skip navigation
Deborah Kerr

Deborah Kerr

Up
Down

| VIEW ALL

TCM Messageboards
Post your comments here
ADD YOUR COMMENT>

share:

TCM Archive Materials VIEW ALL ARCHIVES (11)

Recent DVDs

 
 

The Innocents DVD Henry James' classic ghost tale "The Turn of the Screw" is adapted in this... more info $14.98was $14.98 Buy Now

Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison... Fox War ClassicsThis beautiful romantic drama, set during World War II, co-stars... more info $14.98was $14.98 Buy Now

The Night Of The Iguana... John Huston directs this scorching adaptation of Tennessee Williams' play... more info $19.98was $19.98 Buy Now

Julius Caesar DVD "Julius Caesar" (1953) is an exciting film about the opulence of the Roman... more info $19.98was $19.98 Buy Now

Studio Classics: Set 3... The 4-disc "Studio Classics, Set 3" commemorates 20th Century Fox's 75th... more info $19.98was $19.98 Buy Now

The Gypsy Warriors DVD Action. Intrigue. Honor. 1978's "The Gypsy Warriors" stars future "Magnum, P.I."... more info $6.95was $6.95 Buy Now



Also Known As: Deborah Jane Kerr-Trimmer Died: October 16, 2007
Born: September 30, 1921 Cause of Death: Parkinson's Disease
Birth Place: Helensburgh, Scotland Profession: actor, dancer

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

A gifted, sensitive Scottish-born leading actress, Deborah Kerr landed her breakthrough screen role in 1940 as a frightened Salvation Army worker in the fine, all-star adaptation of the potent Shavian satire, "Major Barbara". Originally trained for the ballet, she moved into stage acting and gained some experience in British repertory theater before segueing to films. Although the shy, quiet side would often remain in Kerr's later star persona, she, like Greer Garson, gradually acquired a stiff-upper-lip attitude as her native land's and later Hollywood's postwar personification of the delicate yet strong, often impassioned English rose. Kerr moved into leads in an adaptation of the controversial novel which was England's equivalent of "The Grapes of Wrath", the touching study of Depression-era poverty, "Love on the Dole" (1940). Although she did well in films including the grim "Hatter's Castle" (1941), it was really Kerr's lovely work in three roles in the splendid Michael Powell-Emeric Pressburger time-spanning saga "The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp" (1943), as the various women in the hero's life, that really set her on top. She followed up with several excellent performances in fine films:...

A gifted, sensitive Scottish-born leading actress, Deborah Kerr landed her breakthrough screen role in 1940 as a frightened Salvation Army worker in the fine, all-star adaptation of the potent Shavian satire, "Major Barbara". Originally trained for the ballet, she moved into stage acting and gained some experience in British repertory theater before segueing to films. Although the shy, quiet side would often remain in Kerr's later star persona, she, like Greer Garson, gradually acquired a stiff-upper-lip attitude as her native land's and later Hollywood's postwar personification of the delicate yet strong, often impassioned English rose.

Kerr moved into leads in an adaptation of the controversial novel which was England's equivalent of "The Grapes of Wrath", the touching study of Depression-era poverty, "Love on the Dole" (1940). Although she did well in films including the grim "Hatter's Castle" (1941), it was really Kerr's lovely work in three roles in the splendid Michael Powell-Emeric Pressburger time-spanning saga "The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp" (1943), as the various women in the hero's life, that really set her on top. She followed up with several excellent performances in fine films: the mousy wife whose marriage is revitalized when she enters wartime service in "Perfect Strangers" (1945); the Irish spy in the gripping "I See a Dark Stranger" (1946); and especially, a marvelous, award-winning performance as the determined yet fallible Sister Superior who attempts to establish a school and hospital in a remote Himalayan castle in Powell and Pressburger's uniquely unsettling "Black Narcissus" (1947).

With a string of performances like these, it was only a matter of time before Hollywood beckoned the graceful blonde star, and Kerr was soon co-starring opposite Clark Gable in the enjoyable satire of advertising, "The Hucksters" (1947). In many ways she filled the void Irene Dunne would soon create by leaving films. Gracious, ladylike and smart, Kerr would in fact recreate two Dunne roles: the proper Englishwoman who becomes governess to a potentate's brood in the musicalized version of "Anna and the King of Siam", "The King and I" (1956; with her singing dubbed by Marni Nixon); and the heroine prevented from making a crucial rendezvous with her lover in "An Affair to Remember" (1957; based on Dunne's better "Love Affair"). The actress' regal quality suited her for period adventures including "Quo Vadis" (1951) and "The Prisoner of Zenda" (1952), and she also ventured into comedy in "Dream Wife" (1953) and "The Grass Is Greener" (1961).

