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Family Life

Deborah Kerr choses freedom

Translated from Spanish article from Fotogramas magazine – Feb. 12th 1960
deborah with her daughters
For Deborah Kerr, 1960 marks the beginning of a new stage in her life. She will stay in London for about six months before making a final move to Switzerland. This summer, the actress will wed Peter Viertel, a writer. She’s made the decision to experience life in a different way and change her attitude toward her work.
Deborah has returned to London from Australia where she just finished filming “The Sundowners”. We met with her in her flat in London-Square, Knightsbridge. In a room with high ceilings in which we talked about the past, the present and the future.
I think it was after I asked what replaced ambition in her life that we started talking about really interesting things. For, Deborah, at 38, is one of the most intelligent movie actresses and she has never indulged in fake illusions about herself or her profession.

A new cycle.

The actress said: “I see myself starting a new cycle in life. I didn’t plan it, I didn’t work for it. I was never one to slam my fist on the table or to try and force matters. I was only able to let things take their own curse and now the pieces are coming together. First of all there’s my marriage and my new home in Switzerland, which will be a real home and not just the place one comes back after work is done. And then there’s this new attitude toward what I want to achieve professionally.”
It was then that we discussed ambition. The force that moves us all. “After a while” – Deborah said – “ambition just fades. The ambition to fight for a part, whatever it might be, and to tell yourself ‘I don’t care how the movie came out, I was the star and so and so were co-starring and I made a lot of money and it was a big hit’. Someday I would love to do Romeo and Juliet. But I would like to do Juliet’s nurse. A part far more interesting and more appropriate for my age.”
She made a pause and then continued – “what I would really like to do now is to take a break from work and do only the parts that really interest me. Those that stir something inside and make me wonder if I’d be able to do them.I never thought being an actor was the most important job in the world, it just happens that it is the one I was better at. Inspiration and vocation, that never really meant anything to me.

A Somerset Maugham character

She made another stop when her secretary, an american, came in to serve tea.
“I have been working since I was 16 or 17 and I suddenly realised how little I’ve read aside of movie scripts. And there is a lot to be read.”
This is the influence her new husband, Peter Viertel, has had in her. The previous one, Tony Bartley, was only interested about planes. When asked if it was true that she had bought the rights to “Cakes and Ale”, the best novel by Somerset Maughan, so Peter can adapt it to the screen she replied affirmatively. She would also play the lead, a tavern woman vulgar, beautiful and ordinary.
“I can also learn to cook. I can do baked eggs and I can fry bacon but I would love to be able to cook some good dish. Something that people could come to enjoy. something made by me.”
I had to ask her if this would have been any different had she not been close to re-marrying. She smiled: “I think that probably had a lot to do with it, but I think I would have come to this conclusion in the end either way. As I have said, I don’t believe in violence. Perhaps cause violent scenes and scandals really bother me so I try to avoid them. When I had already been in Hollywood for six years and my work became a routine, people used to say to me ‘you should go to the producers offices and slam your fist ont he table’. But I wouldn’t do that. Instead, I did “From Here to Eternity” which gave my career some fresh air.

A future without fear

“I think life is a bit like a pendulum…” – Deborah suddenly says – “you go up and all of a sudden you’re free-falling. But when you reach the lowest point, something rings and up you go again. Maybe that’s why I never had real worries about my work. I never truly feared being jobless. Maybe this sounds a little preposterous but I just happen to believe in the pendulum. Perhaps I won’t always be next to Robert Mitchum like in “the Sundowners”. I can’t always be opposite Cary Grant in “The Grass is Greener”. Maybe one day, the name D. Kerr will be written is tiny letters and billed below many other names. This doesn’t frighten me. I know I will get old, and we all die. We can’t help it.”
We talk then about her daughters, Melanie who is 12 years old, and Francesca, 7 and of all the activities she has planned for them when they are together in London. And we also talk about hollywood and Australia and the Antilles, where we met last summer.

What Matters Most

I got the impression that Deborah Kerr was satisfied and pleased with the prospects in her life.
“We will go to Switzerland, far from all the places where I use to work, and that will give me a greater sense of freedom” – she says – “and that will help me decide what really matters and which parts are really worth playing.”
And then I understood – as she does – that she has never felt happier about what’s to come in her life.

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