The 60s
Career - Film,  Family Life,  Interviews

Redbook – May 1965. Deborah, Peter and Miguel Dominguín.

Redbook, 1965
An awesome article provided by Lisa – Cuckoo4kitties that my selfish self had transcribed but forgotten to publish. Ouch. My bad.
Deborah Kerr has starred in many plays and films, the most recent The Chalk Garden and The Night of the Iguana. Her husband; Peter Viertel, is the author of several novels; the latest, Love Lies Bleeding, is the story of an aging matador’s fight to retain his mastery in the bull ring. Miguel Dominguín, to whom Viertel dedicated his book, is a famous Spanish matador.

: Please take the peep out – the pipe. It is not easy to understand you.
Miss Kerr (imitating): Peter, you take the peep out! [Laughing.] I agree. I don’t know how anybody ever understands you, because you always talk with a pipe in your mouth. Do you want some tea? [She serves tea.]
Moderator: Well, when did all you people meet, the three of you?
Viertel: Miguel and I met a long time ago. A mutual friend introduced us in Madrid. In 1952, I think it was, or ’53. Deborah and I met much later, unfortunately. [Miss Kerr laughs.]
Miss Kerr: Yes. And I met Miguel just about a year after I met you-a little bit after-
Viertel: We were at Biarritz and Deborah had never met Miguel,
Miss Kerr: -And I’d never been to a bullfight. It’s the most wonderful thing to happen, though-to meet someone good first. Before you see a bullfight. It was for me, anyway. Because your interest is totally different. When you get there you’re saying, “Oh, my goodness, do watch out!” you know, instead of, “Oh, look at the poor bull!” [Reflectively.] I remember him so vividly, sitting on a very French brass bedstead-you know, they always rest before they go to the fight-with his hand over the edge of the bed like that. [She indicates complete relaxation.] And he said, “it is your first bullfight?” and I said yes. And he said, “it is very strong.” [Turning to Dominguín.] You said, “it is very strong.” And he told me it would-and it was, it did! He meant it would be-well, it’s a shaker! It shakes you, I think, the first time you go. I was stunned.
Moderator: And now you take it more casually?
Miss Kerr: Yes, much more. Oh, there are times! But as a whole I’m not stunned any more. Sometimes when
I don’t like it very much, when the bullfighters are bad, it’s terrible.
Viertel: Very boring.
Miss Kerr: Yes. It’s boring. And now that he isn’t fighting [indicating Dominguín] it’s boring for me. But I’ve seen him fight many times-many, many times.
Dominguín: She brings me luck.
Moderator: And how much of bullfighting is luck?
Dominguín (in Spanish): It’s like everything in life-one, five per cent….
Viertel: I think a lot of it is work too, and self-sacrifice and talent. The whole thing. Like everything else. Somerset Maugham said, or somebody said, that talent is the ability to take infinite pains with what you’re doing. And I think that’s quite true.
Miss Kerr: Yes, but a lot of untalented people take enormous pains, and-well-there’s always that funny gap. Or there’s always that little something missing, isn’t there? It’s an extraordinary quality, isn’t it-talent? What makes it what it is?
Viertel: Thank God we don’t know!
Miss Kerr (laughing): True. Or we’d have it canned, turned out! Instant talent!
Viertel It’s the quality in bullfighting that’s called duende. I put that in my book, to some extent. I try to explain it, because once I asked Miguel how he felt about duende, which in Spanish is a mystical phrasethe closest translation would be “inspiration.” And Miguel said duende is what the bullfighter says he hasn’t got as an excuse for a bad afternoon. [All laugh.]
Moderator: (to Viertel): Do you write systematically every day?
Viertel: At the same time of the day. Always in the morning. Many writers’ duende
comes early in the morning because nothing has happened yet to interfere with it. [To Dominguín.] You understand? No ha pasado nada en el día para distraerte.
Moderator: (to Miss Kerr): How do you keep things quiet so that your husband can write? You have four children?
