(1904-06-24)June 24, 1904
DiedAugust 11, 1995(1995-08-11) (aged 91)
Resting placeForest Lawn Cemetery, Cathedral City, California
Other namesWonga Harris, Wonga P. Harris
OccupationComedian, jazz musician, singer, actor
Years active1933–1991 (retired)
m. 1927; div. 1940)

m. 1941; his death 1995)

Early life and careerEdit

Harris was born in Linton, Indiana, but grew up in Nashville, Tennessee,[1] and identified himself as a Southerner. His hallmark song was "That's What I Like About the South." He had a trace of a Southern accent and in later years made self-deprecating jokes over the air about his heritage. His parents were circus performers. His father, a tent bandleader, gave him his first job as a drummer with the circus's band.[2]

His unusual first name "Wonga," is said to derive from a Cherokee word meaning "messenger of fleet" or, perhaps more accurately translated, "fast messenger."[3]

On September 2, 1927, he married actress Marcia Ralston in Sydney, Australia; they had met when he played a concert date.[2]

In 1933, he made a short film for RKO called So This Is Harris!, which won an Academy Award for best live action short subject. He followed with a feature-length film, Melody Cruise. Both films were created by the same team that produced Flying Down to Rio, which started the careers of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. He also starred in I Love a Bandleader (1945) with Leslie Brooks. Here he played a house painter who gets amnesia, then starts to lead a band. He recorded Woodman, Spare That Tree (by George Pope Morris, Henry Russell) in 1947. His nickname was "Old Curly". Additionally, he appeared in The Wild Blue Yonder a.k.a. "Thunder Across the Pacific" (1951), alongside Forrest Tucker and Walter Brennan. He made a cameo appearance in the Warner Bros. musical, Starlift, with Janice Rule and Dick Wesson, and was featured in The High and the Mighty with John Wayne in 1954.[2]

External audio
  Best of Jack Benny Spotlight Podcast! October 4, 1936 – Phil Harris' First Show
  The Fitch Bandwagon/The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show, 102 episodes
Harris, Faye, and their two daughters, Alice and Phyllis, in 1948

After radioEdit

A Democrat, he supported the campaign of Adlai Stevenson during the 1952 presidential election.[4]

Harris worked as a voice actor for animated films, providing the voice of Baloo the bear in The Jungle Book (1967), Thomas O'Malley in The Aristocats (1970), and Little John in Robin Hood (1973). In 1989, he reprised his role as Baloo for the cartoon series TaleSpin, but after a few recording sessions he was replaced by Ed Gilbert.[5]

Bing CrosbyEdit

Harris was a lifelong friend of singer and actor Bing Crosby. He appeared on telecasts of Bing's Pro-Am Golf Tournament from Pebble Beach, California.[6]


Harris died of a heart attack at his Rancho Mirage home on August 11, 1995.[7] Alice Faye died of stomach cancer three years later. He is interred at Forest Lawn Cemetery, Cathedral City, California.[8]

Awards and honorsEdit

Harris was a resident and benefactor of Palm Springs, California, active in many local civic organizations.[9]

In 1994, a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars was dedicated to him.[10]



Year Title Role Notes
1929 Why Be Good Drummer in band at The Boiler Uncredited
1933 Melody Cruise Alan Chandler
1933 So This Is Harris! Himself Short
1936 Double or Nothing Himself Short
1937 Turn Off the Moon Himself
1937 Romancing Along Short
1937 Harris in the Spring Himself
1939 Man About Town Ted Nash
1940 Buck Benny Rides Again Himself
1940 Dreaming Out Loud Peter Atkinson
1945 I Love a Bandleader Phil Burton
1950 Wabash Avenue Mike Stanley
1951 Here Comes the Groom Himself Uncredited
1951 The Wild Blue Yonder Sgt. Hank Stack
1951 Starlift Himself
1954 The High and the Mighty Ed Joseph
1956 Anything Goes Steve Blair
1956 Good-bye, My Lady A.H. "Cash" Evans
1956 Saturday Spectacular: Manhattan Tower Billy TV movie
1960 The Big Sell Salesman
1963 The Wheeler Dealers Ray Jay Fox
1964 The Patsy Chic Wymore
1967 The Cool Ones MacElwaine
1967 The Jungle Book Baloo the Bear Voice
1970 The Aristocats Thomas O'Malley Voice
1971 Tom Jones: Movin' Up the River Himself
1971 The Gatling Gun Luke Boland
1973 Robin Hood Little John - A Bear Voice
1991 Rock-a-Doodle Narrator / Patou Voice, (final film role)


Year Title Role Notes
1957 This Is Your Life Himself
1964 Ben Casey Clarence Simmons Episode: "The Only Place Where They Know My Name"
1966 The Milton Berle Show Himself Episode #1.7
1966-1970 The Dean Martin Show Himself Eight episodes
1967 F Troop Flaming Arrow Episode: "What are you doing after the massacre"
1968 The Lucy Show Phil Stanley Episode: "Lucy and Phil Harris"
1969 The Johnny Cash Show Himself Episode #1.15
1970 This Is Tom Jones Himself Episode #2.19
1975 Dinah! Himself Episode #2.43
1978 Fantasy Island Will Fields Episode: "Carnival/The Vaudevillians"
1980 The Love Boat Harvey Cronkle Episode: "Rent a Romeo/Matchmaker/Y' Gotta Have Heart"
1984 This Is Your Life Himself
1985 The Disney Family Album Himself Episode: "Voice Actors"
  • NBC Salutes the 25th Anniversary of the Wonderful World of Disney – TV documentary (1978) – Himself

Radio appearancesEdit

Year Program Episode/source
1951 Suspense Death on My Hands[11]


  1. ^ "Radiography". The Los Angeles Times. 20 September 1936. p. 62. Retrieved 27 March 2018.
  2. ^ a b c "Phil Harris, Comic, Bandleader". The Press-Enterprise. Riverside, California. August 13, 1995. p. B5.
  3. ^ "Benny Show's Phil Harris Dies at 89". Los Angeles Times. August 13, 1995.
  4. ^ Motion Picture and Television Magazine, November 1952, page 33, Ideal Publishers
  5. ^ Voice actor decisions – Baloo and Kit Jymn Magon, co-creator of TaleSpin who initially cast Harris for the role of Baloo: "his age was a factor. He didn't have the slick, con man timing anymore. I loved working with Phil, so I was distraught to inform management that he just wasn't going to work out for 65 episodes. (Besides, we had to chauffeur him to and from Palm Springs for the recording sessions – a 4 hour round trip!!)",
  6. ^ Lobosco, David (March 14, 2010). "THE BING CROSBY NEWS ARCHIVE: SPOTLIGHT ON PHIL HARRIS".
  7. ^ Benny Show's Phil Harris Dies at 89, Obituary in the Los Angeles Times dated August 13, 1995 (retrieved June 30, 2012).
  8. ^ Brooks, Patricia; Brooks, Jonathan (2006). "Chapter 8: East L.A. and the Desert". Laid to Rest in California: a guide to the cemeteries and grave sites of the rich and famous. Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot Press. p. 245. ISBN 978-0762741014. OCLC 70284362.
  9. ^ Henderson, Moya; Palm Springs Historical Society (2009). Images of America: Palm Springs. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing. p. 102. ISBN 978-0-7385-5982-7.
  10. ^ "The Brightest Stars from New-York to Los Angeles" (PDF). Archived from the original on October 13, 2012.
  11. ^ "Those Were the Days". Nostalgia Digest. 39 (1): 32–41. Winter 2013.


External linksEdit