John Grinham Kerr
November 15, 1931
New York City, U.S.
|Died||February 2, 2013 (aged 81)|
Pasadena, California, U.S.
|Alma mater||Harvard University|
UCLA Law School
|Occupation(s)||Actor (1940-1987), attorney (1969-2000)|
|Parent(s)||Geoffrey Kerr |
|Relatives||Frederick Kerr (grandfather)|
|Awards||Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Play|
1954 Tea and Sympathy
Theatre World Award
1956 Tea and Sympathy
John Grinham Kerr (November 15, 1931 – February 2, 2013) was an American actor and attorney. He began his professional career on Broadway, earning critical acclaim for his performances in Mary Coyle Chase's Bernardine and Robert Anderson's Tea and Sympathy, before transitioning into a screen career. He reprised his role in the film version of Tea and Sympathy, which won him the Golden Globe Award for Most Promising Newcomer, and portrayed Lieutenant Joseph Cable in the Rodgers and Hammerstein movie musical South Pacific. He subsequently appeared in number of television series, including a starring role on the primetime soap opera Peyton Place.
In the 1970s, he largely moved away from acting to become a lawyer, making a few small cameos in Canadian-produced films like Plague and The Amateur. He operated a legal practice in Beverly Hills until 2000, when he retired from the profession.
Kerr was born November 15, 1931, in New York City to British-born Geoffrey Kerr and American-born June Walker. Both were stage and film actors, and his grandfather was Frederick Kerr, a British trans-Atlantic character actor  in the period 1880–1930; Kerr developed an early interest in following in their footsteps.
He grew up in the New York City area, and went to Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire; after graduating from Harvard, he worked at the nearby Brattle Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts and in summer stock. For some time he pursued graduate studies in the Russian (now Harriman) Institute of Columbia University.
He made his Broadway debut in 1953 in Mary Coyle Chase's Bernardine, a high-school comedy for which he won a Theatre World Award. In 1953-54, he received critical acclaim as a troubled prep school student in Robert Anderson's play Tea and Sympathy. In 1954, he won a Tony Award, New York Drama Critics Award, and Donaldson Award for his performance, and he later starred in the film version in 1956. He subsequently starred in stagings of All Summer Long and The Infernal Machine, and both starred and directed a staging of Bus Stop at the Fred Miller Theatre in Milwaukee.
Throughout the 1960s, he was affiliated with a number of non-profit theatre companies in Southern California, including the La Jolla Playhouse, the UCLA Theatre Group. For a time he was an artist-in-residence at Stanford University. He was the producer of a 1964 summer season of the American National Theater and Academy, held at Beverly Hills High School.
Kerr's first television acting role was in 1954 on NBC's Justice as a basketball player who believes that gamblers have ruined his success on the court. His mother appeared with him on the series, which focuses on the cases of attorneys with the Legal Aid Society of New York.
He made The Cobweb for MGM, who liked his work so much they co-starred him with Leslie Caron in Gaby (1956), the third remake of Waterloo Bridge, which, in its original pre-Code 1931 version, featured John's grandfather, actor Frederick Kerr.
Kerr starred with Deborah Kerr (no relation) in Tea and Sympathy in 1956, reprising his role from the stage version.
In a widely publicized decision in 1956, Kerr declined to play the role of Charles Lindbergh in The Spirit of St. Louis because he did not respect Lindbergh's early alleged support of the Nazi regime in Germany prior to America's entry into World War II. "I don't admire the ideals of the hero", Mr. Kerr told The New York Post. The part instead went to Jimmy Stewart, a WWII veteran himself, who was over 20 years older than Kerr and nearly twice the age of Lindbergh when he made his historic 1927 flight.
Kerr had a major role in the film version of Rodgers and Hammerstein's South Pacific (1958), playing Lt. Joe Cable, the newly arrived marine about to be sent on a dangerous spy mission. In The Crowded Sky (1960), Kerr played a pilot who helps the Captain (Dana Andrews) steer a crippled airliner back to earth. Another film appearance was in Roger Corman's The Pit and the Pendulum (1961). In 1963, Kerr had a continuing role on Arrest and Trial, playing Assistant DA Barry Pine.
During the 1960s, Kerr guest starred on several TV series including The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Rawhide, Gunsmoke and Adam-12. He had a regular role on the ABC-TV primetime TV series, Peyton Place, playing District Attorney John Fowler during the 1965-66 season. Also in 1964-65 he appeared as guest star on several episodes of Twelve O'Clock High.