Perhaps the key difference between Kerr and earlier classy, genteel heroines such as Joan Fontaine was that the passions sparking Kerr's characters were often of a more overtly sexual nature. As questions of sex and censorship manifested themselves in the 1950s, her persona, prim only on the surface, proved ideal (as did Grace Kelly's) for suggesting the torrid side of romantic love. One of the most famous images of Kerr's career was that of her straying wife in "From Here to Eternity" (1953) making love on the beach with military officer Burt Lancaster. "The Proud and Profane" (1956) was such a similar film (and role) that it suffered by comparison, but there are similar dimensions in other Kerr roles such as the wife who helps an effeminate college youth "prove" his masculinity in "Tea and Sympathy" (1956) and even her nun, trapped on an island with a swarthy soldier, in "Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison" (1956).

Even if her mother-dominated spinster in "Separate Tables" (1958) was rather overdone, Kerr was a radiant, sincere and reliable actress, and since her appeal did not really depend upon youthful beauty, she continued impressively, if less prolifically, into 60s films. Her work as governesses who encounter ghost-possessed charges in "The Innocents" (1961) and free-spirited ones in "The Chalk Garden" (1964) was well crafted, and she had fine moments as a gentle tourist caring for her aging grandfather in "The Night of the Iguana" (1964) and as a matron who encounters liberated mores in the belabored but amusing sex farce, "Prudence and the Pill" (1968). Kerr subsequently returned primarily to stage work, keeping very busy in plays ranging from "Candida" to "Long Day's Journey Into Night" (both 1977), and enjoying considerable success in London and a worldwide tour in "The Day After the Fair" (1972-73, 1979). Variable health and problems remembering her lines interfered with some of her work, but her presence was always cherished, and she made a successful one-shot return to films as a repressed widow in "The Assam Garden" (1985). One of the actresses most nominated for an Academy Award without ever winning (six times), Kerr was given an honorary Oscar at the 1993 ceremonies. Seven years later, it was confirmed that she was suffering with Parkinson's disease and had been confined to a wheelchair.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

