Deborah Kerr, my most favorite actress renowned by her genteel grace , died on Oct. 16, 2007 in UK.
The New York Times, Oct. 19, 2007
By DOUGLAS MARTIN
Deborah Kerr, a strikingly versatile actress whose screen persona of a genteel, tea-sipping Englishwoman blossomed into a deeper, more provocative identity when she played a ocean-swept sex scene opposite Burt Lancaster in “From Here to Eternity," died Tuesday in Suffolk, England. She was 86.
The death was confirmed yesterday by Jack Larson, a family friend. She had Parkinson’s disease.
Louis B. Mayer, boss of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, famously decreed that Miss Kerr’s last name rhymed with star, and she more than lived up to the billing with big roles in memorable pictures like “The King and I" (1956), “An Affair to Remember" (1957) and “The Sundowners" (1960).
In more than four decades as a major Hollywood actor, Miss Kerr, who had red-gold hair and blue-green eyes, was nominated for six Academy Awards without winning. In 1994 she received an honorary Oscar for her lifetime of work. The citation called her an “artist of impeccable grace and beauty."
Her influence persisted after she retired from big-screen movies in 1969 and moved to Switzerland and Spain, appearing only in occasional stage and television roles. Film buffs still return with fascination to her intriguing performance in “Black Narcissus" (1947), in which she played a nun whose pride yields to spiritual humility while doing missionary work in the Himalayas.
Her indelible performance in “An Affair to Remember" could be felt below the surface of Nora Ephron’s “Sleepless in Seattle" (1993). It used the theme song and clips of critical scenes from the earlier tear-jerker, which went on to a renewed burst of popularity.
It is hard to overstate the impact of Miss Kerr’s appearance in “From Here to Eternity" in 1953. Until then she had played what she called “goody, goody" roles; Laurence Olivier termed her “unreasonably chaste." Miss Kerr, with Greer Garson and Jean Simmons, was the quintessential Englishwoman, with all the staidness that implied.
In “Eternity" Miss Kerr was suddenly something entirely different: a sexy, adulterous wife making torrid love to Burt Lancaster on a Hawaiian beach. Parts of the scene were so daring for the time that they were cut.
The role broadened her image. Moviegoers came to suspect that even in the more refined moments of her later roles, a raw sensuality lurked below Miss Kerr’s placid surface. This mix of niceness and sexiness prompted tag lines like “A Sweet Kerr Named Desire" and did not exactly hurt at the box office.
“I don’t think anyone knew I could act until I put on a bathing suit," Miss Kerr said in an interview with Collier’s magazine.
A line Miss Kerr delivered in the 1956 movie “Tea and Sympathy" exemplified her seemingly new knowingness. As she’s about to sexually initiate an anguished student, she tells him, “When you speak of this in future years, and you will, be kind."
Versatility was a hallmark of subsequent roles. Yul Brynner, who had played the King on Broadway in “The King and I," chose Miss Kerr for the 1956 film version. She was nominated for a fifth Oscar for her role as a repressed spinster in “Separate Tables" (1958). Her sixth nomination was for “The Sundowners" (1960), in which she performed without makeup as a sheep farmer’s wife.
Stage roles were fewer but drew positive comment. When “Tea and Sympathy" opened on Broadway in 1953, with Miss Kerr in the role she later reprised in the film, Brooks Atkinson, writing in The New York Times, noted her “effortless style."
Deborah Jane Kerr-Trimmer was born on Sept. 30, 1921, in Helensburgh, Scotland. From an early age, she staged dramatic presentations for her family. Her father, Arthur, was a naval architect who died when she was in her midteens.
She attended a drama school in Bristol, England, and ballet school in London. She abandoned her ambition to dance professionally partly because her 5-foot-7 height limited possible roles. She focused on acting and appeared in open-air Shakespeare plays in Regent’s Park. She also read children’s stories for the British Broadcasting Corporation.
Miss Kerr signed a film contract in 1939 with the producer and director Michael Powell. He described her as a “plump little dumpling who was obviously going places" and cast her as a hatcheck girl in “Contraband" (1940). Her part, with her two lines, was cut.
Then Gabriel Pascal, the producer and director, cast her as Jenny Hill in a film adaptation of Shaw’s “Major Barbara" (1941). Because of her inexperience, he enrolled her in Oxford Playhouse, where she appeared in several roles. At her own suggestion, she volunteered with the Salvation Army so she could gain insight into her character. Now less plump thanks to her assiduous work and wartime rations, she received positive notices in both Britain and the United States.
More roles in British films came quickly. A notable one was the female lead in “The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp" (1943). Miss Kerr played three different aspects of the ideal woman in three generations. Hollywood legend has it that Mr. Mayer of M-G-M saw this picture after its release in the United States in 1945 and said: “That girl’s a star. Get her."
Miss Kerr’s last film in England was “Black Narcissus," for which she won the New York Film Critics Award for best actress after its American release. (The award also recognized her critically acclaimed role as a young Irish woman in the 1946 film “I See a Dark Stranger.")
Her first film for M-G-M was “The Hucksters" (1947). She played opposite Clark Gable under a contract that initially paid her $3,000 a week and guaranteed that she would be a co-star in all her productions. She was soon leading lady to Cary Grant, James Mason, Stewart Granger and Spencer Tracy.
Miss Kerr earned her first Oscar nomination for her third film for M-G-M, “Edward, My Son" (1949), in which she played the alcoholic wife of Mr. Tracy. But she soon grew uneasy about playing the foil for male stars in movies like “King Solomon’s Mines" (1950) with Mr. Granger.
“I wore a halo of decorum and was just about as exciting as an oyster," she told American Weekly magazine in 1957.
So she got a new agent, Bert Allenberg. He had called her and declared: “Deborah, for years now you’ve been playing the insipid English virgin. I think I can get you the roles you ought to have," Collier’s reported.
Harry Cohn, who was president of Columbia Pictures, originally wanted Joan Crawford or somebody like her, decidedly un-virginal. Mr. Allenberg argued the merits of a different sort of sexuality: a heroine “who looks like a lady but acts like a harlot."
“The result is screen history — which keeps repeating itself in the form of love scenes almost identical to that which Deborah and Burt played," American Weekly magazine said.
Miss Kerr’s first marriage, to Anthony Bartley, an Englishman who had been a decorated fighter pilot during World War II, ended in divorce. She is survived by her husband, Peter Viertel, an author and screenwriter; her daughters Melanie and Francesca; a stepdaughter, Christine Viertel; and three grandchildren.
It is likely that her role in “The King and I," as Anna in her famous hoop skirt, tops many people’s list of favorite Kerr characters. In an interview with The Chicago Tribune in 1986, Miss Kerr suggested it might not have been hers.
“I'd rather drop dead in my tracks one day than end up in a wheelchair in some nursing home watching interminable replays of ‘The King and I,’" she said before hooting with laughter.
The following web site is more for Deborah Kerr's bioraphy and career etc. - by Author