Miss Kerr (laughing): Murder the children! We have three. Three children and a huge dog. Noise can only be heard in his study from my room, my bedroom, and so as the girls all like to come and leap on my bed, and jump up and dawn and scream and charge, it’s a bit difficult in the morning. But then they’re bigger now; they go off. They have dates in the town or something. [To Viertel.] Does the dog bother you, by the way?
Viertel: No. That doesn’t bother me.
Miss Kerr: We have this beautiful Pyre nean mountain dog. She has a bark like a lion’s roar.
Viertel: Like a seal!
Miss Kerr: A seal, yes. Exactly! [Ta Dominguín.] But really, now, how about duende for you, Miguel?
Dominguín (half in English, half in Spanish): Is a little difficult to explain. You know the conference of García LorcaGarcía Lorca, our poet? The conference here many years ago?
Viertel: Yes. I’ve read a transcript. This talk that ‘Lorca gave in New York on duende, and duende was to him- Well, it’s very Spanish, you know . . .
Dominguín (continuing): And there he explained what it was to him. And is difficult because about duende you can say anything you want. Duende is-to arrive at the duende- [To the Moderator:.] I will tell him in Spanish. [Speaks at length.]
Viertel (translating): What he said is what he told me earlier, years ago. In order to make the duende come to you, the first thing you have to be is a professional. You have to know your job, and if you know your job well enough, then occasionally the duende will come. It will inspire you and make you do better. But you need the professionalism. You need the ability to do the job.
Dominguín: You must know everything….
Viertel: ¡Exactamente!
Moderator: What is the most dramatic example of when this came to you?
Dominguín: Bueno pues-I do not know. But probably it is the one that I have in Madrid: that fight was the most important for me in life. You know, it was the big benefit fight, the charity for the former bullfighters, and only the greatest bullfighters go in the ring. It is of great prestige-very important to fight well, and this one in Madrid, it was with Manolete and Gitanillo fighting too, you know-this kind of fight and it is for me a very dangerous moment.
Viertel: Tell me.
Dominguín: It is-one day you push; you push also the duende. You push him! If you do not do anything, the duende will come. But this day is so important-it is so important to me that I do not think the duende is coming, so I take it! [Continues in Spanish.]
Viertel (translating): He says that kind of ” fight is such a rare occasion-it’s an occasion that comes so rarely in life-four or five times, perhaps-that after it’s gone, the duende, it leaves you so completely that you’re absolutely…
Miss Kerr (supplying the word): Exhausted! You’ve given birth!
Dominguín: ¡Sí! Realmente . . . [Continues in Spanish.]
Viertel (continuing the translation): And he says if you have it, you feel it in every fiber of your being; and after it’s gone, you feel absolutely gone. It’s very strange. I saw it with him at times. And I have seen it with Deborah. I’ve seen it often with Deborah when she does a scene an emotional scene that asks a lot from her. I have seen how she reaches out for it, as Miguel says, and gets it, because she needs it; and then when she is finished I see also that she’s dead-beat, in the same way he describes.
Miss Kerr: I don’t know. [Hesitantly.] For myself, I couldn’t describe it. It’s not something about which you can say; “This is what I do.” It’s something-something within you. And I think I would say that in acting there’s more reaching for it. You don’t know as well when you have it already -as he knows.
Viertel: Well, I don’t know. Again, only from listening to Miguel and from listening to other bullfighters-Rafael Gitanillo, for example. I heard him talk one day about “Does a bullfighter know when he’s good?” And Miguel’a father, who was a manager and a great bullfighter too, he said, “Very rarely does a bullfighter know when he’s really good.”
Dominguín: ¡No! ¡No! ¡Cuando estamos bien, lo sabemos!
Viertel: He says, “No. When we are good, we know it.”
Miss Kerr: I don’t know.
Dominguín (unbelieving): You don’t know?
Miss Kerr: Well, I have the feeling, but sometimes when I think I’m good, I’m not so good.
