KERR, DEBORAH (b. 1921). Prior to 1953, the screen image of Deborah Kenwas one of elegance, dignity, and a repressed sensuality, traits brilliantly exploited by Michael Powell* in Black Narcissus* (1948). However, in 1953 Kerr fought hard for the role of the adulteress Karen Holmes in From Here to Eternity and, with the success of this film (Kerr was nominated for the Best Actress Award at the 1954 Academy Awards) she was able to expand her acting opportunities.
Kerr's early films at MGM (such as the heroine Elizabeth Curtis in King Solomon's Mines  and Princess Flavia in The Prisoner ofZenda ) perpetuated the persona developed in the British cinema in the 1940s. However, her success in From Here to Eternity encouraged producers to cast Kerr in films with more “adult” themes, such as Tea and Sympathy (1956), where Kerr reprised her 1953 Broadway role as a woman who cares for a troubled (seemingly homosexual) young man, The Proud and the Profane (1956), which was similar to her role in From Here to Eternity, the feisty English governess in The King and I (1956), the tragic Anne Larsen in Bonjour Tristesse (1958), and Ida Carmody, Robert Mitchum's long-suffering wife forced to confront the obstacles of the Australian outback in The Sundowners (1960).
Deborah Jane Kerr-Trimmer was born in Scotland in 1921, the daughter of Captain Arthur Kerr-Trimmer, and trained as a dancer in Bristol, winning a scholarship to the Sadler's Wells Ballet School. Kerr gradually shifted her interest from ballet to acting and she performed with the Oxford Repertory Company in 1939-1940. Over the next seven years, Kerr shared her time between the British cinema and the stage, beginning with Major Barbara (1940), followed by starring roles in two Lance Comfort* fdms in 1941, the dull Penn of Pennsylvania and the intense domestic melodrama Hatter's Castle,* where the twenty-year-old Kerr matched the performance of the idiosyncratic Robert Newton.* Perhaps Kerr's best British role, prior to Black Narcissus, was as the pro-Irish Republican Army