Thursday, October 18, 2007

Deborah Kerr 1921-2007

Deborah Kerr has died.

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 censor-bound 1950s.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences nominated Kerr a six times for best actress, but 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 and elegance.”


Her Broadway debut was in 1953, when she was acclaimed as Laura Reynolds, a teacher’s wife who treats a sensitive student compassionately in ”Tea and Sympathy.”

The most famous line from that play was spoken by Miss Kerr, and it’s become one of the most memorable lines in modern American theatre:

Years from now when you talk about this – and you will – be kind.

I have a special place in my heart for Tea and Sympathy; it struck a chord with me as a scared and lonely kid at boarding school, and in 1991 I met Robert Anderson, the playwright. He and I became good friends over the years, and he told me that he could not imagine anyone other than Miss Kerr in the role. Of course he was right; so all I can add is a paraphrase: Years from now, when we talk of Miss Kerr, we will be kind.