Deborah Kerr delivered so many excellent performances during her long film career. She was always such a natural film actress, and she always oozed such class.
I’ve chosen four of her films which I think all highlight what a gifted actress she was.
I think that all four of these films make for essential viewing if you want to see Deborah’s range as an actress.
The Innocents (1961)
I think this may well be Deborah’s best screen performance. She is so convincing here as the governess on the brink of a breakdown. She more than convinces as a terrified, paranoid and anxious Governess who believes that the two children she is looking after are possessed by the ghosts of two dead former servants.
Is she really seeing ghosts and uncovering a case of possession? Or is she going mad and imagining the frightening things she starts to see?
Deborah really lets us in to this woman’s psyche. Thanks to her very convincing performance, we really feel her characters fear build up throughout the film. This film offered Deborah a chance to play someone very different from the kind, glamorous, elegant and confident characters that she so often played on screen.
The Life And Death Of Colonel Blimp (1943)
In this Powell and Pressburger classic, Deborah doesn’t just play one character, she plays THREE characters. Although we are well aware that it is Deborah playing each character, her terrific performances convince us that these characters are three very different women in terms of their personalities and mannerisms.
Deborah as Edith, Barbara and Johnny. Screenshot by me.
Deborah plays Edith, Barbara and Johnny. Edith is a British woman living in Germany. Major Clive Candy(Roger Livesey)falls in love with her. Edith marries his German friend, Theo(Anton Walbrook). Clive never stops loving her.
A few years later, Clive meets a WW1 nurse called Barbara, a woman who bears an uncanny resemblence to his lost love. The pair get married. In a way their marriage means that Clive has Edith back in his life. Clive’s chauffeur during WW2 is a young woman known as Johnny, she also reminds him of Edith. Johnny is someone who is much more open and easier to get to know than either Edith or Barbara.
I think that Deborah’s three performances in this are essential viewing if you are a fan of her work.
From Here To Eternity (1953)
Although it is best remembered for that risque roll in the surf, this film is also notable for featuring Deborah playing very much against type. Up to this point in her career she had mostly been playing prim, innocent and respectable women on the screen.
In this film, her famous red hair is dyed blonde, and her character, Karen Holmes, is a very sexualised and strong-willed woman. Karen is also very forward and isn’t shy about making her desires and needs known to others.
Deborah owns every second of film she appears in here. Her performance and look in the film remind me so much of Rita Hayworth’s in The Lady From Shanghai.
There’s so much more to Deborah’s performance in this one than merely being sexy though. She also very adeptly conveys Karen’s deep vulnerability, her toughness and her strength. It really is a remarkable performance.
Another Powell and Pressburger masterpiece. This film sees Deborah playing Sister Clodagh, the newly promoted head nun in a convent. The nuns move out to a new convent in the Himalayas. Not long after they arrive at their new home, they all quickly start to crack under stress, and begin to give in to different desires and wishes which have long been repressed.
Deborah does such a wonderful job of conveying to us her characters very difficult emotional struggle and her waning strength. Her performance here is subtle and all in the eyes. Deborah’s face is a kaleidoscope of emotion here.
What are your thoughts on Deborah’s performances in these four films?