Friday, February 15, 2013

John Kerr - Lt. Cable - has died

John Kerr died two weeks ago. Hard core movie and theatre buffs will know the name, but many others will not.

The film version of South Pacific has been playing lately on the cable channel Starz. If you’ve seen it, you’ve seen John Kerr. He plays Lt. Joseph Cable, the Marine officer whose racial prejudice conflicts with his love of Liat, played by France Nuyen – the prejudice wins out. It wasn’t just Lt. Cable’s prejudice; racial prejudice underlies all of South Pacific.

As with many movie musicals, Kerr did not do his own singing; that was done by Bill Lee.

Kerr was also noted for his Tony-Award winning role in Tea and Sympathy on Broadway. He played opposite Deborah Kerr (no relation) as the sensitive student, tormented by his classmates because they think he is gay. He also starred in the film version in 1956 but the issue or suggestion of homosexuality was suppressed by MGM.

I think Kerr is also notable for a film he did not do. He was originally offered the role of Charles Lindbergh in Warner Brother’s Spirit of St. Louis. He turned the role down because of his feelings toward Charles Lindbergh. He believed Lindbergh to be a Nazi sympathizer. Jimmy Stewart went on to do the film.

While Kerr did other films and television, his career never again reached the heights it had with Tea and Sympathy and South Pacific.

Interestingly, in 1966, he entered UCLA, graduating in 1969 with a law degree and was admitted to the California bar in 1970.

John Kerr was 81 when he died on February 2 in Los Angeles.

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