I’d love to have been a fly on the wall if Deborah Kerr and Glenn Close commiserated over their combined eleven Oscar losses. Somehow I think the talk would shift to more interesting subjects, but the point is made: these are the Best Actress bridesmaids of all time (honorable mention goes to Rosalind Russell).
Until 1958, Kerr and Susan Hayward were the two perpetual losers. Then, even Hayward got an Oscar—and beat Kerr in the process. Deborah did get another nomination in 1960, for The Sundowners, which was a prime-of-her-career capper that showed her in a vastly different light than many of her 1950s roles.
Deborah Kerr remains the quintessential Oscar bridesmaid, having failed six times to win that golden statuette. Three times she certainly could’ve and should’ve won for at least two, but Kerr’s bad luck outweighed all of the ways an Oscar is awarded. She was unable to capitalize on being from the United Kingdom, for having “paid her dues”, or for having been the beneficiary of an Oscar sweep.
Kerr’s Best Actress nominations:
Edward, My Son (1949) Lost to Olivia DeHavilland in The Heiress From Here to Eternity (1953) Lost to Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday The King and I (1956) Lost to Ingrid Bergman in Anastasia Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison (1957) Lost to Joanne Woodward in The Three Faces of Eve Separate Tables (1958) Lost to Susan Hayward in I Want to Live! The Sundowners (1960) Lost to Elizabeth Taylor in BUtterfield 8
Kerr was too versatile for her own good, as her six nominations in eleven years (1949-60) saw her playing everything from an alcoholic to a nun to an adulterous officer’s wife; Kerr was as versatile an actress as a leading actress could be, especially during the 1950s when most every performer played well within their marketability and comfort. Very few actresses of that period would allow themselves to take a role where all glamour is sacrificed for a character. Kerr in Separate Tables is a vastly different person than the super hot blonde she played in From Here to Eternity. Both characters, however, are imbued with great vulnerability that was a Deborah Kerr trademark.
If there was one year where Deborah Kerr should’ve won Best Actress, it should have been for Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison. Her rapport with burly Bob Mitchum (himself snubbed that year) was cinematic magic and Kerr would get no greater showcase. She also should have won against the pity party victory that was Elizabeth Taylor’s win in BUtterfield 8 in 1960.
I remember saying "It's about time!" when Deborah Kerr was finally recognized by the Academy in 1994 with an honorary Oscar for lifetime achievement.