Thursday, October 18, 2007

In Memoriam: Deborah Kerr, 1921--2007

She was living in London at the English Speaking Union in Charles Street, Mayfair. It was a fine morning and she walked over to see me in Chester Square. She was bare-headed, and I remember her hair shining in the sun like burnished copper...We looked at the bulky script [for The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp] together and I watched the subtle transformations that passed over her face as I made suggestions about the script. Again I felt that mysterious affinity, as between an artist and his model, which is one of the most inexplicable of the sensual sensations...

We all depended upon one another, we all learnt from one another. I was not the only director. There were four directors. I learnt from Anton what an artist is. I learnt from Roger what a man is. I learnt from Deborah what love is.
--Michael Powell, A Life in Movies

Deborah Kerr died Tuesday, and Michael Powell has been dead for many years. They fell in love while making Colonel Blimp. Soon after Kerr took up a contract with MGM, and Powell told her if she went to Hollywood it would be without him. He married someone else, and eventually she married too. "The camera always seems to find an innate gentility in me," Kerr laughed. But in Colonel Blimp, and a few years later in Black Narcissus, Michael Powell's camera found love and longing in that beautiful face, as he did in life.

The most romantic story the Siren knows concerns Powell and Kerr. They separated, but he never forgot. They shared a birthday, September 30. Each year on that date, right up to the year before his death, he sent her a bouquet of flowers with the simplest of notes: "Happy Birthday, Darling."


Kimberly Lindbergs said...

Your post made me weepy!

Bob Westal said...

You've got me all verklempt, Campuspe. Moving stuff (and I really need to read Powell's books!).

Anyhow, I've got my own post up about Ms. Kerr and "The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp." If you don't object, here's a link.

The Siren said...

K., the story always gets me too. I am a rank sentimentalist, if I may quote another movie altogether.

Bob, your site seems to be choked up at the moment too (or is it my browser) but I will look asap. I welcome any chance to read about that great movie.

Dan Leo said...

It's sadly but beautifully touching that your memoriam to Miss Kerr should follow your tribute to Montgomery Clift. They were both so great in that one movie they did together, "From Here to Eternity".

Thombeau said...

Oh my, I had no idea she had passed. Thanks for the wonderful post.

Laura said...

What a beautiful story, I'd never heard it before. Thank you.

I am one of many who has posted a tribute to Ms. Kerr today: link.

Best wishes,

The Siren said...

Dan, it's a big coincidence, isn't it? I guess all the stars of that film are gone now. Except Borgnine--and he turns 90 this year.

Thombeau, nice to see you here.

Laura, I'm not sure the flowers story is widely known, but my source is impeccable. Powell wrote at length about his relationship with Kerr but I guess none of the obit writers read his memoirs, because I have seen nary a mention of it. Thanks for linking me to your fine tribute. I am happy to see how many people remember her fondly.

Laura said...

I just finished an update at my site and my Kerr tribute post now includes a link to your post. :)

Best wishes,

Bob Westal said...

Campuspe --

Yes, it was down for a good chunk of the if to coincide with its moment of maximum exposure/relevance. It's back now; I'll likely be changing my hosting situation in the coming months. Grr.

Gloria said...

"Blimp" is a favourite of mine (but then I generally fall for the Powell-Pressburger films)... And each time Miss Kerr is onscreen, she's looks so radiant, that you understand what the Coronel feels for her.

And she's quite convincing in her triple role: each of the women she plays in the film has a distinct personality, from the near-sufragette of the Victorian period, to the self-assured chauffeur in the 1940s.

She'll be missed.

Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

A lovely, and as usual, very classy tribute.

Karen said...

What a lovely, lovely story, Siren. Thank you for posting this.

I simply adore The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, and Powell & Pressburger are big big idols of mine, and I have always adored Deborah Kerr, so this post hit on a lot of cylinders.

If this non-blogger can be allowed to blow her own trumpet a little, here is my IMDb review of Blimp:

Noel Vera said...

Ach, heartbreaking.

I wrote on Blimp too, but concentrated Walbrook. I did mention Deborah.

Beauty and great talent. Irreplaceable. And you can tell Powell was in love with her--she ahs a glow in his films that's missing everywhere else (except maybe The Innocents).