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R.I.P. John Kerr of Tea And Sympathy and South Pacific

Actor John Kerr has died, at the age of 81. Born into a theatrical family—both his parents, Geoffrey Kerr and June Walker, as well as his paternal grandfather, Frederick Kerr, appeared on Broadway and in films—Kerr made his Broadway debut in Bernadine when he was 21. The next year, he had perhaps the greatest success of his career when he co-starred with Deborah Kerr (no relation) in the original Broadway production of Robert Anderson’s Tea And Sympathy, the “troubled young man/older woman” romance that gave the world the much-imitated (and much-parodied) line, “Years from now, when you talk about this—and you will—be kind.” In 1956, both actors recreated their roles for the movie version, directed by Vincente Minnelli.

That same year, Kerr co-starred with Leslie Caron in a remake of Waterloo Bridge. In 1958, he had another big role in another Hollywood adaptation of another big Broadway hit, South Pacific.

After he turned down the role of Charles Lindbergh in a biopic—a role that eventually went to James Stewart—Kerr’s movie career seemed to lose momentum and quickly fizzled out. His most notable film appearance after South Pacific was co-starring with Vincent Price and Barbara Steele in 1961’s The Pit And The Pendulum, the second in the Roger Corman/AIP series of films based on the work of Edgar Allan Poe. For the rest of his acting career, Kerr—a Harvard graduated who was also a practicing attorney—kept busy on TV, including recurring roles on Peyton Place and The Streets Of San Francisco. His last screen appearance was in the 1986 HBO movie The Park Is Mine.


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