Deborah Kerr

Active - 1940 - 2010  |   Born - Sep 30, 1921 in Helensburgh, Scotland  |   Died - Oct 16, 2007   |   Genres - Drama, Romance

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Biography by Rovi

A cultured actress renowned for her elegance and dignity, Deborah Kerr was one of the leading ladies of Hollywood's Golden Age. Born Deborah Kerr-Trimmer in Helensburgh, Scotland, on September 30, 1921, she was first trained as a dancer at her aunt's drama school in Bristol, England. After winning a scholarship to the Sadlers Wells Ballet School, Kerr made her London stage debut at age 17 in Prometheus. Meanwhile, she developed an interest in acting and began getting bit parts and walk-ons in Shakespeare productions. While continuing to appear in various London stage plays, Kerr debuted onscreen in 1940 and went on to roles in a number of British films over the next seven years, often playing cool, reserved, well-bred young ladies. Her portrayal of a nun in Black Narcissus (1947) earned a New York Film Critics Best Actress award and led to an invitation from Hollywood to co-star opposite Clark Gable in The Hucksters. She remained in Hollywood, playing long-suffering, prim, proper, ladylike types until 1953, when she broke her typecast mold by portraying a passionate adulteress in From Here to Eternity, a part for which she had fought. Kerr's range of roles broadened further after that, and she began to appear in British films again. In 1953, Kerr debuted on Broadway to great acclaim in Tea and Sympathy, later reprising her role in the play's 1956 screen version. That same year, she starred as an English governess sent to tutor the children of the King of Siam in one of the most popular films of her career, The King and I. Kerr retired from the screen in 1969, having received six Best Actress Oscar nominations without an award, although she did receive an honorary Oscar in 1994. She had been honored with a special BAFTA award three years earlier in Britain, and, in 1998, she was further honored in her native land with a Companion of the Order of the British Empire. Kerr, who graced the screen one last time in the The Assam Garden (1985), died of complications related to Parkinson's Disease in October 2007. She was 86.

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  • Abandoned ballet dancing to focus on an acting career.
  • Made her screen debut in a bit part in 1940's Contraband; first big breakout role was 1947's Black Narcissus.
  • Perhaps best known for her iconic beach scene with Burt Lancaster in From Here to Eternity (1953).
  • Her singing role was famously dubbed by Marni Nixon in The King and I.
  • Honored as a Commander of the British Empire in 1998.