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Eleanor Parker

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Eleanor Parker
Parker in the 1940s
Eleanor Jean Parker

(1922-06-26)June 26, 1922
DiedDecember 9, 2013(2013-12-09) (aged 91)
Years active1941–1991
Known forCaged
Detective Story
Interrupted Melody
The Sound of Music
Fred Losee
(m. 1943; div. 1944)
Bert E. Friedlob
(m. 1946; div. 1953)
Paul Clemens
(m. 1954; div. 1965)
Raymond N. Hirsch
(m. 1966; died 2001)
RelativesChasen Parker (grandson)

Eleanor Jean Parker (June 26, 1922 – December 9, 2013) was an American actress. She was nominated for three Academy Awards for her roles in the films Caged (1950), Detective Story (1951), and Interrupted Melody (1955), the first of which won her the Volpi Cup for Best Actress. She was also known for her roles in the films Of Human Bondage (1946), Scaramouche (1952), The Naked Jungle (1954), The Man with the Golden Arm (1955), A Hole in the Head (1959), The Sound of Music (1965), and The Oscar (1966).

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  • Movies list of Eleanor Parker from 1941 to 1991


Early life

Eleanor Jean Parker was born on June 26, 1922, in Cedarville, Ohio, the daughter of Lola (née Isett) and Lester Day Parker.[1] She moved with her family to East Cleveland, Ohio, where she attended public schools and graduated from Shaw High School. "Ever since I can remember, all I wanted to do is act", she said. "But I didn't just dream about it. I worked at it."[2]

She appeared in a number of school plays. After graduation, she went to Martha's Vineyard to work on her acting. She got a job as a waitress and was offered a screen test by 20th Century Fox, but turned it down. Wanting to focus on films, she moved to California and started appearing at the Pasadena Playhouse.[2]


Warner Bros

Parker featured in WW2 publication, Yank, the Army Weekly, (1943)

She was in the audience one night at Pasadena Playhouse when spotted by a Warners Bros talent scout, Irving Kumin. He offered her a test, and she accepted; the studio signed her to a long-term contract in June 1941.[3]

She was cast that year in the film They Died with Their Boots On,[4][better source needed] but her scenes were deleted.[5] Her actual film debut was as Nurse Ryan in the short film Soldiers in White in 1942.

She was given some decent roles in the B films Busses Roar (1942) and The Mysterious Doctor (1943), and she had a small role in Mission to Moscow (1943). This performance impressed Warners, so when Joan Leslie was held up on Rhapsody in Blue, Parker replaced her in Between Two Worlds (1944), playing the wife of Paul Henreid's character.

She stayed in supporting roles for Crime by Night (1944) and The Last Ride (1944), then was given the starring role with Dennis Morgan in The Very Thought of You (1944), replacing Ida Lupino. She was given a cameo in Hollywood Canteen (1944). Warners gave her the choice role of Mildred Rogers in a new version of Somerset Maugham's Of Human Bondage (1946). Although director Edmund Goulding called Parker one of the five greatest actresses in America,[6] previews were not favorable, and the film sat on the shelf for two years before being released to an underwhelming reception. However, in 1953, Parker called it her favorite role.[7]

Parker later said the "big break" of her career was when she was cast with John Garfield in Pride of the Marines (1945). "It was a great part, and who wouldn't look good with John Garfield", she later said. "He was absolutely wonderful."[8] However, two films that followed with Errol Flynn, the romantic comedy Never Say Goodbye (1946) and the drama Escape Me Never (1947), were box-office disappointments.

Parker was suspended twice by Warners for refusing parts in films – in Stallion Road (where she was replaced by Alexis Smith) and Love and Learn.[9]

She made the comedy Voice of the Turtle (1947, aired today under the title One for the Book) with Ronald Reagan and was in an adaptation of The Woman in White (1948). She refused to appear in Somewhere in the City (1948) so Warners suspended her again; Virginia Mayo played the role.[10]

Parker in 1948

Parker then had two years off, and during this time, she married and had a baby. She turned down a role in The Hasty Heart (1949), which she wanted to do, but it would have meant going to England, and she did not want to leave her baby alone during its first year. "I probably received my salary for only six months during 1947 and 1948, but I can't regret that", she said. "All my life, I wanted a child, and anything that might happen to me professionally on that account would hardly seem a loss."[11]

She returned in Chain Lightning with Humphrey Bogart. "I've had my fling at roles that have little or no relation to most people's lives", she said in a 1949 interview. "I want to keep away from such assignments, as I can from now on, even though, as some may say, they mean exercising your skill and talent in acting."[11]

Parker heard about Caged (1950), a film Warners was making of a woman in prison, and she lobbied the role. She got it, and won the 1950 Volpi Cup for Best Actress at the Venice Film Festival and was nominated for an Academy Award.[12] She also had a good role in the melodrama Three Secrets (1950).

