Star Archive

Deborah Kerr (1921 - 2007)

In a career that lasted over forty years, Deborah Kerr epitomised the English Rose for cinemagoers the world over. We lost her to Hollywood far too soon, but while she was here she starred in as good a clutch of films as any actress of her generation.

She was born in Helensburgh in Scotland. She made her professional debut in the corps-de-ballet at Sadler's Wells, but soon shifted to acting. Few actresses have made a bigger splash so early even though her bit part in Contraband ended up on the cutting room floor. She was signed up by Gabriel Pascal for a large supporting role in Major Barbara and after that it was lead roles all the way.  

Her first starring role was as the girl forced to prostitute herself in John Baxter's daring Love on the Dole. She marked herself out as a special talent playing three roles in The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp and Hollywood took notice after she co-starred with Robert Donat in Perfect Strangers. Pascal sold her contract to MGM, but Kerr had a clause in her contract stating she didn't have to go to Hollywood until her husband, Battle of Britain hero Anthony Bartley, left the RAF. So she had time for a couple of classic films here before she was shipped out to the States.

MGM had her typecast as a typical English heroine and mainly used her in the period adventures that were fashionable at the time. She was frustrated and looked for a role that could change her image: she got it with From Here to Eternity. She worked hard to get the part of the bored army wife embarking on an affair on the eve of the Pearl Harbour attack, and only got it when Joan Crawford dropped out after a dispute over the costumes. The sight of Kerr and Burt Lancaster grappling in the waves on a Pacific beach became one of the most iconic images of 50s cinema.

Her career kept its high profile through the 50s. Her first marriage ended in 1959 and she married screenwriter Peter Viertel. As the sixties wore on, her career faltered but she continued to work in the theatre until ill-health forced her to give up the stage in the early 80s. After receiving six Oscar nominations throughout her career she finally got a lifetime achievement award in 1994.

 Deborah Kerr in the poster for Black Narcissus  


1941 Major Barbara
1941 Love on the Dole
1941 Penn of Pennsylvania
1942 The Day Will Dawn
1943 The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp
1945 Perfect Strangers
1946 I See a Dark Stranger
1947 Black Narcissus
1947 The Hucksters (US)
1949 Edward My Son (US)
1950 Please Believe Me (US)
1950 King Solomon's Mines (US)
1950 Thunder in the East (US)
1951 Quo Vadis (US)
1952 The Prisoner of Zenda (US)
1953 Dream Wife (US)
1953 Young Bess (US)
1953 Julius Caesar
1953 From Here to Eternity (US)
1955 The End of the Affair
1956 The Proud and the Profane (US)
1956 The King and I (US)
1956 Tea and Sympathy (US)
1957 Heaven Knows Mr Allison (US)
1957 An Affair to Remember (US)
1958 Bonjour Tristesse (US)
1958 Separate Tables (US)
1959 The Journey (US)
1959 Count Your Blessings (US)
1959 Beloved Infidel (US)
1960 The Sundowners (US)
1960 The Grass is Greener
1961 The Naked Edge (US)
1962 The Innocents
1964 The Chalk Garden
1964 The Night of the Iguana (US)
1965 Marriage on the Rocks (US)
1965 Eye of the Devil (US)
1967 Casino Royale
1968 Prudence and the Pill (US)
1969 The Gypsy Moths (US)
1970 The Arrangements (US)
1985 The Assam Garden

 Deborah Kerr at Amazon UK

 Deborah Kerr at Amazon US