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Sophia Harris
(1901-66)


Other names: Audrey Sophia Harris


Biographical

A stage designer, Sophia was the daughter of William Birbeck Harris (1867-1924), and Kathleen Carey (1873-1916). She was part of the team at the design firm Motley which included her sister Margaret 'Percy' Frances Harris (*1904, Shortland, Kent; †2000, Northwood, Middlesex), and Elizabeth Montgomery (*1902, Kidlington, Oxon; †1993, London). They studied at the Slade School of Art and their career took off after Sir John Gielgud asked them to design costumes for his 1932 production Romeo and Juliet. From then on until the 1930s, they were the top designers for the West End and Old Vic. Their style was simple, yet beautiful, providing a contrast to the more sophisticated, elaborate trend that had been prevailing at the time. The Motley brand began to extend their work to America after Lawrence Olivier chose them for his Romeo and Juliet. Percy and Montgomery went to America in 1940, but Sophia stayed behind. She had married the theatre director George Devine in 1939, and was mostly working alone after the departure of her partners. Following her husband's departure for the Burma campaign, and the birth of her daughter, Sophia had a nervous breakdown. She was later evacuated with her daughter after the German bombings of London. The Motley studio in St Martins was then destroyed by bombs. After her husband returned from the war, he opened the Old Vic theatre, and Sophia and her sister Percy, who had returned from America, taught costume design there until its closure in 1952. Motley's continued to design extensively for stage productions until 1966. It was awarded a BAFTA in 1963 for its costume design in the film The Pumpkin Eater.

Place of birth: Hayes, Kent


 

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Sources

1. M. Mulin.
Design by Motley. Cranbury, NJ; London; Mississauga, Ontario: Associated University Presses
2. British Academy of Film and Televsion Arts. [n.d.]


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