Deborah Kerr, Scottish film, theatre and television actress, Died at 85

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Deborah Kerr died on the 16th of October 2007 at the age of 85; she was a Scottish film, theatre and television actress.

Born in a private nursing home (hospital) in Glasgow on the 30th of September 1921, the only daughter of Kathleen Rose (née Smale) and Capt.

Arthur Charles Kerr-Trimmer, a World War I veteran who lost a leg at the Battle of the Somme and later became a naval architect and civil engineer.

Kerr was nominated six times for the Academy Award for Best Actress, more than any other actress, but never won.

In 1994, however, having already received honorary awards from the Cannes Film Festival and BAFTA, she 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”.

In 1943, aged 21, Kerr made her West End début as “Ellie Dunn” in a revival of Heartbreak House at the Cambridge Theatre, stealing attention from stalwarts such as Edith Evans and Isabel Jeans.

“She has the rare gift”, wrote critic Beverley Baxter, “of thinking her lines, not merely remembering them.

The process of development from a romantic, silly girl to a hard, disillusioned woman in three hours was moving and convincing”.

Deborah Kerr returned to the London stage 29 years later, and then in such unremarkable and occasional productions as an old-fashioned weepie, The Day After the Fair (Lyric, 1972), a Peter Ustinov comedy, Overheard (Haymarket, 1981) and a revival of Emlyn Williams’s The Corn is Green.

After her first London success in 1943, she toured England and Scotland in Heartbreak House.

Near the end of the Second World War, she also toured Holland, France, and Belgium for ENSA as “Mrs Manningham” in Angel Street, and Britain (with Stewart Granger) in Gaslight.

After a while, however, she tired of playing prim-and-proper English ladies, so she made the most of the role of the adulteress who romps on the beach with Burt Lancaster in From Here to Eternity (1953).

The film was a success, and Kerr received her second Oscar nomination.

She also achieved success on the Broadway stage in “Tea and Sympathy,” reprising her role in the 1956 film version (Tea and Sympathy (1956)).

That same year she played one of her best-remembered screen roles, “Mrs. Anna” in The King and I (1956).

More success followed in Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison (1957), An Affair to Remember (1957), Separate Tables (1958), The Sundowners (1960), The Innocents (1961) and The Night of the Iguana (1964).

Then in 1968 she suddenly quit movies, appalled by the explicit sex and violence of the day. After some stage and TV work in the 1970s and 1980s and swan song performances in The Assam Garden (1985) and Hold the Dream (1986), she retired from acting altogether.

Miss Kerr, along with Thelma Ritter, is one of the few actresses to have received six nominations and not to have won an Oscar.

On Oscar evening, Glenn Close presented a special tribute to her work, and the Oscar audience watched clips of her films to music.

Miss Kerr then appeared from behind the screen, obviously frail, in a blue pastel trouser suit and received a standing ovation from her peers.

A life-long shy woman, Miss Kerr said, “I have never been so terrified in my life, but I feel better now because I know that I am among friends.

Thank you for giving me a happy life.”

 

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