Deborah Kerr, who
shared one of Hollywood's most famous kisses while
portraying an Army officer's unhappy wife in From
Here to Eternity and danced with the Siamese monarch
in The King and I, has died. She was 86.
suffered from Parkinson's disease, died Tuesday in Suffolk
in eastern England, her agent, Anne Hutton, said
For many she will
be remembered best for her kiss with Burt Lancaster as
waves crashed over them on a Hawaiian beach in the wartime
drama From Here to Eternity.
Kerr's roles as
forceful, sometimes frustrated women pushed the limits of
Hollywood's treatment of sex on the screen during the
The Academy of
Motion Picture Arts and Sciences nominated Kerr six times
for Best Actress, but it never gave her an Academy Award
until it presented an honorary Oscar in 1994 for her
distinguished career as an ''artist of impeccable
grace and beauty, a dedicated actress whose motion
picture career has always stood for perfection, discipline,
She had the
reputation of a ''no problem'' actress.
''I have never
had a fight with any director, good or bad,'' she said
toward the end of her career. ''There is a way around
everything if you are smart enough.''
"Car") was the only daughter of a civil engineer and
architect who died when she was 14. Born in Helensburgh,
Scotland, she moved with her parents to England when
she was 5, and she started to study dance in the
school of her aunt in the city of Bristol. Kerr won a
scholarship to continue studying ballet in London, and at 17
she made her stage debut as a member of the corps de
ballet in Prometheus.
She soon switched
to drama, however, and began playing small parts in
repertory theater in London until it was shut down by the
1939 outbreak of World War II.
children's stories on British Broadcasting Corp. radio, she
was given the part of a hatcheck girl with two lines in the
film Contraband, but her speaking role ended on the
repertory acting she had another crack at films, reprising
her stage role of Jenny, a Salvation Army worker, in a
1940 adaptation of George Bernard Shaw's Major
Barbara, receiving favorable reviews both in Great
Britain and the United States.
making films in Britain during the war, including one --
Colonel Blimp -- in which she played three
different women over a span of decades.
astonishing how she manages to make the three parts
distinctly separate as characterizations,'' said
New Movies magazine at the time.
well-reviewed as an Irish spy in The
Adventuress and as the tragic girlfriend of a Welsh
miner in Love on the Dole.
She was invited
to Hollywood in 1946 to play in The Hucksters
opposite Clark Gable. She went on to work with
virtually all the other top American actors and with many
top directors, including John Huston, Otto Preminger, and
Tired of being
typecast in ladylike roles, she rebelled to win a release
from her MGM contract and get the role of Karen Holmes in
From Here to Eternity.
Playing the Army
officer's alcoholic, sex-starved wife in a fling with
Lancaster's Sergeant Warden opened up new possibilities for
virtually every part imaginable, from murderer to princess
to a Roman Christian slave to a nun.
In The King
and I, with her singing voice dubbed by Marni
Nixon, she was Anna Leonowens, who takes her son to Siam
so that she can teach the children of the king, played by
Her Best Actress
nominations were for Edward, My Son (1949),
From Here to Eternity (1953), The King
and I (1956), Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison
(1957), Separate Tables (1958), and The
Among her other
movies is An Affair to Remember with Cary
roles were in The Sundowners, Beloved Infidel, The
Innocents (an adaptation of the Henry James
novella Turn of the Screw), The Night of the
Iguana with Richard Burton, and The
Arrangement with Kirk Douglas.
Arrangement in 1968, she took what she called a
''leave of absence'' from acting, saying she felt she was
''either too young or too old'' for any role she was
Kerr told the
Associated Press that she turned down a number of scripts,
either for being too explicit or because of excessive
She refused to
play a nude scene in The Gypsy Moths, released
in 1968. ''It was when they started that
[philosophy], 'Now everybody has got to take their
clothes off,' '' she said. ''My argument was that it
was completely gratuitous. Had it been necessary for
the dramatic content, I would have done it.''
In fact, she
undressed for The Arrangement, even though the
scene was later cut. ''There the nude scene was necessary
-- husband and wife in bed together,'' Kerr said.
''That was real.''
She returned to
the stage, acting in Edward Albee's Seascape on
Broadway and Long Day's Journey Into Night in Los
debut came in 1953, when she was acclaimed as Laura
Reynolds, a teacher's wife who treats a sensitive student
compassionately in Tea andSympathy.
After a full
season in New York, she took it on a national tour and
re-created the role in a movie in 1956.
Kerr was active
until the mid 1980s, with The Assam Garden, Hold
the Dream, and Reunion at Fairborough,
all in 1985.
She told the AP
that TV reruns of her old movies have ''kept me alive''
for a new generation of film fans.
In 1945, Kerr
married Anthony Charles Bartley, whom she had met when he
was a squadron leader in the Royal Air Force. They had two
daughters and were divorced in 1959. A year later she
married novelist-screenwriter Peter Viertel, with whom
she lived on a large estate with two trout ponds in
the Swiss Alpine resort of Klosters and in a villa in
Kerr is survived
by Viertel, two daughters, and three grandchildren.