Harold Russell was born in Nova Scotia, Canada and his family moved to the United States in 1921 shortly after his father's death. He grew up in the US, and was so moved by the bombing at Pearl Harbor that he signed up for the Army.
He was an Army instructor, and on June 6, 1944, while making a training video the explosives he was using for a training film went off, causing him to lose both hands. He recovered from this incident, and went on to Boston University as a full-time student. It was here that he was approached about playing an amputee role in a Hollywood movie.
He played the role of Homer Parish, a U.S. Navy Sailor who lost both hands during the war in "The Best Years of Our Lives". His portrayal was so good that he won the Academy Award in 1947 for Best Supporting Actor.
He is also known for the distinction as being the only actor who ever sold his Oscar for profit. His wife was ill and he needed the money for medical expenses, at which point he sold his Oscar to ensure they could cover their bills. The Academy has required all awardees to sign a letter indicating they will not sell their Oscar, but he was in an exception as this only covered recipients post-1950.
Son of Harold Russell and Gertrude Croucher
Husband of Rita Russell-Nixon
Husband of Betty Marshalsea
"United States Census, 1930," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/XQGT-2VS : accessed 30 November 2017), Harold Russell in household of Gertrude Russell, Cambridge, Middlesex, Massachusetts, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 30, sheet 3A, line 47, family 50, NARA microfilm publication T626 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2002), roll 915; FHL microfilm 2,340,650.
"United States Census, 1940," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/K4VJ-49H : accessed 30 November 2017), Harold Russell in household of Gertrude Russell, Ward 6, Cambridge, Cambridge City, Middlesex, Massachusetts, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 16-83, sheet 7B, line 52, family 207, Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940, NARA digital publication T627. Records of the Bureau of the Census, 1790 - 2007, RG 29. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2012, roll 1685.
"California, County Marriages, 1850-1952," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:K8K7-QGC : 31 July 2017), Harold John Russell and Rita Russell Nixon, 27 Feb 1946; citing Los Angeles, California, United States, county courthouses, California; FHL microfilm 2,115,503.
"Brasil, Cartões de Imigração, 1900-1965," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QVJY-B5S7 : 8 August 2017), Harold J Russell, Immigration; citing 1961, Arquivo Nacional, Rio de Janeiro (National Archives, Rio de Janeiro).
"United States, GenealogyBank Obituaries, 1980-2014," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QK5V-4MXF : 25 October 2016), Mr Harold John Russell Wayland, Hyannis, Massachusetts, United States, 01 Feb 2002; from "Recent Newspaper Obituaries (1977 - Today)," database, GenealogyBank.com (http://www.genealogybank.com : 2014); citing Cape Cod Times, born-digital text.
"Massachusetts Death Index, 1970-2003," database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VZB8-KLW : 4 December 2014), Harold John Russell, 29 Jan 2002; from "Massachusetts Death Index, 1970-2003," database, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : 2005); citing Needham, Massachusetts, death certificate number , Commonwealth of Massachusetts Department of Health Services, Boston.
"United States Social Security Death Index," database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/JTPG-1ZD : 20 May 2014), Harold J Russell, 29 Jan 2002; citing U.S. Social Security Administration, Death Master File, database (Alexandria, Virginia: National Technical Information Service, ongoing).