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John Kerr appears in a scene from his 1958 film South Pacific. - Provided courtesy of Magna Theatre Corporation / South Pacific Enterprises / Rodgers and Hammerstein Productions

John Kerr dies: 'South Pacific' actor was 81

02/12/2013 by Corinne Heller

John Kerr, the 1950s actor known for his roles in films such as "Tea and Sympathy" and "South Pacific," has died at age 81.

The actor passed away Saturday, February 2 of heart failure at Huntington Hospital in Pasadena, his son Michael said.

Kerr, who graduated from Harvard University, was best known for playing a sensitive student who is bullied over his sexuality in the 1953 Broadway show, "Tea and Sympathy." He won a Tony award for his work in the stage show, and later played the role in the 1956 film version.

Kerr is also known for his role as Lt. Joseph Cable in the 1958 musical film, "South Pacific." The movie followed a blooming love between a young nurse and a secretive Frenchman on a South Pacific island during World War II.

Throughout the 1960s, the actor worked mainly as district attorney John Fowler on the drama series, "Peyton Place."

Following his decades in show business, the actor became a lawyer specializing in personal injury law until his retirement in 2000.

"My dad originally intended to become a novelist," his son Michael Kerr said, according to the NY Times. "He saw acting as a way to support himself in the meantime. Then he won the Tony. Then he went to Hollywood."

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