2.
 Reunion at Fairborough (1985) Sally Wells
3.
 Assam Garden, The (1985) Helen
4.
 Witness For The Prosecution (1982) Miss Plimsoll
5.
 The Gypsy Moths (1969) Elizabeth Brandon
6.
 The Arrangement (1969) Florence Anderson
7.
 Prudence and the Pill (1968) Prudence Hardcastle
8.
 Casino Royale (1967) Lady Fiona/Agent Mimi
9.
 Eye of the Devil (1967) Catherine de Montfaucon
10.
 Marriage on the Rocks (1965) Valerie Edwards
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1937:
Made stage debut in "Harlequin and Columbine"
1938:
Danced in the corps de ballet of Sadler's Wells production of "Prometheus"
1939:
Began acting career in English repertory theaters
1939:
Made film acting debut in small role of a hatcheck girl in "Contraband"
1940:
First prominent role in films, Jenny in "Major Barbara"
1940:
Had leading role in "Love on the Dole"
1943:
Played three roles in "The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp"
1943:
Acted on London stage in an adaptation of George Bernard Shaw's "Heartbreak House"; also toured
1945:
Performed on tour in stage melodrama "Gaslight" for British troops in Europe
1947:
Voted one of England's top ten money-making film stars in annual "Motion Picture Herald" exhibitors poll
1947:
Invited to Hollywood; made U.S. film debut in "The Hucksters"
1947:
Cast as a nun on a religious mission in the Himalayas in "Black Narcissus"
1948:
Received first of six Best Actress Academy Award nominations for "Edward, My Son"
1950:
Played female lead in "King Solomon's Mines"
1953:
Offered perhaps her most memorable performance as the adulterous wife of an army officer in "From Here to Eternity"; received second Best Actress Oscar nomination
1953:
Appeared as Portia in all-star filming of "Julius Caesar"
1953:
Made Broadway debut as female lead of "Tea and Sympathy"
1955:
Again played an adulterous wife in film version of Graham Greene's "The End of the Affair"
1956:
Recreated stage role from "Tea and Sympathy" in feature version
1956:
Portrayed the proper British governess to the children of the monarch of Siam in film version of Rodgers and Hammerstein musical "The King and I"; received third Academy Award nomination; singing voice dubbed by Marni Nixon
1957:
Earned fourth Oscar nomination for her turn as a nun stranded on a Pacific Island with an army officer (Robert Mitchum) in "Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison"
1957:
Cast opposite Cary Grant in romance "An Affair to Remember"
1958:
Delivered fine performance as a middle-aged spinster in "Separate Tables"; earned fifth Academy Award nomination
1959:
Portrayed writer Sheilah Graham in film adaptation of Graham's memoirs "Beloved Infidel"
1960:
Co-starred with Mitchum as a married couple operating a sheep ranch in "The Sundowners"; received sixth and last Best Actress Oscar nomination
1960:
Received star on Hollywood Walk of Fame
1961:
Portrayed the governess who may or may not be haunted by spirits in "The Innocents," based on the Henry James novella <i>The Turn of the Screw</i>
1961:
Acted in BBC production of "Three Roads to Rome"
1964:
Co-starred in John Huston's version of Tennessee Williams' "The Night of the Iguana"
1964:
Starred in film version of "The Chalk Garden"
1968:
Had lead in uneven comedy "Prudence and the Pill," co-starring David Niven
1969:
Last features for 16 years, "The Arrangement" and "The Gypsy Moths"
1972:
Starred on London stage in "The Day After the Fair"
1973:
Performed on tour in the U.S. in "The Day After the Fair"
1975:
Appeared on Broadway in Edward Albee's award-winning, but short-lived play "Seascape"
1978:
Toured with stage play "The Last of Mrs. Cheney"
1982:
Made U.S. TVmovie debut in remake of "Witness for the Prosecution" (CBS)
1984:
Played lead of Emma Harte in British miniseries "A Woman of Substance"; syndicated in the U.S.
1985:
Made one-shot return to feature films with lead role in "The Assam Garden"
1985:
Reteamed with Robert Mitchum in HBO romance "Reunion at Fairborough"
1985:
Acted on London stage in "The Corn Is Green"
1986:
Reprised role of Emma Harte in syndicated miniseries sequel "Hold the Dream"; final screen performance
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

St Martha's School: Bramley , Surrey -
Northumberland House Private School: -
Phyllis Smale Ballet School: -
Sadler's Wells Theatre School: - 1938

Notes

In March 2000, Kerr's representative confirmed that the actress was suffering from Parkinson's disease (diagnosed in 1994) and had been confined to a wheelchair.

Made Commander of the British Empire in 1997.

Companions close complete companion listing

husband:
Anthony Bartley. Born in March 1919; married on November 28, 1945; divorced in 1959; died on April 6, 2001.
companion:
Burt Lancaster. Actor. Had relationship during filming of "From Here to Eternity".
husband:
Peter Viertel. Novelist, screenwriter. Married on July 23, 1960.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Arthur Kerr-Trimmer. Engineer. Died when Kerr was 15 years old.
mother:
Kathleen Rose Kerr-Trimmer.
aunt:
Phyllis Smale. Operated a ballet school.
brother:
Teddy Kerr. Younger.
daughter:
Melanie Bartley. Father, Anthony Bartley.
daughter:
Francesca Bartley. Father, Anthony Bartley.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

Bibliography close complete biography

"Deborah Kerr"

Contributions

Ernesto Alorda ( 2006-03-06 )

Source: Saw her in the play. Check the annals of the BAFTA Awards. Go to website.

I would like to add a couple of items to Deborah Kerr's achievements in her long career: She played Mary Tyrone opposite Charlton Heston in Eugene O'Neill's "Long Days Journey Into Night" at the Mark Tapper's Theater in Los Angeles I believe in 1978, and she was awarded an honorary BAFTA as a Career Achievement Award in 1991 in England.

Jorge ( 2007-05-27 )

Source: Robert Osborne's Oscar History Books.

Her first Academy Award nomination for Best Actress was given to her in 1949 not 1948.

Please support TCMDB by adding to this information.

Click here to contribute