Deborah Kerr in London (1973)

Deborah Kerr



 Deborah Kerr CBE was a Scottish-born actress on film, theatre and television. Best known for her role as Anna Leonowens  in The King and I.

Deborah Jane Kerr-Trimmer was born in a private nursing home (hospital) in Glasgow  and spent the first three years of her life in the nearby town of Helensburgh.

Kerr was educated at the independent Northumberland House School, Henleaze, Bristol, and at Rossholme School, Weston-super-Mare. Kerr originally trained as a ballet dancer, first appearing on stage at Sadler's Wells in 1938. Watching the progress of her fellow pupils Margot Fonteyn and Beryl Grey convinced Kerr that she would never be a great ballerina, so she concentrated on developing her acting and soon found success as an actress. She adopted the name Deborah Kerr on becoming a film actress.

Deborah had a very successful career in the British film industry and it was her role as a troubled nun in Black Narcissus in 1947 that 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. In Hollywood, Kerr's British accent and manner led to a succession of roles portraying refined, reserved and "proper" ladies until she famously shocked with a steamy performance as the unfaithful wife of an army captain in From Here to Eternity (1953).

Kerr won a Golden Globe Award for "Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy" for The King and I in 1957 and a Henrietta Award for "World Film Favourite – Female". She was the first performer to win the New York Film Critics Circle Award for "Best Actress" three times (1947, 1957 and 1960).

Although she never won a BAFTA, Oscar or Cannes Film Festival award in a competitive category, all three organisations gave Kerr honorary awards: a Cannes Film Festival Tribute in 1984; a BAFTA Special Award in 1991; and an Academy Honorary Award in 1994 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".

Deborah Kerr was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1998. She was also honoured in Hollywood, where, for her contributions to the motion picture industry, she received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

As well as The King and I, her films include An Affair to RememberFrom Here to Eternity, Quo Vadis, The Innocents, Black Narcissus, Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp and Separate Tables.

Kerr died on 16 October 2007 in Botesdale, a village in Suffolk, England, from the effects of Parkinson's disease at the age of 86.

Interesting Fact

  • Though nominated six times, Deborah never won an Academy Award.
  • In 1947 Deborah Kerr was voted the eighth most-popular local star at the box office by British exhibitors.
  • In 1957 Deborah Kerr was named "The world's most famous actress" by Photoplay magazine.

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