Friday, October 19, 2007

Deborah Kerr

The woman who died this week was part of an American legend that will live forever in the Hollywood movies of the mid-twentieth century.

From the 1930s on, the studios there manufactured what John Updike has called “those gargantuan, crass contraptions whereby Jewish brains project Gentile stars upon a Gentile nation and out of the immigrant joy gave a formless land dreams and even a kind of conscience.”

Louis B. Mayer at MGM, the chief dream maker, son of a scrap-metal scavenger who became the most highly-paid man in the U.S., had an idealized vision of womanhood--beautiful, British and well-bred. He went to London and found Greer Garson to embody her in “Goodbye Mr. Chips,” “Pride and Prejudice,” “Random Harvest,” “Mrs. Miniver” and “Madame Curie.”

After World War II, when Garson was becoming matronly, Mayer replaced her with Deborah Kerr, starting with “The Hucksters,” in which she played a high-born British widow who tames the American rough-and-readiness of Clark Gable.

Kerr kept playing the part with grace and wit until the early 1950s when Mayer lost control of the studio. She left MGM in 1953 to play an Army officer's alcoholic, sex-starved wife washed over by waves in the adulterous embrace of Burt Lancaster in “From Here to Eternity.”

American reality was changing, and so were the movies but, looking back, Mayer’s dream world had its charms, and Deborah Kerr was a lovely part of it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Michael Powell of Powell/Pressbrger fame made Deborah Kerr a star in UK. She was his great love.
She broke his heart when she went to U.S.