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Saturday, 5 June 2010

Dear Miss Kerr

Ciao a tutti!! Today I am posting, as promised, about my favourite actress of them all! The exquisite Deborah Kerr...

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I'll definitely be posting about Deborah again, so I'm going to try to keep this like the previous posts about actresses...maybe a bit longer and bit more photo heavy! (; It'll be a test though - I could talk about Deborah for days...

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Deborah (born Deborah Jane Kerr Trimmer on 30th September, 1921) was born in Scotland. Whilst not born there, she spent the first 3 years of her life in Helensburgh on the West coast of Scotland. From a very young age she displayed a love of acting - she would stage plays for her family, costuming her younger brother, Teddy, in dresses and using him as her co-star. Later, she was also very interested in singing and piano.

The family moved to the south of England when Deborah was 5. She was educated in Bristol and studied ballet at her aunt's academy there. She once said that her aunt used to make her lie on her back on the floor for hours to ensure she had good posture - it seems like it worked! She eventually realised that her heigh (5'6) put her at odds with the other dancers, and so began to pursue a career in acting. Her dancing background certainly gave her an almost unrivalled elegance - she seems to glide through every film scene.

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In 1940 she was cast in a bit part in Powell and Pressburger's film Contraband but, unfortunately, her scene was cut. However, not long after, Deborah was cast as Jenny Hill in the film adaptation of George Bernard Shaw's Major Barbara which opened to good reviews, and pushed Deborah to the brink of stardom.

In the following 3 years she starred in several films including Love On the Dole, The Day Will Dawn, and Hatter's Castle. However, the first really big film of her career was The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp in 1943 in which she played 3 different characters who are her co-star's (Roger Livesey) perfect woman at different stages of his life. The first character she plays is Edith Hunter, an English teacher in Germany in 1902, the second character is Barbara Wynne, a nurse in France in WWI, and the third character is Angela 'Johnny' Cannon, Roger Livesey's driver during WWII. It is a really spectacular film, and I highly recommend it. Deborah's roles are all very diverse, and it's well worth watching just for her.

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After Blimp, Deborah starred in a couple of films, including Perfect Strangers (Vacation From Marriage in the U.S) which I love. Her next major film, which garnered her New York Film Critic Award for Best Actress, was Black Narcissus in 1947. I love this film not only because it stars Deborah and Jean Simmons, but because it is such a well told storyline, with stunning photography and first-class acting.

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Deborah plays a Sister Clodagh, the Sister Superior of a group of nuns responsible for establishing the order in an old palace/harem high up in the Himalayas. Sister Clodagh finds herself increasingly attracted to local British agent Dean (David Farrar) whilst trying to forget a failed romance back in Ireland. However, Mr. Dean also attracts the attention of Sr. Ruth (Kathleen Byron) who becomes exceptionally jealous of Sr. Clodagh and this jealousy results a dramatic climax to the film. Well worth watching!

Between Blimp and Black Narcissus, Deborah had met and married RAF Squadron Leader Anthony Bartley. Their first daughter, Melanie Jane, was born on December 27th, 1947.

In November 1946, Anthony and Deborah uprooted and moved to Hollywood. They bought a house in Pacific Palisades, with a lovely garden and big enough to hold Deborah's large collection of books.

Deborah's first Hollywood role was as Kay Dorrance in The Hucksters, which starred her opposite Clark Gable. Her next film was If Winter Comes, and her 3rd Hollywood film was Edward, My Son which garnered her first Academy Award nomination. Her role in this film was of Evelyn Boult the alcoholic wife of her co-star, Spencer Tracy. Deborah commands her role with extreme power, and makes the film hers. I wasn't particularly impressed with Spencer Tracy's performance, but Deborah's made it up for me.

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In 1950, Deborah was cast as Elizabeth Curtis in King Solomon's Mines. It's certainly not her finest role, but it's quite an enjoyable film - and the chemistry between Deborah and her co-star Stewart Granger is quite electrifying.

During the next 3 years, Deborah starred in many films - most notably Quo Vadis?, The Prisoner of Zenda, Julius Caesar and Dream Wife. Julius Caesar was a great excuse to watch a Deborah Kerr film whilst studying Shakespeare! I'm not sure which of these four is my favourite, I love them all for different reasons. Quo Vadis? was one of the first of Deborah's films that I ever saw, and Dream Wife is one of my most watched because I just think Deborah and Cary (Grant) are always so perfect in their on screen pairings.

