The multi-faceted actress was 86.
Throughout her career, Miss Kerr worked at being unpredictable. She was believable as a steadfast nun in Black Narcissus; as the love-hungry wife of an empty-headed army captain stationed at Pearl Harbor in “From Here to Eternity”; as a headmaster’s spouse who sleeps with an 18-year-old student to prove to him that he is a man in “Tea and Sympathy”; as a spunky schoolmarm not afraid to joust and dance with the King of Siam in “The King and I”; as a Salvation Army lass in “Major Barbara”; and even as Portia, the Roman matron married to Brutus, in Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar.”
She could be virginal, ethereal, gossamer and fragile, or earthy, spicy and suggestive, and sometimes she managed to display all her skills at the same time.
Miss Kerr made “From Here to Eternity” even though Harry Cohn, chief of Columbia Pictures in that era, had wanted Joan Crawford in the part and had to be persuaded to accept Miss Kerr. She regarded the role as the high point in her climb to stardom in the United States, and it yielded her second Academy Award nomination.