By Deborah Kerr
Although I have had a fair amount of screen success in London and in Hollywood, I have not yet realised my great ambition-to play a dancer in a film about ballet. For, you see, I am-and have been for many years-a frustrated dancer. Indeed, my family always wanted me to be a ballerina but the awful truth is that I was not very good at dancing. Had I been better at this graceful art I may never have made an attempt at films!
It all happened like this. I was born in Helensburgh, Scotland, and when only five years old I was taken to live in Bristol where I spent most of my schooldays. My aunt was a well-known teacher of dramatic art and elocution in Bristol so it was not unnatural that my mother sent me to her to study the rudiments of stage craft. Since it was my family’s wish that I should take -up ballet, I spent a year of intensive study at a ballet school in Bristol before coning to London at the age of fifteen to continue my studies at the Sadlers Wells School.
I had very little money at the time and was living at the Y.W.C,A. Valiantly I worked at my dancing classes in the hope that one day I should be considered good enough to join the Sadlers Wells Company, but after two or three years of classes I could see that there was very little chance of my ever graduating.
I was enthusiastic. I worked very hard,, Yet apparently I just did not -have what it takes to be a. Margot Fonteyn or a Moira Shearer!
In 1939, during a vacation from the school, I earned a little pocket -money by “walking on” for producer Robert Atkins at the Open Air Theatre in Regents Park. One day a friend in the company took me to lunch in Baker Street before a matinee and there she introduced me to a stocky gentleman with a Hungarian accent. He was Gabriel Pascal, the film producer, and before lunch was finished he had offered to give me a test for a small part in Major Barbara.
The “test” was most unusual-I had to recite the Lord’s Prayer! I must have done it fairly well for I got the part and it gave me a taste for film acting. Realising that I would never make a good dancer I decided to take a chance on the movies-and luck has been with me ever since. But I’d still love to star in a picture about ballet! So, having spent some uncomfortable months in Africa, while making King Solomon’s Mines, opposite Stewart Granger, I am now trying to persuade my studio, M.G.M., to buy a ballet story for me. Have any of you any suggestions?
By Deborah Kerr