Facts about Harold Russell
Harold Russell Biography
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.
Harold 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 that year for “bringing aid and comfort to disabled veterans.” Then, to the surprise of many, he also won the year’s Oscar as best supporting actor.
After the film was released, Russell returned to school at Boston University, earning a business degree in 1949. He served as the head of AMVETS, an advocacy organization for World War II veterans, and later as chairman of the President’s Commission on Employment of the Handicapped. Harold Russell wrote two autobiographies: Victory in My Hands (1949) and The Best Years of My Life (1981).
The accident that cost Harold Russell his hands occurred in North Carolina on June 6, 1944 — the same date as the D-Day invasion of France… In 1992, Harold Russell was in the news when he auctioned his best supporting actor Oscar to pay for medical treatments for his wife… Harold Russell is the only person to win two Oscars for the same role in a single film.