In the 1970s, Kerr had a recurring role as prosecutor Gerald O'Brien on The Streets of San Francisco and he made guest appearances in several other TV programs including The Mod Squad, Columbo, McMillan and Wife, Barnaby Jones and The Feather and Father Gang.
Kerr took an interest in film directing, and worked as an apprentice with Leo Penn, who was then directing episodes of the television series Run for Your Life — but Kerr was quickly disenchanted by the mundane aspects of the work, and applied to and was accepted at UCLA Law School. He received his J.D. degree from that law school, and passed the California bar in 1970. He later pursued a full-time career as a Beverly Hills lawyer, but still accepted occasional small roles in a variety of television productions over the years. He retired from legal practice in 2000.
Kerr married Priscilla Smith in 1952; the couple divorced in 1972. He married Barbara Chu in 1979. He had two daughters and a son with Smith, as well as a stepson and stepdaughter from his marriage to Chu.
Kerr died of heart failure on February 2, 2013, at Huntington Hospital in Pasadena, California. He was cremated and his ashes given to his widow.
|08/5/40 - 08/10/40||Tomorrow and Tomorrow||Ruth's Son||Arthur Walton||The Cape Playhouse|
|07/19/49 - 07/24/49||O Mistress Mine||Michael Brown|
|10/16/52 - 02/28/53||Bernardine||Arthur Beaumont||Guthrie McClintic||Playhouse Theatre||Theatre World Award|
|09/30/53 - 06/18/55||Tea and Sympathy||Tom Robinson Lee||Elia Kazan||Ethel Barrymore Theatre
48th Street Theatre
|Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Play|
New York Drama Critics Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Play
Donaldson Award for Best Supporting Actor of the Season
|09/23/54 - 11/13/54||All Summer Long||Don||Alan Schneider||Coronet Theatre
|02/03/58 - 03/09/58||The Infernal Machine||Oedipus||Herbert Berghof||Phoenix Theatre|
|11/25/58 - 12/27/58||Cue for Passion||Tony Burgess||Elmer Rice||Henry Miller's Theatre|
|04/06/59 - 04/19/59||The Hasty Heart||Lachie||Fred Miller Theatre|
|07/23/59 - 07/27/59||The Glass Menagerie||Tom Wingfield||Lobero Theatre|
|12/03/60 - 12/28/60||Bus Stop||Bo Decker||Himself||Fred Miller Theatre||Also director|
|1955||The Cobweb||Steven W. Holte||Vincente Minnelli|
|1956||Gaby||Gregory Y. Wendell||Curtis Bernhardt|
|Tea and Sympathy||Tom Robinson Lee||Vincente Minnelli||Golden Globe Award for Most Promising Newcomer - Male|
|1957||The Vintage||Ernesto Barandero||Jeffrey Hayden|
|1958||South Pacific||Lt. Joseph Cable||Joshua Logan||Singing voice by Bill Lee|
|1960||The Crowded Sky||Mike Rule||Joseph Pevney|
|Girl of the Night||Larry Taylor||Joseph Cates|
|1961||The Pit and the Pendulum||Francis Barnard||Roger Corman|
|King of Kings||Man at Sermon on the Mount||Nicholas Ray||Cameo appearance|
|Seven Women from Hell||Lt. Bill Jackson||Robert D. Webb|
|1972||Dealing: Or the Berkeley-to-Boston Forty-Brick Lost-Bag Blues||Stockbroker||Paul Williams||Uncredited|
|1973||Class of '44||Ford Hotel Bartender||Paul Bogart|
|1974||Only God Knows||Health Inspector||Peter Pearson|
|1979||Plague||Willis - Security Guard||Ed Hunt|
|1981||The Amateur||CIA Agent Emil||Charles Jarrott|
|1987||Australian Dream||Frank the Swaggie||Jackie McKimmie|
|1953||Lux Video Theatre||Tony||Episode: "The White Gown"|
|You Are There||Jesse James||Episode: "The Capture of Jesse James"|
|Horace Mann's Miracle||Young Pizzi||Television film|
|Danger||Episode: "Operation Nightmare"|
|1953-54||Suspense||Derek Howard||2 episodes|
