From the New York Times Crossword Puzzle on August 17, 2015
69 Across Deborah who was nominated for a record six Best Actress Oscars without ever winning
While it is still a few months away, there is always buzz about who might be nominated for an Academy Award. Many people will know which actress has won the most awards for Best Actress (Katherine Hepburn, with four) and for Best Actor (Daniel Day Lewis, with three). OK, now name the actress nominated for Best Actress without winning. Hint: there are actually two, but only one of them fits the bill for the above clue. Answer: Deborah Kerr, who along with Thelma Ritter endured six Academy Award ceremonies without taking home the coveted statue. For those wishing to fulfill their trivia quota, Peter O’Toole is the actor who shares the dubious honor with Kerr and Ritter – he was actually nominated eight times without winning.
Deborah Kerr was born September 30, 1921 in Helensburgh, Scotland to Captain Arthur Kerr-Trimmer. She came to acting to overcome extreme shyness. Through an aunt who was a radio star, she was introduced to Gabriel Pascal who cast her in her first film role, Major Barbara. She quickly became a star in British movies and theater.
In 1947, she came to Hollywood. As she put it, “I came over here to act, but it turned out all I had to do was to be high-minded, long suffering, white-gloved and decorative.” She found success in Hollywood with roles in Quo Vadis, The Hucksters, and Edward, My Son, which yielded her first Oscar nomination. Tiring of her prim roles, she took advantage of the role as the adulteress in From Here to Eternity, which garnered her second Oscar nomination. Ironically, Joan Crawford was slated to play the role but insisted on her own cameraman and other details, so the role went to Kerr instead.
It has been said that Maureen O’Hara was the choice for the role of the school mistress in The King and I, but Yul Brynner insisted on having Deborah Kerr, with this film giving her third Oscar nomination.
For Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison, Robert Mitchum was reluctant to work with her – thinking that she would personify the prim characters which had been her mainstay. However, after she swore at director John Huston, Mitchum, who was in the water, almost drowned laughing. He soon put his concerns to rest, and the two became life-long friends. This film gave her the fourth Oscar nomination.
To round out the list, the other films for which she was nominated Best Actress were: Separate Tables and The Sundowners.
In 1994, she was given an Honorary Oscar – presented by Glenn Close (who has since tied Kerr with six nominations without winning). Upon entering the stage to accept her award, she received the longest standing ovation in Academy Award history. One of the comments stated: “An artist of impeccable grace and beauty, a dedicated actress whose motion picture career has always stood for perfection, discipline and elegance.” Indeed.