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Deborah Kerr
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Deborah Kerr - 8/13

From the mid-1950s to the mid-'60s, Deborah Kerr had the field to herself as Hollywood's "Great Lady" - a role she filled with abundant grace, warmth and talent in such films as The King and I (1956), Tea and Sympathy (1956), An Affair to Remember (1957), The Innocents (1961) and The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1945), directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. Born Deborah Jane Kerr-Trimmer in Helensburgh, Scotland, in 1921, Kerr trained as a ballet dancer before making her film debut in Major Barbara (1941). On the strength of her compelling performance as a nun in Black Narcissus (1947), she was signed by MGM and made her American debut in The Hucksters (1947) opposite Clark Gable.

Stepping into the shoes once filled by the studio's other red-haired, well-bred leading lady, Greer Garson, Kerr lent glamour to King Solomon's Mines (1950), The Prisoner of Zenda (1952), Young Bess (1953) and Dream Wife (1953), which teamed her for the first time with Cary Grant and allowed her to show that she could sparkle in comedy. She was also cast in MGM's lavish version of William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar (1953) which also co-starred James Mason, Marlon Brando, Greer Garson, John Gielgud and Louis Calhern in the title role. A pivotal role in Kerr's career was that of Karen Holmes, the adulterous American army wife in From Here to Eternity (1953), which vastly increased the range of roles she was offered and brought her the second of six Oscar® nominations as Best Actress.

Kerr's other outstanding performances include those in The End of the Affair (1955), Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison (1957), Separate Tables (1958), The Sundowners (1960) and The Night of the Iguana (1964), in which she plays one of Tennessee Williams' fragile yet luminous heroines. In 1994 Kerr was awarded an honorary Oscar® as an "artist of impeccable grace and beauty, a dedicated actress whose motion picture career has always stood for perfection, discipline and elegance." Kerr, who remained active in films and television and on the stage through the mid-1980s, lived in retirement in Switzerland with her second husband, writer Peter Viertel. She died of Parkinson's Disease on October 16, 2007.

by Roger Fristoe

* Films in bold type will air on TCM
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