In February 1950, Parker left Warner Bros. after having been under contract there for eight years. Parker had understood that she would star in a film called Safe Harbor, but Warner Bros. apparently had no intention of making it. Because of this misunderstanding, her agents negotiated her release.[13]


Parker's career outside of Warners started badly with Valentino (1951), where she played a fictionalized wife of Rudolph Valentino, and then she tried the comedy A Millionaire for Christy (1951) (originally called The Golden Goose).

In 1951, Parker signed a contract with Paramount for one film per year, with an option for outside films.[14] This arrangement began brilliantly with Detective Story (1951) for director William Wyler, playing Mary McLeod, the woman who doesn't understand the position of her unstable detective husband (played by Kirk Douglas); Parker was nominated for the leading actress Oscar in 1951 for her performance, which, to date, remains the shortest performance to be nominated in the category.[15]


Parker followed Detective Story with her portrayal of an actress in love with a swashbuckling nobleman (played by Stewart Granger) in Scaramouche (1952), a role originally intended for Ava Gardner. Parker later claimed that Granger was the only person she didn't get along with during her entire career.[8] However, they had good chemistry, and the film was a massive hit; MGM rushed her into Above and Beyond (1952), a biopic of Lt. Col. Paul W. Tibbets, Jr. (Robert Taylor), the pilot of the aircraft that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. It was a solid hit. While Parker was making Escape from Fort Bravo (1953), she signed a five-year contract with MGM.[16]

She was named as star of My Most Intimate Friend[17] and of One More Time, from a script by Ruth Gordon and Garson Kanin, but neither film was made. Back at Paramount, Parker starred with Charlton Heston as a 1901 mail-order bride in The Naked Jungle (1954), directed by Byron Haskin and produced by George Pal.

Parker returned to MGM where she was reunited with Robert Taylor in Valley of the Kings (1954), and the Western Many Rivers to Cross (1955).

"I maintain that if you work, believe in yourself, and do what is right for you without stepping all over others, the way somehow opens up", she said in 1953. "By that, I don't mean just sitting back. At Warners, they still have a mile-long list of my suspensions for refusing certain parts. Anyway, I never did a Western. Not once. It's paid off too."[7]

In a 1954 interview, she said her favorite films were Caged and Detective Story and her least favorite were Chain Lightning, Escape Me Never, Valentino, and The Woman in White. She had commitments to make two films per year at MGM and one per year at Paramount. "Personally, I prefer to be under contract", she said.[18]

MGM gave her one of her better roles as opera singer Marjorie Lawrence in Interrupted Melody (1955). It was a big hit and earned Parker a third Oscar nomination; she later said it was her favorite film.[8]

Also in 1955, Parker appeared in the film adaptation of the National Book Award-winner The Man with the Golden Arm (1955), directed by Otto Preminger and released through United Artists. She played Zosh, a woman in a wheelchair and the wife of heroin-addicted would-be jazz drummer Frankie Machine (Frank Sinatra). It was a major commercial and critical success.

In 1956, she was billed above the title with Clark Gable for the comedy The King and Four Queens, also for United Artists.

It was then back at MGM for two movies, both dramas: Lizzie (1957), in the title role, as a woman with a split personality; The Seventh Sin (1957), a remake of The Painted Veil. Both films flopped at the box office, and as a result, Parker's plans to produce L'Eternelle, about French resistance fighters, did not materialize.[19]

Later films, and transition into television and theatre

Parker supported Frank Sinatra in the popular comedy A Hole in the Head (1959). She returned to MGM for Home from the Hill (1960), co-starring with Robert Mitchum, then took over Lana Turner's role of Constance Rossi in Return to Peyton Place, a 1961 sequel to the hit 1957 film. It was made by 20th Century Fox which produced Madison Avenue (1961) with Parker.

In 1960, she made her TV debut. "I look for the quality story and for parts that I think will be good or fun. People told me I was crazy to do Hole in the Head and Home from the Hill, but both those pictures appealed to me. I did enough of the bad ones (films), while I was under contract – because I was being told to do them. That's the problem with being under contract. You do the pictures, or be suspended. Now, I don't want to work unless I have faith in the part. This has nothing to do with wanting to be famous, or anything like that. It's just that I love acting."[20]

In the early 1960s, she worked increasingly in television, with the occasional film role such as Panic Button (1964).