Dominguín (very seriously): But when the time you really be good, I think you would be sure. You don’t feel- Tú no tienes miedo de nada. Tú estás- Te importa todo nada. Entonces la posición es tuya.
Miss Kerr: True …
Viertel: He says when you feel you’re good, then fear leaves you, then everything leaves you except your sureness. You are sure of yourself, and you couldn’t care less about anything else.
Dominguín: La persona-el hombre, la mujer, por temperamento, en contra de lo que creemos, es lazy, vago…. [Continues spiritedly.]
Viertel: And he says … it is a wonderful thing-I’ll try to translate correctly-be says in one’s nature man is lazy-, you know-, and not strong; and he says that in the moments that creativeness comes to you, that with the force you have in those moments you could knock a house down, a wall out, without making any movement toward the wall. That the faith you have in yourself at that time is so strong, it makes you able to áo imponderables.
Moderator: (to Dominguín): Do you have similar moments in other aspects of your life, other than your particular profession or talent?
(Viertel translates to Dominguín and there is a lively exchange between them in Spanish.)
Viertel (laughing): He’s in the wrong racket. He should be a writer and I should be a bullfighter…. He said that sometimes he has asked himself this question. He said of course it comes at other moments in your life. And he said sometimes you drive your car-normally-between fifty miles and sixty miles an hour-and one day suddenly you will drive faster; and that day when you don’t have that special funny feeling-at that moment you feel anxiety; you watch yourself; you don’t feel safe. And, he says; another day you’ll be able to drive as quickly as you like and you’re Secure. That’s the faith in yourself, he says, and at that time you’ve got it’. Duende. [Smiling.] He says it’s the same thing as if you were fishing. If no fish bites, if you have that strange moment of faith, he says, you’re going to catch a fish even if there are no fish in the sea.
Dominguín (shrugging): It’s-many time, few time, some time- [Again breaks into Spanish.]
Viertel: ¿Es suerte o no?
Dominguín: No sé….
Viertel: He refers to a film we saw the other day in which he competed with Antonio Ordoñez, fought on the same afternoon. And that day the bull caught him. He just had a bad cornada, a horn wound. It was one of his great fights! He says even if the bull catches him, he never runs away. Never! He says he’s never done that in his life. But that day he had so much faith and so much security in himself that he actually felt the bull couldn’t hurt him. It might throw- him, but it wouldn’t gore him. So I said, “You really believe that?” And he said. “Yes. I do.” He said, “You know, I don’t believe in witches, but they’re around, just the same.” [All laugh.]
Miss Kerr: It is a very strange thing. I think I, perhaps, have it less than Peter and Miguel do. I mean that it happens less times to me. But there are times when there’s something you want to happen, or you want something to be good-and then there is just that moment when you absolutely know all the way through you that it is going to be! -Do I sound mystic?
Viertel: No, no.
Miss Kerr: Because I am a Doubting Thomas type of person, really; and after it’s happened I think, Oh, that’s silly; that’s ridiculous to think that! But at that very moment I know it’s going to work out and be-and it does! I don’t mean with acting only. I’m thinking about the children, or one’s life together, or something I want for Peter-for us too, he just so, you know. I’m afraid I’m not putting it very well. But it happens rarely that I personally just get it, though I know what you mean. . . . [Reflectively.] I often wonder if it is like one of those curious puzzle things, you know. If in that moment we are talking about, suddenly click click click click-all the pieces fall into the slots. It feels like that.
Dominguín: Sí. It is a felicity, a happiness. It is not one thing but many things. Everything arrives. All is felicitous, all is well . . . you want for nothing….
Miss Kerr: Yes. I think with me it’s a bit more in the theater than in everyday life. It can happen differently for other people, but in the theater … Well, I mean there is the thing of having to be professional to have the duende. And there in the theater you work and you work, and you sift this, and you sift that, and you really are totally prepared for that moment of giving birth. But to start with you are-at least I amabsolutely paralyzed with fear. Always. Terribly! Absolutely scared stiff!
