Movie Life – Somewhere in the 50’s.
The saint or sinner question about Deborah Kerr was first raised when stories of her discovery conflicted. One account of her first meeting with Gabriel Pascal, who put her before her first movie audience in Major Barbara, has him saying, «You have a spiritual face-like a lovely Virgin!» The other has him exclaiming, «That hairdo! You look like a fallen woman!»
A succession of sweet-and-pure parts — on both sides of the Atlantic — soon settled the matter for her growing public. She is, they figured, a saint.
But one day a revolution struck. Deborah’s necking scenes in «From Here to Eternity» had a head-on collision with the censors. «This is marvelous,» she gleefully chortled. «At last they realize I’ve got sex!»
There are those who persist to this very day – the racy scenes notwithstanding – in thinking that in real life Deborah is even more unaware of sin than the nun she plays in Heaven Knows, Mr. Allíson. «She is the most no-problem star I have eyer worked with,» says Bill Holden. «A wonderfully generous person,» says director Walter Lang. Bob Mitchum: «She dignifies everyone with whom she works.» John Kerr: «I’ve never known anyone like her. She never makes a fuss over anything.»
But as far as Deborah is concerned, the Eternity thing – and her Tea and Sympathy role as a woman who put compassion before virtue – blew the lid off the saint myth for all time. Thrilled at the long-awaited chance to be human, she has taken ever since to being photographed in bathing suits (see the following pages)*. She dispensed from that day with her former shyness and began to talk more freely about herself and her problems (Deborah has written much of the story behind the MOVIE LIFE photos).**
«Since people finally realize I’m not really the aloof, icewater type, there is a much warmer and friendlier attitude toward me. It’s wonderful! I’m convinced that many other women who now are thought to be cold and unresponsive would find themselves a lot happier – and surely more desirable – if they let loose a bit and acted more warmly toward people.»
How she loves it, now that people ask her opinions of sex appeal, just as if she were queen of a wicked underworld. And she happily answers, «Certainly not the popular conception – a bosomy wench in a tight dress, with a leer, a wiggle and a wet mouth. And little else. That’s phony. True feminine appeal means just letting out one’s human desires and feelings, preparing oneself to love and be loved, learning – how to give affection and respond fully to true affection when it’s given.» That’s how she goes on, sounding no more a sinner than the next person – and no more a saint.
*Which I sadly don’t have.
** Again, missing from my clippings.