Parker's best-known screen role was playing Baroness Elsa von Schraeder in the 1965 Oscar-winning musical The Sound of Music.

In 1966, she played an alcoholic widow in the crime drama Warning Shot, a talent scout who discovers a Hollywood star in The Oscar, and a rich alcoholic in An American Dream. From the late 1960s, she focused on television roles.

Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6340 Hollywood Blvd.

In 1963, Parker appeared in the medical drama The Eleventh Hour in the episode "Why Am I Grown So Cold?", for which she was nominated for an Emmy Award as Outstanding Single Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role. In 1964, she appeared in the episode "A Land More Cruel" on Breaking Point. In 1968, she portrayed a spy in How to Steal the World, a film originally shown as the two-part concluding episodes of The Man from U.N.C.L.E..[21]

Parker starred with Michael Sarrazin and Gayle Hunnicutt in her final theatrical film of the 1960s, the tense thriller Eye of The Cat (1969), which was written by Joseph Stefano.

In 1969–1970, Parker starred in the television series Bracken's World, for which she was nominated for a 1970 Golden Globe Award as Best TV Actress – Drama. "I wanted to do the series so I could stay put", she said. "Every movie I'm offered is shot in Europe or Asia or somewhere. I'm tired of running around."[22] Parker left the series after the first 16 episodes, citing the limited nature of her role.

After 1969, she worked steadily, but except for a small role in Sunburn (1979), her onscreen acting was on television. Parker appeared in the NBC series Ghost Story episode "Half a Death" (1972). Parker appeared in the TV movie Maybe I'll Come Home in the Spring (1971) and on TV in Home for the Holidays (1972). She starred in other TV movies and made guest appearances on series such as Hawaii Five-O, The Love Boat, Hotel, and Murder, She Wrote. Her final TV role was in the 1991 TV movie Dead on the Money.

Concurrent with her TV career, Parker starred in a number of theatrical productions, including the role of Margo Channing in Applause, the Broadway musical version of the film All About Eve. The role originally was played in the musical by Lauren Bacall. In 1976, she played Maxine in the Ahmanson Theater revival of The Night of the Iguana. She was replaced in the Circle in the Square Theatre revival of Pal Joey during previews.[23]

For her contributions to the movie industry, Parker was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6340 Hollywood Boulevard.[24]

Personal life

Parker was married four times:

  • Fred Losee – married in March 1943, divorced in 1944.[citation needed]
  • Bert E. Friedlob – married in 1946, divorced in 1953; the marriage produced three children.[citation needed]
  • Paul Clemens, American portrait painter – married in 1954, divorced in 1965; the marriage produced one child, actor Paul Clemens.[25]
  • Raymond N. Hirsch – married in 1966, widowed on September 14, 2001, when Hirsch died of esophageal cancer.[26]

She was the grandmother of actor Chase Parker.[27]

Parker was raised a Protestant, and later converted to Messianic Judaism, a form of Christianity which takes on some Jewish characteristics, telling the New York Daily News columnist Kay Gardella in August 1969: "I think we're all Jews at heart...I wanted to convert for a long time." She embraced and was a supporter of Messianic Jewish philosopher, teacher, and commentator Roy Masters, owner of the Foundation of Human Understanding in Grants Pass, Oregon. In 1978, she wrote the foreword to Masters's book How Your Mind Can Keep You Well.[28]

Parker, a life-long Democrat, endorsed Adlai Stevenson for president in the 1952 presidential election.[29]


Eleanor Parker died on December 9, 2013, at a medical facility in Palm Springs, California from complications of pneumonia. She was 91.[30]


