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Deborah Kerr

Deborah Kerr

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Affair to Remember ... Cary Grant, Deborah Kerr. Two people engaged to other people meet aboard a... more info $27.95was $34.98 Buy Now

An Affair to Remember ... Although each is engaged to someone else, Nickie (Cary Grant) and Terry (Deborah... more info $16.95was $19.99 Buy Now

Quo Vadis ... Directed by Mervyn LeRoy. Starring Patricia Laffan, Peter Ustinov, Leo Genn. more info $11.95was $16.99 Buy Now

Hollywood Collection: Robert... Starring Robert Mitchum. more info $14.25was $19.95 Buy Now

George Bernard Shaw On Film... The hugely influential Nobel Prize-winning critic and playwright George Bernard... more info $27.95was $44.95 Buy Now

Black Narcissus (Criterion... This explosive work about the conflict between the spirit and the flesh is the... more info $24.95was $39.95 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

Known as "The English Rose," lovely, red-haired Deborah Kerr – "It Rhymes with Star!" as MGM memorably proclaimed in her introduction to American audiences – was the distinguished Scotland native who perfectly embodied the attributes of genteel grace and beauty for generations of moviegoers. Following a brief career in ballet and some repertory work in various productions of Shakespeare, she first gained attention in "Major Barbara" (1941) and demonstrated the screen presence of a natural star in Michael Powell’s Technicolor masterpieces "The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp" (1943) and "Black Narcissus" (1947). Lured to Hollywood, Kerr graced event movies like "King Solomon’s Mines" (1950) and "Quo Vadis" (1951), but it was her dramatic work in "Julius Caesar" (1953) and unexpected display of anger and sensuality in "From Here to Eternity" (1953) that confirmed her full range as a performer. While she sometimes bristled at being cast so often as the prim and proper lady, audiences loved her as those characters, never more so than in the musical "The King and I" (1956), one of her most enduringly popular vehicles, along with the romance perennial "An Affair to Remember" (1957). Admired in the industry...

Known as "The English Rose," lovely, red-haired Deborah Kerr – "It Rhymes with Star!" as MGM memorably proclaimed in her introduction to American audiences – was the distinguished Scotland native who perfectly embodied the attributes of genteel grace and beauty for generations of moviegoers. Following a brief career in ballet and some repertory work in various productions of Shakespeare, she first gained attention in "Major Barbara" (1941) and demonstrated the screen presence of a natural star in Michael Powell’s Technicolor masterpieces "The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp" (1943) and "Black Narcissus" (1947). Lured to Hollywood, Kerr graced event movies like "King Solomon’s Mines" (1950) and "Quo Vadis" (1951), but it was her dramatic work in "Julius Caesar" (1953) and unexpected display of anger and sensuality in "From Here to Eternity" (1953) that confirmed her full range as a performer. While she sometimes bristled at being cast so often as the prim and proper lady, audiences loved her as those characters, never more so than in the musical "The King and I" (1956), one of her most enduringly popular vehicles, along with the romance perennial "An Affair to Remember" (1957). Admired in the industry for her talent and professionalism, and able to excel at playing everything from nuns to slaves, Kerr emerged as one of the finest and classiest leading ladies of her day.

Born Deborah Jane Kerr-Trimmer in Helensburgh, Scotland on Sept. 30, 1921, Kerr started ballet lessons at the age of five and began her schooling at Northumberland House Boarding School in Bristol. A quiet and sensitive girl, she was frequently bullied, but found escape at age 16 when invited to attend the Hicks-Smale Drama School, where she continued her ballet studies and honed her diction and deportment. Kerr had her first taste of acting when she read some children’s stories on the BBC and earned small parts in performances of Shakespeare. She decided to concentrate on acting instead of ballet – citing her 5’7" inch frame as being inappropriately tall – and participated in productions at Regent Park’s Open Air Theatre. Thanks to this added exposure, Kerr was spotted by a talent scout and offered a five-year film contract. Her first role, a brief appearance in the spy drama "Contraband" (1940), was never seen by the public, as the footage ended up on the cutting room floor.

However, she was soon given a supporting part as a Salvation Army worker in the widely-seen adaptation of George Bernard Shaw’s "Major Barbara" (1941), which immediately led to her first lead role in the Depression-era drama "Love on the Dole" (1941). Although Kerr’s beauty opened doors, her fine dramatic performance in a production of "Heartbreak House" (1943) convinced sceptics that she did indeed have genuine talent, and she toured with the play for six months throughout England and Scotland. Kerr’s striking red locks were ideal for the Three-Strip Technicolor world of Michael Powell’s "The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp" (1943), where she played three very different women who figure into the life of the title character. It was a wonderful showcase for Kerr’s talents and the actress was promptly offered a contract with MGM. Kerr agreed to the deal, but was temporarily allowed to remain on her home soil. She gave another winning performance in the comic espionage thriller "I See a Dark Stranger" (1946) as an Irish girl so disillusioned by Britain that she seeks to join the IRA, but ends up spying for the Nazis.

