I've been watching a lot of Deborah Kerr movies this year and thank goodness I came across the banner for this blogathon on someone's blog as I would have been very upset to have missed this event! It was impossible to choose just one film to write about so I decided to do and overview of Kerr's films that I have seen!
I've always known who Kerr was. I saw The King and I (1956) when I was young and An Affair to Remember (1957) regularly aired on TV (though I usually just saw the end - I have yet to watch the whole thing in one sitting).That was my extant of Kerr's films until last October when I shivered through The Innocents (1961). The next month I watched one of Caftan Woman's recommendations, Vacation From Marriage (1945), And it is here that we will start.
Before and After
In Vacation From Marriage (1945) Kerr plays the dull wife of a dull man, played by Robert Donat. His routine never changes and she always seems to have the sniffles. War strikes and they both go off to do their part, he in the Royal Navy and she with the Wrens (Women's Royal Navy Service). During the three years they are apart, they both become more self confident through their service. Donat was lost at sea for five days and has shaved off his mustache. Kerr, no longer constantly sick, now wears makeup and has her hair styled attractively (of course) thanks to her fun friend Dizzy (played delightfully by Glynis Johns). Both have become attracted to other people yet remain faithful to one another. As the war comes to an end, the two confide in their friends that they don't want to go back to their old lives as they've both changed so much. Not wanting to go back to their dreary apartment, they meet at a bar and are surprised at how different they have become. They decide to release each other so they can begin a new life but can't hide their new attraction for one another and end up deciding to stay together.
This film has delightful performances all around (it was also my introduction to Robert Donat - I've now watched over half of his films). Kerr plays both sides of her character perfectly. It is also an interesting look at how a person can change due to circumstances beyond their control. The film was released to great success in both the UK (as Perfect Strangers) and in the US.
The Hucksters (1947) was Kerr's first film in America and paired her with the King of Hollywood, Clark Gable. Gable plays Victor Norman, a war veteran looking to get a high-paying job in advertising. His strategy? Pretend like he doesn't need a job! He also likes to throw money away (literally!) every so often to remind himself that money isn't everything. He visits his friend Mr. Kimberly (Adolph Menjou) of the Kimberly Advertising Agency and offers to help him out with his toughest client, Evans' Beauty Soap. Evan's (Sydney Greenstreet) wants to secure the endorsement of twenty-five socially prominent for his soap. Gable takes the top name off the list, Mrs. Kay Dorrance (Kerr). Mrs. Dorrance, who is immediately attracted to Victor and vice-versa, readily agrees to having her photo taken. The two begin seeing one another, though Kay has some competition in Jean, the attractive singer friend of Victors' (played by a young Ava Gardner). After Kay and Victor have a misunderstanding they part ways. Victor travels out to California to secure the services of a certain radio comic for Evan's Beauty Soap and ends up on the same train as Jean. Jean is in love with Victor but discovers he is still in love with Kay. Kay realizes she loves Victor and goes to meet him in California. Victor tells her that if Evan's likes the radio program it will mean a good paying job to pay for her kids education after they're married. Back in New York, Evan's first insults then offers Victor a job with a fantastic salary. Victor doesn't like the way that Evan's has just treated him and so he ends up turning it down - and giving Evan's a taste of his own tactics. He breaks the news to Kay that they can't get married after all and she reminds him that money isn't everything. Kiss and fade.
Please Believe Me (1950) was written especially for Kerr with her comedic talents in mind. Her character, Alison Kirbe, is a young working girl in London that corresponds with an old soldier she met during the war who lives on a big ranch in Texas. He dies and leaves it to her so she sets sail for America, not knowing that his letters were embellished and it's actually just a bunch of worthless land. While onboard she is romanced by two men: Jeremy Taylor (Peter Lawford) who has millions and wants a girl that doesn't want him for his money, and Terence Keath (Robert Walker) who owes a lot of money to a casino owner and pretends to be rich so he can marry Alison for her money. Keath loans her money until she gets her inheritance and Taylor's attorney, Matt Kinston (Mark Stevens) tries to prevent Taylor from giving her his money. Alison is attracted to all of them but seems to especially like Kinston. When they find out that her land is worthless their true colors are revealed. Alison admonishes them and, after realizing they were wrong, all three propose to her. I'll let you guess who she chose ;)
Dream Wife (1953) teamed Kerr with Cary Grant for the first of three times. Grant plays Clemson Reade, an American Salesman engaged to Priscilla "Effie" Effington (Kerr). She works in the state department. While on a business trip to Bukistan he is fascinated with how the Khan's daughters are raised to be the perfect wife. This is reinforced when he returns and finds out that Effie has pushed the date of their wedding to deal with an oil crisis. Fed up, he decides to marry the Khan's daughter, Tarji. It turns into a nightmare however when he finds out he must wait three months and isn't allowed to be left alone with her. She also doesn't speak English. Effie, as chaperone lest Reade cause a national incedent, meanwhile teaches Tarji how American women live. By the time the wedding finally rolls around, Tarji is no longer a "dream wife" and Reade decides to break it off. Tarji tells her father she wants to marry someone of her own choosing and Reade goes back to Effie, realizing he'd rather a woman who is his equal and not merely someone who sees to his every need.
I loved Kerr's character in this film. She holds her own with the men she works with while wearing ultra-feminine gowns. As much as I love Grant, his character was somewhat annoying in his expectations of women. Luckily he saw his errors at the end ;)
From Here to Eternity (1953) has one of the most famous on-screen kisses in history. Since this film is so readily available I'm going to presume most of you have seen it. I will say that I found Kerr's American accent disconcerting. It didn't sound like her at all!
In The End of the Affair (1955) Kerr plays an unfaithful wife who begins an affair with Van Johnson and, after a few months, right after Johnson's flat is bombed and he is hurt, abruptly ends it. The reason why is revealed later after Johnson hires a detective who manages to steal her diary. In the diary she reveals that after the building was bombed she rushed downstairs to find a heavy door on Johnson with only his dead hand sticking out. She goes back upstairs and finds herself praying to God that she will give him up if only He will make Johnson be alive. At that moment Johnson walks into the room, shaken and scratched but okay. The rest of the journal tells how she struggles to keep her promise as she had never really prayed before and wasn't even sure there was a God. I won't give away the end.
In The Innocents (1961) Kerr is governess to two children in a creepy house and comes to believe that they are possessed by the gardener and maid who died there. Don't watch this one at night!
This post is part of The Deborah Kerr Blogathon hosted by Maddy Lovers Her Classic Films. Be sure to visit her blog to check out the other posts on this wonderful actress!
This photo was just begging to be made into a banner.
Hope you don't mind Maddy :)