Film and television

Year Title Role Notes
1941 They Died with Their Boots On bit part scenes deleted
1942 The Big Shot Telephone Operator voice, uncredited
Busses Roar Norma
Soldiers in White Nurse Ryan short subject
Men of the Sky Mrs. Frank Bickley short subject
Vaudeville Days Colleen uncredited
short subject
1943 The Mysterious Doctor Letty Carstairs
Mission to Moscow Emlen Davies
Destination Tokyo Mike's Wife on Record voice, uncredited
1944 Between Two Worlds Ann Bergner
Atlantic City Bathing Beauty uncredited
Crime by Night Irene Carr
The Last Ride Kitty Kelly
The Very Thought of You Janet Wheeler
Hollywood Canteen herself cameo
1945 Pride of the Marines Ruth Hartley
1946 Of Human Bondage Mildred Rogers
Never Say Goodbye Ellen Gayley
1947 Escape Me Never Fenella MacLean
Always Together herself cameo, uncredited
The Voice of the Turtle Sally Middleton
1948 The Woman in White Laurie Fairlie
Ann Catherick
1949 It's a Great Feeling herself cameo, uncredited
1950 Chain Lightning Joan "Jo" Holloway
Caged Marie Allen
Three Secrets Susan Adele Connors Chase
1951 Valentino Joan Carlisle
Sarah Gray
A Millionaire for Christy Christabel "Christy" Sloane
Detective Story Mary McLeod
1952 Scaramouche Lenore
Above and Beyond Lucey Tibbets
1953 Escape from Fort Bravo Carla Forester
1954 The Naked Jungle Joanna Leiningen
Valley of the Kings Ann Barclay Mercedes
1955 Many Rivers to Cross Mary Stuart Cherne
Interrupted Melody Marjorie Lawrence
The Man with the Golden Arm Zosh Machine
1956 The King and Four Queens Sabina McDade
1957 Lizzie Elizabeth
Beth Richmond
The Seventh Sin Carol Carwin
1959 A Hole in the Head Eloise Rogers
1960 Home from the Hill Hannah Hunnicutt
The Gambler, the Nun, and the Radio Sister Cecelia
1961 Return to Peyton Place Connie Rossi
Madison Avenue Anne Tremaine
1962 Checkmate Marion Bannion
Gussie Hill
episode: "The Renaissance of Gussie Hill"
1963 The Eleventh Hour Connie Folsom episode: "Why Am I Grown So Cold?"
Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre Fern Selman episode: "Seven Miles of Bad Road"
1964 Panic Button Louise Harris
Kraft Suspense Theatre Dorian Smith episode: "Knight's Gambit"
1965 The Sound of Music The Baroness Elsa Schraeder
Convoy Kate Fowler episode: "Lady on the Rock"
1966 The Oscar Sophie Cantaro
An American Dream Deborah Kelly Rojack
1967 Warning Shot Mrs. Doris Ruston
The Tiger and the Pussycat Esperia Vincenzini
1968 The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Margitta Kingsley episode: "The Seven Wonders of the World Affair"; released in cinemas as How to Steal the World
1969 Eye of the Cat Aunt Danny
Hans Brinker Dame Brinker
Bracken's World Sylvia Caldwell episodes 1–16
1971 Maybe I'll Come Home in the Spring Claire Miller TV movie
Vanished Sue Greer TV movie
1972 Circle of Fear Paula Burgess episode: "Half a Death"
Home for the Holidays Alex Morgan TV movie
1973 The Great American Beauty Contest Peggy Lowery TV movie
1975 Guess Who's Coming to Dinner Christine Drayton TV pilot
1978 Hawaii Five-O Mrs. Kincaid episode: "The Big Aloha"
The Bastard Lady Amberly TV movie
1979 Sunburn Mrs. Thoren
She's Dressed to Kill Regine Danton TV movie
1980 Once Upon a Spy The Lady TV movie
Vega$ Laurie Bishop episode: "A Deadly Victim"
1981 Madame X Katherine Richardson TV movie
1979–1982 The Love Boat Rosie Strickland
Alicia Bradbury
episode: "A Dress to Remember"
episode: "Buddy and Portia's Story/Julie's Story/Carol and Doug's Story/Peter and Alicia's Story"
1977–1983 Fantasy Island Peggy Atwood
Eunice Hollander Baines
episode: "Nurses Night Out"
episode: "Yesterday's Love/Fountain of Youth"
episode: "Pilot"
1983 Hotel Leslie episode: "The Offer"
1984 Finder of Lost Loves Nora Spencer episode: "The Gift"
1986 Murder, She Wrote Maggie Tarrow episode: "Stage Struck"
1991 Dead on the Money Catherine Blake TV movie

Theatre credits

Radio appearances

Year Program Episode/source
1954 Lux Radio Theatre Detective Story[31]

Awards and nominations

Institution Category Year Work Result
Academy Awards Best Actress 1951 Caged Nominated
1952 Detective Story Nominated
1956 Interrupted Melody Nominated
Golden Globe Awards Best TV Actress – Drama 1970 Bracken's World Nominated
Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Single Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role 1963 The Eleventh Hour Nominated
Laurel Awards Top Female Star 1958 Nominated
1959 Nominated
1960 Nominated
Venice Film Festival Volpi Cup for Best Actress 1950 Caged Won


