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Harold Russell

Soldier / Actor / World War II Figure

Born: 14 January 1914
Died: 29 January 2002 (heart attack)
Birthplace: Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada
Best known as: The disabled vet in The Best Years of Our Lives
Harold Russell won two Academy Awards for playing the handless World War II veteran Homer Parrish in the 1946 film The Best Years of Our Lives. Russell was himself a disabled veteran, having lost both hands in a TNT explosion during his Army training in North Carolina; as in the movie, Russell's hands were replaced by metal hooks. After producer Samuel Goldwyn saw Russell in an Army film about soldiers with handicaps, he and director William Wyler cast Russell in The Best Years of Our Lives, a 1946 drama about war veterans returning to the home front. The film was a huge hit, winning Academy Awards for best picture, best director (William Wyler) and best actor (Frederic March). Russell was awarded a special Academy Award for "bringing aid and comfort to disabled veterans," and then (to the surprise of many) also won the year's Oscar as best supporting actor. Russell wrote two autobiographies: Victory in My Hands (1949) and The Best Years of My Life (1981).
Extra credit: The accident that cost Russell his hands occurred on 6 June 1944 -- the same date as the D-Day invasion of France... In 1992 Russell was in the news when he auctioned his best supporting actor Oscar to pay for medical treatments for his wife... Russell is the only person to win two Oscars for the same role.

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