Profile of Deborah Kerr
Deborah Jane Trimmer CBE, known professionally as Deborah Kerr, was a Scottish film, theatre, and television actress. She was nominated six times for the Academy Award for Best Actress, and holds the record for an actress most nominated in the lead actress category without winning.
During her international film career, Kerr won a Golden Globe Award for her performance as Anna Leonowens in the musical film The King and I (1956). She is also eternally remembered for her performances in films like From Here to Eternity (1953), Tea and Sympathy (1956), An Affair to Remember (1957) in which she played opposite Cary Grant, etc.
In 1967 at age 46, Deborah Kerr starred in Casino Royale, achieving the distinction of being the oldest Bond Girl in any of the James Bond films.
In 1994, having already received honorary awards from the Cannes Film Festival and BAFTA, Deborah Kerr received an Academy Honorary Award with a citation recognising her as "an artist of impeccable grace and beauty, a dedicated actress whose motion picture career has always stood for perfection, discipline and elegance".
Biography of Deborah Kerr
Deborah Jane Trimmer was born on 30 September 1921 in Hillhead, Glasgow. Her father Capt. Arthur Charles Kerr Trimmer was a World War I veteran and pilot who lost a leg at the Battle of the Somme and later became a naval architect and civil engineer.
Kerr originally trained as a ballet dancer, She went to the Sadler's Wells ballet school and in 1938 made her début in the corps de ballet in Prometheus at Sadler's Wells when she was 17 years old.
After becoming actress, she adopted the name Deborah Kerr, a family name and she made clear that her surname should be pronounced the same as "car".
Kerr became known in Britain playing the lead role in the film of Love on the Dole (1941).
In 1942, she starred with Robert Newton and James Mason in Hatter's Castle which was very successful, the same year she played a Norwegian resistance fighter in The Day Will Dawn which make her an immediate hit with the public: An American film trade paper reported in 1942 that she was the most popular British actress with Americans.
On 29 November 1945, Deborah Kerr married Squadron Leader Anthony Bartley in London, England. They had two daughters. The marriage was troubled, owing to Bartley's jealousy of his wife's fame and financial success, and because her career often took her away from home. They divorced in 1959.
In 1947, Deborah Kerr’s role as a troubled nun in Black Narcissus brought her to the attention of Hollywood producers. The film was a hit in the US, as well as the UK, and Kerr won the New York Film Critics Award as Actress of the Year. British exhibitors voted her the eighth-most popular local star at the box-office in 1947. She relocated to Hollywood and was under contract to MGM.
Kerr's first film in Hollywood was a mature satire of the burgeoning advertising industry, The Hucksters (1947) with Clark Gable and Ava Gardner. She received the first of her Oscar nominations for Edward, My Son (1949), a drama set and filmed in England co-starring Spencer Tracy.
In Hollywood, Kerr's British accent and manner led to a succession of roles portraying refined, reserved, and "proper" English ladies. Kerr, nevertheless, used any opportunity to discard her cool exterior.
Kerr departed from typecasting with a performance that brought out her sensuality, as "Karen Holmes", the embittered military wife in Fred Zinnemann's From Here to Eternity (1953), for which she received an Oscar nomination for Best Actress. The American Film Institute ranked it 20th in its list of the 100 most romantic films of all time.
Having established herself as a film actress in the meantime, she made her Broadway debut in 1953, appearing in Robert Anderson's Tea and Sympathy, for which she received a Tony Award nomination.
Thereafter, Kerr's career choices would make her known in Hollywood for her versatility as an actress.
In 1956 she played Anna Leonowens in the film version of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The King and I with Yul Brynner which was a huge hit.
Then the next year in 1957, she starred in An Affair to Remember opposite Cary Grant which became her most iconic and remembered role ever.
On 23 July 1960, Kerr was married to author Peter Viertel Although she long resided in Klosters, Switzerland and Marbella, Spain, Kerr moved back to Britain to be closer to her own children as her health began to deteriorate. Her husband Viertel continued to live in Marbella.
Although she worked in various films although the 60s, including the comedy Casino Royale in 1967 in which she achieved the distinction of being the oldest "Bond Girl" in any James Bond film at age 45, none of the roles could compare with the ones she was offered in the 50s at the peak of her stardom. And thus Deborah Kerr abandoned the small screen at the end of the 1960s in favour of television and theatre work.
Kerr played in various TV dramas and was nominated for an Emmy Award for her role of older Emma Harte, a tycoon, in the TV adaptation of Barbara Taylor Bradford's A Woman of Substance.
But despite her success on the big and small screens, theatre always remained Kerr's first love, even though going on stage filled her with trepidation.
Kerr's first stage appearance was at Weston-super-Mare in 1937, as "Harlequin" in the mime play Harlequin and Columbine.
Decades later, Kerr returned to the London stage in many productions including the title role in a production of George Bernard Shaw's Candida.
In 1975, she also returned to Broadway, creating the role of Nancy in Edward Albee's Pulitzer Prize-winning play Seascape.
I do it because it's exactly like dressing up for the grown ups. I don't mean to belittle acting but I'm like a child when I'm out there performing—shocking the grownups, enchanting them, making them laugh or cry. It's an unbelievable terror, a kind of masochistic madness. The older you get, the easier it should be but it isn't.”
Kerr died aged 86 on 16 October 2007 at Botesdale, a village in the county of Suffolk, England, from the effects of Parkinson's disease. Less than three weeks later on 4 November, her husband Peter Viertel died of cancer.
Leave a Reply.