  1. ^ McClelland 1989, p. 1
  2. ^ a b Hopper, Hedda (November 11, 1951). "Eleanor Parker Lives Up to Plan". Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles, CA. p. E1.
  3. ^ Scott, John L. (January 4, 1948). "Eleanor Parker Nearing Turning Point of Career: 'Turtle' Star Facing Year of Decision". Los Angeles Times. p. B1.
  4. ^ Staff, (February 3, 2015). "Eleanor Parker – Biography and Filmography". IMDb.
  5. ^ "Eleanor Parker". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved August 7, 2017.
  6. ^ "Director Lauds Eleanor Parker". Los Angeles Times. July 16, 1946. p. A3.
  7. ^ a b Thompson, Howard (January 11, 1953). "Miss Parker Plots a Placid Career". The New York Times. p. X5.
  8. ^ a b c "Eleanor Parker: Incognito, But Invincible" (PDF). Noir City Sentinel. Summer 2010. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 19, 2016.
  9. ^ "Studio Suspends Eleanor Parker: Actress Refuses Assignment in Warners 'Love and Learn' – Role Held 'Not Suitable' Role to de Cordova Of Local Origin "Open City" in 24th Week Named Dean by Norwich". The New York Times. August 6, 1946. p. 18.
  10. ^ "Studio Suspends Eleanor Parker: Warner Brothers' Actress Said to Have Refused New Role – Virginia Mayo in Place". The New York Times. July 31, 1948. p. 9.
  11. ^ a b Schallert, Edwin (May 15, 1949). "Eleanor Parker in Lively Return: Back on Job, Eleanor Parker Calls for True-to-Life Roles". Los Angeles Times. p. D1.
  12. ^ "Volpi Cup for Best Actress (archived copy)". Portale di Venezia. Archived from the original on January 4, 2010. Retrieved August 15, 2018.
  13. ^ Schallert, Edwin (February 1, 1950). "Drama: 'All-Star Game' On Way; Lupino Has New Find; Parker Contract Ended". Los Angeles Times. p. A7.
  14. ^ Scott, John L. (February 11, 1951). "Eleanor Parker Goes 'Uncaged' in Comedy: Vacation From Heavy Drama Roles Also Answers Problem of Typing". Los Angeles Times. p. D3.
  15. ^ "RECORDS | Shortest performances".
  16. ^ "Eleanor Parker in Deal at Metro: Actress Signs Five-Year Pact With Studio – Will Appear in Gordon-Kanin Comedy". The New York Times. August 1, 1952. p. 9.
  17. ^ Hopper, Hedda (May 8, 1953). "Eleanor Parker Will Enact TV Narrator". Los Angeles Times. p. B10.
  18. ^ Scheuer, Philip K. (February 28, 1954). "Eleanor Likes Her Co-workers and the Feeling's Mutual". Los Angeles Times. p. D1.
  19. ^ Schallert, Edwin (March 29, 1957). "Eleanor Parker Plans War Heroine Picture; Maria Schell Weds Soon". Los Angeles Times. p. A7.
  20. ^ Barnes, Aleene (May 15, 1960). "TV Debut: Eleanor Parker in Hemingway Story". Los Angeles Times. p. O3.
  21. ^ "How to Steal the World (1968) – Sutton Roley – Cast and Crew". AllMovie.
  22. ^ "Eleanor Parker's Double Trauma". Los Angeles Times. September 4, 1969. p. f18.
  23. ^ a b Pal Joey, 1976 Revival at Circle in the Square "Replacements" at IBDB
  24. ^ "Eleanor Parker – Hollywood Walk of Fame". October 25, 2019.
  25. ^ "California, County Marriages, 1850-1953". FamilySearch.
  26. ^ "Obituary for Raymond N. Hirsch".
  27. ^ Yes he Cannes: Woodlands teen's film goes international Archived February 5, 2015, at the Wayback Machine
  28. ^ McClelland 1989, p. 20
  29. ^ Motion Picture and Television Magazine, November 1952, p. 33, Ideal Publishers
  30. ^ Bernstein, Adam (December 9, 2013). "Eleanor Parker, Oscar-nominated actress and baroness in 'Sound of Music', dies at 91".
  31. ^ "Those Were the Days". Nostalgia Digest. 42 (4): 35. Autumn 2016.


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