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Now we come to one of the films that Deborah is most known for, and one of the most iconic films of all time: From Here To Eternity. If you haven't seen this film, go out and buy it right now!

Up to this point, Deborah had mainly been cast in staid, elegant, ladylike, and often prudish roles. However, after taking on the role of the smoulderingly sexy Karen Holmes in From Here To Eternity (for which she garnered her 2nd Academy Award nomination), the adulterous wife of Captain Dana Holmes (Phillip Ober), she managed to dispel the idea that she could only be cast in prim and proper roles.

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From Here To Eternity has an amazingly star studded cast. As well as Deborah Kerr, there is Burt Lancaster as Sgt. Milton Warden, Montgomery Clift as Private Robert E. Lee Prewitt, Frank Sinatra as Private Angelo Maggio, Donna Reed as Alma 'Lorene' Burke, and Ernest Borgnine as Staff Sergeant James R. 'Fatso' Judson.

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Set against the back drop of WWII in the months leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbour, From Here To Eternity tells the story of several soldiers and the women in their lives. It's perhaps most remembered for the famous clinch in the waves between Deborah and Burt's characters. This scene has been voted as the most memorable kiss scene ever numerous times, and the film was the most risqué film of that time.

By today's standards the beach scene is tame - for those who haven't seen it, here it is...


After From Here To Eternity, Deborah starred in several a.m.a.z.i.n.g films, which are some of my favourite films of all time. The End of the Affair, The Proud and Profane and The King and I. The Proud and the Profane is a wonderful film, and more people should definitely see it. Deborah is wonderful as the recently widowed Lee Ashley who joins the American Red Cross stationed on the island of New Caledonia.

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Probably Deborah's most famous role (which garnered her 3rd Academy Award nomination), and the one that she is most remembered for, was as the stubborn English governess Anna Leonowens in The King and I (in which her singing voice was dubbed by Marni Nixon). The chemistry between Deborah and Yul Brynner (who plays the King of Siam) is just so intense - the whole film is leading up to the electrifying Shall We Dance? scene. It's probably my favourite film scene ever. The looks they give it each other, the tentative start of the dance, and the realisation of the passion that has grown between them, all makes for one of the most astonishing films scenes.


I'm not going to go on about The King and I too much as I intend to make a post about it some time in the soon. But, if you haven't seen it - watch it, now!!

After this, Deborah starred in, among others, An Affair To Remember (with Cary Grant - another must see, it's so beautiful...a real tear jerker), Bonjour Tristesse, Heaven Knows, Mr. Alison (she received a fourth Academy Award nomination for this), Count Your Blessings, Separate Tables (her fifth nomination) The Journey, The Grass Is Greener, The Innocents and The Sundowners, which garnered her sixth and last Academy Award nomination. In case you wondered, she holds the record for the most Best Actress nominations without winning any :'( But she did get an honorary award in 1993. About time, too!

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During the '60s Deborah wasn't in many exceptionally noteworthy films apart from The Chalk Garden (with Hayley Mills and John Mills), The Night of the Iguana (with Richard Burton and Ava Gardner) and Marriage on the Rocks (with Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin).

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Deborah made starred in a few mini-series in the early/mid '80s, and even in one last film The Assam Garden, but she will always be most remembered for her work from the mid-'40s to the early '60s.

On, the 16th of October, 2007, aged 86, Deborah Kerr passed away from the effects of Parkinson's disease in Botesdale, Suffolk, surrounded by her family. Her second husband, Peter Viertel, who lived in Marbella, passed away from cancer just 3 weeks later.

We lost a great star and Heaven gained an angel. R.I.P, dearest Deborah. You will never be forgotten - Your memory will keep on burning for years to come!

I made this video for the first anniversary of Deborah's passing. I hope you enjoy watching it...


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Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

2 comments:

  1. Wonderful Debohar Kerr that beautiful remember your Sophie, love her and his films. I love black Narcissus, particular story with her sensual Tres bien, and beautifully alongside Stewat Granger as fun and romantic with Cary Grant, for her two partners ideals-and which I like very much-but all his interpretations are memorable, to which she gives a touch of class and intensities. Besides the glamour two films of the 1960s indicate his exceptional skill: The garden of plaster and suspense (the innocents). Beautiful and talented. And beautiful your post that puts the desire to see it and review it. Miaooooooo

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