Dominguín: How does your fear show itself?
Miss Kerr: With Tea and Sympathy, for instance, on the opening night, and for the whole first month, I got the most peculiar reaction. I started on the stage like this [demonstrates tension]. I hadn’t been feeling too well and I had been working frightfully hard, and you know, as the curtain went up I’d go absolutely blank. But then a sort of concentrating thing would come over me and I’d hear my own voice saying all the lines; and then I’d go out to get the tea, and I remember going off stage and saying, “My God, I’m going to faint!” And I had that every night for a while. Just at the moment the curtain would go up!
It was pure, pure fear. And then it went.
Moderator: Have you had that same thing at important emotional moments in your life, apart from acting?
Miss Kerr: You mean the fear? Well, I’m always afraid. [Laughing.] Every time I go into a room I practically have heart failure.
Viertel: But there’s one interesting thing about Deborah. I’ve seen her doing a scene, a very difficult scene, say in The Night of the Iguana. And I’ve seen her push-and as Miguel says, I’ve seen her reach for the duende and finally get it. And let me tell you something I think is amazing. It is when she has to do a scene over and over again-that’s when the oficio, the professionalism, comes in. Say she’s done the scene, she’s pulled this out of herself, and then the director saya, “Well, I’m terribly sorry, darling, but there’s a hair on the lens.” And she does it again!
Dominguín: Sí. Is muy difficult. [To Miss Kerr.] Did you have big confidence when you were a child?
Miss Kerr: I don’t think I had very much. I suppose I must have had some. But whether it came from my mother or my father, 1 don’t know. My father died when f was fourteen. So I suppose it was my mother, having known her more. Her example, I think it probably was; it was a wonderful example. She was the most unselfish, self-sacrificing person, and I suppose without knowing it that kind of rubs off. But whatever your qualities, bad or good, you don’t really know where they’ve come from.
Moderator: But did you feel that you were talented?
Miss Kerr: No, I don’t think so; not when I was small. Not unusually. I suppose my mother was no more impressed than the average parent, who-when, you know, a child does those dreadful concerts at Christmas, and your mother says, “Isn’t she clever?” But I don’t think she thought I was, you know, a genius. She didn’t push me, at any rate. Not at all. But don’t you think we all think that way about our children-that they’ve some special quality?
Moderator: But one child can have more confidence than another. How does one account far that?
Miss Kerr: My goodness, I’ve no idea! What is it? There are differences, of course, among my children. But it’s hard to tell yet whether it’s really self-confidence. Because one that appears so may not be really, underneath, at all. I suppose Francesca, the middle one- And yet I know at times she’s not at all. She’s more nervous than people think…
Viertel: And it can change. I know in my family I had much less confidence than any of my brothers. And yet, somewhere along the line I changed. I was in the middle. I was the least mental. When I wrote a book -I was very young, eighteen-well, all the people who knew us said, “That’s not the one who wrote the book; that’s the tennis player.” Because my older brother is, I think, much more intelligent than I am, and everybody said, “He. is the one who wrote the book.” [To Dominguín.] And you? Who in your family had the most confidence? You’re the youngest boy, aren’t you? But you have a younger sister?
Dominguín (in Spanish): Sí. I have two brothers and two sisters and I am in the middle, between the two sisters. [Smiling.] I have always been between women! I like to be among women. It must be an inborn defect. [All laugh.]
Miss Kerr: Now, there you are! That’s contributed to what you are. You were born between two girls!
Moderator: Were your sisters very admiring of you?
Dominguín and Viertel together: And how! [Laughter.]
Miss Kerr: They thought he was great!
Viertel: All the women in his family thought he was great. The men too. They admired and adored him, and still do. Miguel was actually sort of singled out in the family. His two brothers, for example -one is very intelligent and a wonderful man, but as a bullfighter he has less luck, less duende, if I can say so. And he isn’t the same physically as Miguel-or in other ways. And the other brother, Pepe, is very good-looking and very nice, a very good person, but he had a lot of bad luck in the bull ring-but also a more limited ability. Miguel here had terrific luck. He had everything! And yet his older brother is very, very intelligent-very intelligent. He just didn’t have the physical thing as well.
