Age Is Not Just a Number

         Writers work diligently to craft their precious characters and portray them in a certain manner to their potential readers. The writers work carefully to fashion a back-story and make the reader form a mental image. For example, in Henry James's 1898 novella The Turn of The Screw, James introduces the readers to the character of the governess. The character is described as being twenty years old and being a bit green; her first job was as governess to Miles and Flora. These characteristics must be kept in mind when a movie version is in the works. Sometimes, though, those aspects end up being tossed to the wayside when it comes to casting.

         In 1961, The Turn of The Screw was made into a screenplay entitled The Innocents. When the casting of the governess was complete, Deborah Kerr had been chosen. Deborah Kerr was an established name in Hollywood. She had been around for a while starring in such movies as The King And I in 1956, and An Affair to Remember in 1957. She was forty, at the time of the filming for The Innocents, and every bit of her age shows in the final product. Deborah Kerr's performance was fantastic, appropriately enough for a seasoned vet. She was excellent as Miss Giddens in The Innocents.

         I am personally not an advocate of ageism in movie casting, but I found it difficult to believe that Miles (Martin Stephens) and Flora (Pamela Franklin) would be her first charges. The character is supposed to be twenty years old and a bit inexperienced. Deborah Kerr was twice the age of the character Henry James penned in 1898. Although it is sacrilege, I almost feel that the producers should have stretched the storyline a bit to make it more believable. There were other things changed in the switch from book to movie, what is one more thing? Miles and Flora should have been made to be just a couple of her charges over the years. One wonders what exactly is wrong with this governess if she has been without work for so long, especially because the movie makes no mention of her age.

         A creepy on-screen kiss with a child is made a little creepier by the fact that Deborah Kerr was so much older than Martin Stephens. Hollywood can sometimes disregard many things when translating a book into a movie. However, things that seem small make the largest difference. Whoever said that age is just a number was a liar or they worked in Hollywood.

Miranda Turner

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