Don Harron: The Serious Comic, Part 1

The first of two hours that salute a beloved icon of stage, radio and TV, Don Harron, who died in January of this year. Rewind's tribute to Don Harron was originally presented on March 19, 2015.
Don Harron,1968 (CBC Still Photo Collection/Harold Whyte)
(CBC Still Photos)

Don Harron, the beloved actor, broadcaster, comic, raconteur and mimic died this past January. You may have heard or read the accolades that came his way. There's a wealth of great skits, interviews and appearances from his many years at CBC; more than 1500, in fact. To honour this giant of CBC's past, Rewind presents some great interviews with and by Don to remind you of, or perhaps introduce you to the late, great Don Harron. 

The first mention of Don Harron in the CBC Radio archives is from 1945 in a play written by Lister Sinclair called You Can't Stop Now. The story was a warning to Canadians of the dangers that faced us as one of the major producers of uranium. The drama was meant to be a wake-up call to Canadians to prepare to defend ourselves against enemy attacks for this valuable metal. Don had a bit role in the play. He was 21 years old at the time. He went on to take part in many CBC Radio drama productions.

Don Harron as Charlie Farquharson (CBC Still Photos)
In 1952 Don created his alter ego, the rustic country bumpkin Charlie Farquharson on the CBC Television program The Spring Thaw. Charlie became the beloved voice of rural wisdom over many years. At the same time, Harron played a lead role opposite Alec Guinness at the Stratford Festival's inaugural season in 1952 and performed in London's West End end on Broadway. He was also host of CBC Radio's Morningside for five years. 
The egg and spoon race from Anne of Green Gables: The Musical (CBC)
​He wrote one of this country's most enduring musicals: Anne of Green Gables. Anne of Green Gables, the show, was originally created for CBC Television in the 1950s. Harron was inspired by the Canadian classic and imagined a stage version to convey the complex emotions of its heroine, Anne-with-an-e Shirley through song. It was so successful that in 1965 the newly minted Charlottetown Festival decided to stage it, and it has been performed there every year since. This past June in Charlottetown marked the 51st season of the world's longest running annual production of a musical.

CBC's Telescope featured the Charlottetown festival's artistic director, Jack MacAndrew with Don Harron. Don's writing partner on Anne of Green Gables was Norman Campbell, who composed the music. 

Margaret Atwood in conversation with Don Harron on CBC Radio's Morningside circa 1978. (CBC Still Photo Collection/Eric Hayes)

In 1977, Harron began a successful five year stint as host of a new program called Morningside. During that time he won an ACTRA award for best radio host. 

Next week Rewind features Don Harron in conversation with Canadian icons Timothy Findley, Peter Gzowski and Buffy Ste Marie.

Songs played on the show include selections from Anne of Green Gables:

- Overture

- Ice Cream

- Humble Pie

- Gee I'm Glad I'm No one Else But Me