Dominguín (in Spanish): Well, this is , what I told them when I was eleven or twelve years old. Domingo was very courageous and Pepe was very strong and skillful. I was neither as courageous as Domingo nor as strong and skillful as Pepe. But I had poise, and I told them, I said, “With this poise, I have enough to be better than all of you with the bulls.”
Moderator: How much of a man’s self-confidence and Professio nal talent projects itself in his relationships with women?
Dominguín (in Spanish): A great deal. And my confidence only comes from having so little self-confi dence-so little that if it were slightly less, I would not ewwen be capable of getting dressed. Then I became confident in everything. Do you understand’.’ It is what you said this morning when I gave that radio interview, for instance. I do not speak English, but this morning I had to speak it, and I have spoken it. Badly, but I have spoken it.
Viertel: But that does not mean confidence. It means you force yourself to do something.
Dominguín: That is right. You force yourself, and thus you gain confidence. I am more nervous than you, Peter. In truth, I am more timid than you are.
Miss Kerr (using a Spanish accent): Impossible! [Laughter.]
Viertel: Nobody’s more timid than I am. But I push myself, too. [To Miss Kerr.] Can you tell? Does it show? Whether a man has confidence or not?
Miss Kerr: I think women do pick that up rather quickly. I don’t know why. I’m not as perceptive as Peter, but I think I’m rather sensitive to people-whether they’re , strong or weak, whether they’re sincere or hypocritical-that sort of thing. Usually I think, one’s first instinct is right, though you sometimes have to correct an impression; sometimes you’re wrong.
Dominguín (in Spanish): It seems foolish, perhaps, but it is a matter of “skin.” Skin is the important thing
Viertel (explaining): The first impression.
Dominguín: Yes. The first impression. Almost the surface impression, it would seem. And do you know, it is not really a question of “attractiveness.” Does it not happen to you when you shake hands with somebody that in spite of your lack of physical interest in that person there is sometimes something there-between the skin and the touch of your hand? And the voice-when you start talking with someone
Moderator: Is he speaking of some sort of wave lengths? Of qualities that come over to you intuitively, as it were?
Viertel: Yes. It’s everything. Yes. That is “skin,” in Spanish, piel. In France and in Spain-in Latin countries they say that love, physical love, and love just as love even without sexuality-depends on this, the first impact, the thing of “skin,” you know. Almost of touch-whether that skin is one you respond to. `’Skin” means what comes over to someone immediately.
Miss Kerr: It’s one’s quality that comes over. And, you know, I was telling Peter this morning-speaking of Miguel’s quality -his impact on others is enormous; and I was saying how extraordinarily perceptive Miguel is of other people too.
Viertel: Well, he’s an animal. He hears more and sees more than others.
Miss Kerr: I think he does. He’s very instinctive, very perceptive.
[Dominguín looks inquiring. There is a brief exchange with Viertel.]
Viertel (translating): He says that words have minor importance for some people. Bulls do not speak either
Dominguín (smiling): That is why my instincts are better developed than my brains. [Speaks at length in Spanish.]
Viertel (translating): He says he once met a motilón – an Indian from one of those savage groups in the Colombia-Venezuela border area. A little motilón child who was found, and this child could foretell rainy weather fifteen days in advance. An amazing thing! Like an animal!
Dominguín: Sí. If I am in the country, the first day I hear nothing. In two weeks I can hear the noise that make one rabbitone hundred meters away. But when I am in a crowded room where people talk a11 at the same time I become completely deaf: I can smell, too, when I am in the country. I can hear nothing. It is peculiar, though. When it is going to rain, two or three hours before, I know. I can smell it. [Continues in Spanish.]
