Monday, July 6, 2009

tea and sympathy, or how i seriously misjudged deborah kerr

Ok, I admit it. Even though I knew it was silly and childish, for a long time I was biased against Deborah Kerr. It had nothing to do with her acting ability (though she did seem a bit stuffy to me, having only watched The King and I) but because of my allegiance to another one of my personal favorites, Irene Dunne. Yes, deep down I knew that Deborah couldn't have done this intentionally, but I still find it incredibly bizarre that two of Irene's films were remade into film classics starring Deborah Kerr, practically leaving the legacy of Dunne in the dust.

Let's look at the facts. Irene Dunne starred in 1939's Love Affair. The famous remake, starring Deborah Kerr? An Affair to Remember. Dunne then starred in Anna and the King of Siam. The famous remake/musical reinvention, starring Deborah Kerr? The King and I.

I still call conspiracy.

The winds began to change a few weeks ago when I watched The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp from one of my favorite film teamings, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger (who are also behind one of my favorite films, The Red Shoes). In the film she portrays three different women, from a turn of the (20th) century Englishwoman who marries Clive Candy's German best friend played by Anton Walbrook, to Clive Candy's young wife who happens to look exactly like the love he lost to his best friend (shocker), to Clive Candy's WWII chauffer who also looks remarkably like his deceased wife who looked remarkably like his long lost love (but who's on first?).

This was the gateway drug, which led to a Kerr movie marathon yesterday that involved The Night of the Iguana, From Here to Eternity, and The Innocents.

After viewing these films it became clear that Kerr was a far better actress than I ever gave her credit for, and than history largely gives her credit for as the prim English rose. She's another one of those actresses, right up there with one of my other favorites, Barbara Stanwyck, who knows how to act with her eyes. But unlike Barbara, she can go from proper lady to nymphomaniac in less than 60 seconds, and leap tall buildings in a single bound (where Myrna Loy would kill villains with her stare reserved for bigots and conservatives, and Babs...Babs would just cut them. Brooklyn style).

So my apologies to you, Deborah Kerr, if you can hear me at that tea party in the sky (that is always held promptly at 4pm, because I'm sure Greer Garson says so).

Coming Soon: A review of The Innocents, and my adventures in Hollywoodland if I ever remember to upload my pictures.


  1. I've only ever seen her in Iguana, but she seemed like a solid performer. Great post by the way.

  2. graciebird-thank you! :) definitely a solid, versatile performer.

  3. Hahaha, if she's listening again, tell her I said she's swell by me. I've had Night of the Iguana for some time, but never got around to watching it until today. Can't believe how I'd dismissed her before.

  4. I'll see if the line is still open. ;) I feel exactly the same way, my friend.

  5. Haha, I love this post (okay, I'm not particularly fond of the fact that there was a time you didn't like Deb (; but as you now have seen the error of your ways I'm reassured ;D) you're fantastic! Not to mention the tea party "is always held promptly at 4pm, because I'm sure Greer Garson says so" line slayed me, you know I actually think like that too!? ;D I mean there's no doubt in my mind that the lady who could get the MGM set including Errol Flynn (though his cup, yes of course it's gotta be a teacup, was filled with something a wee bit stronger than tea) to break of at 4 for afternoon tea, wouldn't manage the same up there (;

  6. haha thank you, sara! i saw the light to be sure. ;)

  7. Words cannot describe how I love this post - although as Sara said, the part about not liking Deborah wasn't so lovely! (;

    Deborah is my favourite actress of all time - and has been since I was 5. I adore her in all of her films, and...well, I'm obsessed. <3 It pains me to realise how little she is appreciated - as with so many other actresses and actors!

    P.S The 'tea party in the sky (that is always held promptly at 4pm, because I'm sure Greer Garson says so)' line also crippled me with laughter. I look forward to being invited - I bet it'll be a hoot! I mean, can you imagine it? Of course, everyone will get along - except Bette and Joan, not even a tea party in the sky could reconcile them to each other. (;

  8. Sophie-That is so wonderful! I do so wish that I had grown to love her as I do now when she was still alive. I remember hearing the news of her death but I really had no idea what an amazing actress and lady she was. I adore her so much now that it hopefully cancels out my past misgivings. :]

    thanks for the wonderful comment!

  9. (: I'm sure it cancels your past misgivings out - Deborah's not the type to hold a grudge! (; Well, I only wish (as do we all!) that I had been born sometime during the 20s-50s so that I could have met her, written to her, and seen her films in the cinema! I can but dream...*sighs*