|1953-57||The Big Story||Howie Madden||2 episodes|
|Studio One||2 episodes|
|1954||Justice||Episode: "The Scandal That Rocked the Town"|
|1955||Repertory Theatre||George Avery||Episode: "The Bold and the Brave"|
|The Elgin Hour||Pvt. Foster||Episode: "Combat Medics"|
|The Alcoa Hour||Jamie Hallock||Episode: "Undertow"|
|1956||The Corn Is Green||Morgan Evans||Television film|
|1956-62||The United States Steel Hour||3 episodes|
|1957||Fireside Theatre||Tom Parr||Episode: "Killer's Pride"|
|1957-58||Playhouse 90||David McAdam / Capt. Neil Dameron||2 episodes|
|1958||Alcoa Theatre||Flight Lt. Upton||Episode: "Strange Occurrence at Rokesay"|
|General Electric Theater||Freddie||Episode: "A Question of Romance"|
|1959||Berkeley Square||Peter Standish||Television film|
|Riverboat||Jefferson Carruthers||Episode: "The Barrier"|
|1960||The Magical World of Disney||Martin Didler||Episode: "Elfego Baca: Friendly Enemies at Law"|
|Rawhide||Bert Eaton||Episode: "Incident of the Last Chance"|
|1961||Checkmate||Wilt Kamens||Episode: "The Crimson Pool"|
|1962||Gunsmoke||Lute Willis||Episode: "Half Straight"|
|Bus Stop||Jim Carmody||Episode: "Verdict of 12"|
|The Lloyd Bridges Show||David||Episode: "The Miracle of Mesa Verde"|
|The Defenders||Jonathan Winthrop||Episode: "The Apostle"|
|1963||The Virginian||Oliver Smith||Episode: "The Judgement"|
|Wagon Train||Jim Whitlow||Episode: "The Jim Whitlow Story"|
|1963-64||Arrest and Trial||Barry Pine||Recurring role|
|1964-65||Twelve O'Clock High||Maj. Herrick / Lt. Ray Thacker||2 episodes|
|1965||Alfred Hitchcock Presents||Glendon Baker||Episode: "An Unlocked Window"|
|The Long, Hot Summer||Duane Galloway||Episode: "The Homecoming"|
|1965-66||Peyton Place||John Fowler||Main cast|
|1966||Run for Your Life||Alex Ryder||Episode: "The Day Time Stopped"|
|The High Chaparral||Creed Hallock||Episode: "Sudden Country"|
|1967-70||The F.B.I.||Gary Morgan / William Converse
/ Doug Parker / Clayton McGregor
|1969||Adam-12||Father Joe||Episode: "Log 93: Once a Junkie"|
|1969-70||The Name of the Game||Father Billy Keaton / Stuart Clark||2 episodes|
|1970||The Bold Ones: The Lawyers||Dr. Philip Blackburn||Episode: "The Verdict"|
|1971||The Young Lawyers||Andrew Rogers||Episode: "False Witness"|
|Yuma||Capt. White||Television film|
|Owen Marshall, Counselor at Law||Clay Arnold||Episode: "Men Who Care: Part 2"|
|Columbo||Col. Roger Dutton||Episode: "Dead Weight"|
|1972||The Longest Night||Agent Jones||Television film|
|The Rookies||Price||Episode: "Time Is the Fire"|
|1972-73||The Mod Squad||Dr. Freilich / Dr. Eggers||2 episodes|
|1973||Incident on a Dark Street||Gallagher||Television film|
|Alias Smith and Jones||George Sterling||Episode: "Only Three to a Bed"|
|Search||Senator Gordon||Episode: "The Mattson Papers"|
|1973-76||Police Story||Various||5 episodes|
|1973-77||The Streets of San Francisco||Gerald O'Brien||Recurring role|
|1974||Barnaby Jones||Dr. Lincoln||Episode: "Programmed for Killing"|
|1975||The Invisible Man||Kirk||Episode: "Eyes Only"|
|Medical Story||Dr. Barrett||Episode: "A Life in the Balance"|
|1976||The Blue Knight||Episode: "Throwaway"|
|1977||McMillan & Wife||Richard Valentine||Episode: "Affair of the Heart"|
|The Feather and Father Gang||Martin Stoddard||Episode: "The Mayan Connection"|
|Washington: Behind Closed Doors||Ashton||Miniseries; 1 episode|
|1982||Seeing Things||Episode: "In the Eyes of the Law"|
|1983||Sons and Daughters||Police Officer||Episode #1.278|
|1985||The Park Is Mine||Reporter||Television film|
|1989||The Magistrate||Miller||Miniseries; 2 episodes|