Skip to main contentSkip to footer

NCIS star Mark Harmon's mom was a Hollywood actress – details

The Agent Gibbs actor followed in his mom's footsteps with a career on the big screen

Mark Harmon with his mom Elyse and dad Tom
Megan Bull
Megan BullTV Writer
Share this:

Mark Harmon has become a household name thanks to his leading role as Leroy Jethro Gibbs in NCIS – not to mention his endless appearances in Hollywood hits like The Presidio (1988) Wyatt Earp (1994), and Freaky Friday (2003). In a sweet full circle moment, the star actually takes after his famous mother  – the late Elyse Knox – when it comes to his choice of career. Keep reading for all the details on his famous and incredibly talented mom...

WATCH: Meet the real-life partners of the cast of NCIS

Who is Mark Harmon's mother Elyse Knox?

An established actress, model, and fashion designer, with over 39 acting credits by the time Mark was born, Elyse Knox is regarded as a movie legend. Famed for her leading role in the 1942 horror flick, The Mummy's Tomb, Elyse later became a pin-up girl during World War Two and appeared in morale-boosting films for the troops. 

elyse knox© Getty
Elyse Knox was a Hollywood actress, model, and fashion designer

She also gained recognition for her portrayal of Anne Howe, the love interest of fictional boxer Joe Palooka in Joe Palooka, Champ, which would spawn an eleven-film franchise. Elyse had starred in five of them before retiring from acting in 1949 – just two years before she had Mark.   

elyse knox 1960© Getty Images
She retired from acting two years before she had Mark

What has Mark Harmon said about his mom, Elyse Knox?

Mark Harmon actually grew up with two famous parents – although he hadn't realised it until he was eight. "My parents kept things real," he told TV Insider. "I had no idea they were famous."  

mark harmon with parents© Getty
At first, Mark didn't realise that both of his parents were famous

Elyse was already known and loved for her acting career, while Mark's father, the late Tom Harmon, was an American football player, military pilot, actor, and sports broadcaster. Recalling the moment that he first realised his parents were famous, Mark explained: "It didn't hit me until one day when I was riding in the car with my father in Ann Arbor, Michigan. 


"I was maybe 8 and could barely see above the dashboard. And we stopped at a crosswalk. Suddenly we were surrounded by people who recognized my dad and were really thrilled to see him. I remember looking at this man I thought I knew so well and thinking, 'Who are you?'"

elyse knox tom harmon© Getty Images
Elyse Knox and Tom Harmon pictured in September 1956

While Mark rarely talks about his early family life, in an emotional moment that had fans close to tears, he revealed the sweetest story about his parent's wedding day. While appearing on The Talk in 2017, the TV star explained that Elyse's wedding dress had actually saved his father's life during World War Two.  

MORE: NCIS star Mark Harmon's famous niece revealed

READ: NCIS star Mark Harmon's father was a sports legend - details

Mark Harmon with his wife Pam Dawber, son Sean and mom Eluse© Getty
The actor revealed how his mother's wedding dress had saved his father's life

After explaining that his father's plane "went down twice during World War Two," Mark revealed that after Tom finally returned home following a traumatic crash in China, he brought the parachute that had saved his life home, and Elyse had it sewn into her wedding dress. 

"When [my father] got back after 30 days, the parachute came with him, and he married my mom. My grandmother, an Austrian immigrant and also a great seamstress, basically took the chute apart and made my mom's wedding dress out of it," he said. It doesn't get more romantic than that! 

Read more HELLO! US stories here

Like this story? Sign up to our newsletter to get other stories like this delivered straight to your inbox.

More TV and Film

See more