Deborah Kerr in The Innocents (1961)
One of my all-time favorite actresses has passed away due to complications from Parkinson’s disease, the lovely and talented Deborah Kerr. She was an extraordinarily talented woman with an abundance of grace and beauty, and she appeared in some of my favorite films from the sixties including The Innocents (1961) The Night of the Iguana (1964) and Casino Royale (1967), as well as many other films that I love such as Black Narcissus (1947), The King and I (1956), Bonjour Tristesse (1958), The Chalk Garden (1964) and Eye of the Devil (1966), etc.
I had planned on writing about The Innocents in the coming days because frankly, there is no film that I find more chilling or haunting than that film made by Jack Clayton in 1961, which starred the lovely Deborah Kerr. The Innocents is the first movie that comes to my mind when I think of “films that give me the willies” and that’s saying a lot, since I’ve literally watched thousands of horror films throughout the course of my life at this point. Due to Deborah’s passing, I figured I’d write a little bit about my favorite horror film today.
I first watched The Innocents when I was just a young 9 or 10 year old kid. I caught the film playing on television one summer afternoon while I was staying with my grandmother and even the bright afternoon sun streaming through the windows couldn’t chase away the chilling effect that the film had on me.
The haunting images conjured up by Jack Clayton’s brilliant directing and Freddie Francis’ absolutely breathtaking cinematography were stained on my retinas and embedded in my mind, and they would remain with me my entire life. I’ve seen the film numerous times since then, but it’s a movie I never get tired of watching and it always manages to fill me with absolute dread.
The Innocents is based on Henry James classic tale The Turn of the Screw and it’s one of the greatest adaptations ever made. Clayton was able to perfectly capture all the nuanced elements of Henry James’ story about a sexually repressed governess who is haunted by ghosts and her own desires, and turn them into an incredible film that actually rivals the original material it is based on.
Naturally a lot of the films power comes from Deborah Kerr’s incredible performance as the upright Miss Giddens. She’s absolutely perfect in a role that was written for a much younger woman. I don’t think a younger actress could have really captured the sort of repressed sexual longing and complicated fears that the character is struggling with in the film and Kerr’s astonishing performance has never been matched. Countless actresses have tried to play the character of Miss Giddens in many film adaptations of The Turn of the Screw and I believe I’ve sat through them all, but Kerr’s performance in The Innocents has never been topped and frankly, I don’t think it ever will.
Deborah Kerr and Peter Wyngarde in The Innocents (1961)
If you only watch one horror film this month, do yourself a favor and see The Innocents.