After MGM was compensated to the tune of £16,000 by Powell, she reteamed with the director for his classic "Black Narcissus" (1947). As a resolute nun seeking to establish a school and hospital in a remote area of the Himalayas, Kerr’s superb performance helped to make the film a major success in both England and America. By that time, director Powell had fallen deeply in love with Kerr, but was unsuccessful in convincing her to stay in England. She launched her Hollywood career opposite no less than Clark Gable in "The Hucksters" (1947) and earned her first Oscar nomination with a powerful performance as a disillusioned alcoholic in "Edward, My Son" (1949). Now one of the studio’s prime assets, Kerr was given the female leads in MGM’s adventure spectacles "King Solomon’s Mines" (1950) and "Quo Vadis" (1951), both box office smashes and among the most fondly remembered pictures of their type from that era.

While she more than fulfilled the basic requirements of the roles MGM assigned her, it was her turn as Portia opposite Marlon Brando and an assortment of distinguished British stars in "Julius Caesar" (1953) that provided Kerr with the sort of acting challenge her Hollywood career had largely lacked up to that point. Another key title from that period, "From Here to Eternity" (1953), provided Kerr with the chance to shatter her image as a proper, demure Englishwoman. Sporting blonde locks and a convincing American accent, her daring performance as an adulterous wife resulted in another Oscar nomination, and her famous encounter with co-star Burt Lancaster in the Hawaiian surf ranked among the most erotically charged moments of 1950s cinema, as well as one of the most iconic film scenes in history. That year, Kerr also made her Broadway debut in the very well received drama "Tea and Sympathy" (1953) and recreated that role for the 1956 motion picture version, though its story of a young man’s struggle with his sexual identity was blunted in the latter by the production code censorship of the period.

Although "From Here to Eternity" helped to broaden her appeal, Kerr did return to playing proper ladies on occasion, and was never better than as the governess who falls for Yul Brynner’s dynamic monarch in the musical smash "The King and I" (1956), arguably Kerr’s best remembered part. She donned a nun’s habit once again for "Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison" (1957), the first of four films with Robert Mitchum, had wonderful chemistry with Cary Grant in the romantic comedy-drama "An Affair to Remember" (1957), and shed glamour for her role as a sheep shearer’s wife in "The Sundowners" (1960), one of her most affecting performances. Although Kerr’s marriage to World War II hero Anthony Bartley was depicted by the Hollywood press as ideal, it had quietly disintegrated over the years, thanks to Kerr’s many months on various locations and his embarrassment over her financial success. On the day Kerr’s divorce was finalized in 1960, she wed writer Peter Viertel, best known for his screenplays for "The Sun Also Rises" (1957) and "The Old Man and the Sea" (1958).

Following her wedding, Kerr slowed down a bit in order to spend time with her new husband, but had several memorable roles in the early 1960s, perhaps most famously as a governess caring for two seemingly possessed children in the eerie and visually striking chiller "The Innocents" (1961). "The Chalk Garden" (1964) found her playing another governess dealing with another problem child, though one affected by more mundane problems in that case. Kerr also impressed in "The Night of the Iguana" (1964) as a spinster who proves to be an unlikely saviour for troubled alcoholic Richard Burton, and the actress had another encounter with evil in the offbeat thriller "Eye of the Devil" (1966).

With the arrival of the new motion picture ratings system in the United States, filmmakers were able to include more explicit imagery of a sexual or violent nature, as well as examinations of mature themes previously forbidden to them. Thus, it was not a complete surprise that "The Gypsy Moths" (1969) included some nudity, but eyebrows were raised when the sequence in question featured Kerr. Age 47 at the time of shooting, her love scene with Burt Lancaster in the movie was tastefully shot and germane to her character – that of a housewife in an unhappy, sexless marriage. She also did a second, unused nude scene for Elia Kazan’s "The Arrangement" (1969), but Kerr announced her retirement from movies after that production and cited the increasing proliferation of sex and violence and a lack of age appropriate roles as the reasons.

Concentrating on stage work, she appeared in London productions of "The Day After the Fair" (1972-74) and "Overheard" (1981); had runs in the Los Angeles productions of "Souvenir" (1975) and "Long Day’s Journey into Night" (1977); and took a final bow on Broadway with "Seascape" (1975). Kerr also accepted roles on the small screen via the miniseries "A Woman of Substance" (syndicated, 1984), for which she received an Emmy nomination, and the TV movies "Reunion at Fairborough" (HBO, 1985) and "Hold the Dream" (Channel 4, 1985). She also made her final feature film appearance in "The Assam Garden" (1985), a little seen British drama. Although she was nominated on several occasions for Academy and BAFTA Awards, Kerr did not receive any until she was presented with honorary prizes by both organizations after her retirement. Afflicted by Parkinson’s disease and confined to a wheelchair near the end of her life, Kerr passed away on Oct. 18, 2007; Viertel, her husband of more than 40 years, died of cancer a mere 20 days later.

By John Charles

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 Arrangement (1969) Florence Anderson
6.
 The Gypsy Moths (1969) Elizabeth Brandon
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.

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