best film: Three films vie for top slot in Deborah Kerr’s filmography. The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp and Black Narcissus, both films from The Archers Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, are masterpieces. These are the top two films from The Archers. However, Jack Clayton’s gothic horror 1961 film The Innocents is not far off either.
best performance: It is Kerr’s work in The Innocents that has to be singled out here. Kerr’s character (she plays Miss Giddens) sees these horrifying figures “abominations” as she calls them with an increase frequency. The housekeeper seems to be hiding something and the children seem off. But Giddens is not exactly a reliable narrative vehicle either which all adds to the ambiguity and richness of the situation. Kerr is rooted in goodness- she is kind, beautiful—but also, she is naïve and weak- the well-meaning nature of her character (and the way Kerr plays her) leads to a certain fragility (potentially leaning into madness). The kids are pitch perfect eerie as well. The film ends with this unnerving bird chirping audio over the credits.
stylistic innovations/traits: From one horror queen on this list with Ellen Burstyn to another with Kerr here. Kerr was nominated for six Academy Awards and five of them are absent (not uncommon) from her list of her five best performances below. This should give you some idea of the depth of her quality work on screen from 1943-1964. She is in two of Hollywood’s most iconic 1950s films (From Here to Eternity (which includes that famous scene of her on the beach with Burt Lancaster) and An Affair to Remember), two of the best films from The Archers, and one of the best British gothic horror movies of all-time (The Innocents).
directors worked with: Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger (2)- crucial to her resume with those two early masterpieces even if it was the 1950s where she racked up all of her Oscar nominations… Mervyn LeRoy, Fred Zinnemann, Joseph Mankiewicz, Leo McCarey, Jack Clayton and John Huston once.
top five performances:
- The Innocents
- Black Narcissus
- The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp
- From Here to Eternity
- An Affair to Remember
|1943- The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp|
|1946- Black Narcissus|
|1950- King Solomon’s Mines|
|1951- Quo Vadis|
|1953- From Here to Eternity|
|1953- Julius Caesar|
|1956- The King and I|
|1957- An Affair to Remember|
|1958- Separate Tables|
|1960- The Sundowners|
|1964- The Night of the Iguana|