Viertel (translating): He says he believes this instinctiveness can be cultivated but first it is perhaps necessary to create an urge in a child. If a child isn’t sure-footed, doesn’t walk well among stones-if you leave him in a rocky place in the country, he’s going to learn very quickly. His own son, Miguelito, was a clumsy walker. He was a little clumsy physically. Miguel left him alone in the stony bed of the Sardinia River, and he changed very quickly. He found the necessity to walk. If he is not more graceful, he is at least more physically agile. Miguelito was also afraid of horses. They live on a ranch and on the ranch is a lake and the house is up on top of a hill. It is very rough country. Just remember that Spain is not like America; it’s a country that’s much more rugged. So he put Miguelito on the mare and he rode on ahead of the mare. It was evening, and the child was more frightened of being left alone in the dark than of riding the mare, so he rode marvelously.
Moderator: How do you feel about the way children are brought up in the United States?
[Dominguín looks inquiring, Viertel translates.]
Dominguín: I do not really know about it.
Miss Kerr: I’m dead against it! [Laughs.] I mean I’m dead against-you knowsaying, “Go on, dear, break that lovely thing because you’re gettingrid of some inhibition in you.” Perhaps I’m exaggerating, but I am absolutely violently against it. -I don’t think that you cripple children by teaching them discipline, which is to tell them that you’re careful with something because it is beautiful and it mustn’t be broken-that beautiful things must be taken care of. And I think that, in turn, helps them to discipline themselves when life comes in on them and they have something to cope with. They must learn. Because they’ll push you to see how far they can make you go, and they’re disappointed, I’m sure, if they don’t find that buffer in you that they come up against. I don’t know. [To Viertel.] How do you feel about it?
Viertel: Exactly as you do. But I know that in Spain the people to whom the most is given or allowed are old people. Old people are respected. Children are made to conform and behave.
Miss Kerr: They respect their elders.
Viertel: They love them. Whenever a child comes into a room-and this is very interesting to us as foreigners-whenever a child comes in, he goes to everybody-a young child, you know-and he kisses each person on the cheek. Kisses affectionately, you understand. So their affection is big. And as far as saying, “Daddy, may I turn on the television?”- there’s none of that. Not that they have no rights. But their rights are not allowed to infringe on the rights of the older people. So it’s the reverse of our situation. Our society is a society for the young. The old are cast aside much more quickly, but it’s the reverse in Spain. It’s certainly more pleasant to live w
Miss Kerr: Steel!
I also think the children are more adjusted; I think so. Certainly the older people are happier.
Miss Kerr: If you’re taught respect for , others, you’re bound to be happier with yourself, I think. Which doesn’t mean you have to punish children a11 the time. When they’re young, they’re like puppies. Their memories are terribly short, you know. They can’t understand, if you’ve got a punishment that’s going to take place tomorrow
for something they did today. But I think, again, they respond to good sense, too
[Dominguín speaks at some length, in Spanish.]
Viertel: Now, he’s a much more physical person. And he’s just told me that they have a swimming pool, and they don’t have fences around swimming pools. And his little girl Paulita, she’s four years old and she is a devil. She is a pure devil! And he said she had him very worried because when she started to walk she liked to go to the swimming pool. They were all worried. They were afraid she would fall in. One day when she was near the pool, he pushed
her in. She swallowed some water, then he pulled her out. The second time she went near the pool, he did the same thing. And she said, in her baby talk-she was very angry-and she said, “What are you trying to do? Do you want to drown me?” But she never went near the pool again, and he says, “She drank enough water; now she is okay.” You understand; this is a special case, because she’s got a will as hard as this -rock!
Miss Kerr: Steel!
Viertel: And yet Miguel is really very gentle with children. If his wife gets irritated with Paulita and gives her a smack, he doesn’t like it. He says, “Don’t hit. I don’t like them to be hit.”
Moderator: You don’t spank, then? You don’t believe in spanking?
Dominguín: No. [Continues in Spanish.]
Viertel: Because it violates their dignity. He says it is no good to beat a child because this hurts his self-esteem. Furthermore, hands are for caressing, not for spanking.

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