Eleanor Parker

Eleanor Parker

Parker in 1948
Born Eleanor Jean Parker
(1922-06-26)June 26, 1922
Cedarville, Ohio, U.S.
Died December 9, 2013(2013-12-09) (aged 91)
Palm Springs, California, U.S.
Cause of death Pneumonia
Occupation Actress, Singer
Years active 1941–1991
Spouse(s) Fred Losee (1943–1944; divorced)
Bert E. Friedlob (1946–1953; divorced; 3 children)
Paul Clemens (1954–1965; divorced; 1 child)
Raymond N. Hirsch (1966–2001; his death)
Children Susan Eleanor Friedlob
Sharon Anne Friedlob
Richard Parker Friedlob
Paul Day Clemens

Eleanor Jean Parker (June 26, 1922 – December 9, 2013) was an American actress who appeared in some 80 movies and television series.[1] An actress of notable versatility, she was called Woman of a Thousand Faces by Doug McClelland, author of a biography of Parker by the same title.

At the age of 18, Parker was signed by Warner Brothers in 1941. She was nominated three times for the Academy Award for Best Actress in the 1950s, for Caged (1950), Detective Story (1951) and Interrupted Melody (1955). Her role in Caged also won her the Volpi Cup for Best Actress at the Venice Film Festival. One of her most memorable roles was that of "the Baroness" in The Sound of Music (1965).


Parker was born on June 26, 1922, in Cedarville, Ohio, the daughter of Lola (Isett) and Lester Day Parker.[2] 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."[3]

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. [3]

Warner Bros

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.[4]

She was cast that year in the film They Died with Their Boots On,[5] but her scenes were cut.[6] Her actual film debut was as Nurse Ryan in Soldiers in White in 1942.

She was given some decent roles in B films, Busses Roar (1942) and The Mysterious Doctor (1943), and had a small role in an expensive production, Mission to Moscow (1943) as Emlen Davies. This impressed Warners enough so when Joan Leslie was held up on Rhapsody in Blue, Parker replaced her in a strong role in a prestige production, Between Two Worlds (1944), playing the suicidal wife of Paul Henreid.

She stayed in support roles for Crime by Night (1944) and The Last Ride (1944), then was given the starring role opposite Dennis Morgan in The Very Thought of You (1944), replacing Ida Lupino. She was considered enough of a "name" to be 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 directed Edmund Goulding called Parker one of the five greatest actresses in America[7] previews were not favourable and the film sat on the shelf for two years before being released to an underwhleming reception. However in 1953 she called it her favourite role.[8]

Parker later said the "big break" of her career was when she was cast opposite John Garfield in Pride of the Marines (1945). "It was a great part and who wouldn't look good with John Garfield," she late said. "He was absolutely wonderful."[9] 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.[10]

She made the comedy Voice of the Turtle (1947) 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.[11]

Parker then had two years off, during which 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."[12]

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."[12]

Parker broke the champagne bottle on the nose of the California Zephyr train, to mark its inaugural journey from San Francisco on March 19, 1949.[13]

Parker heard about a women in prison film Warners were making, Caged (1950), and actively 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. 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.[14]


Parker's career outside of Warners started badly with Valentino (1951) playing a fictionalised wife of Rudolph Valentino for producer Edward Small. She tried a comedy at 20th Century Fox with Fred MacMurray, A Millionaire for Christy (1951) (originally called The Golden Goose).

In 1951 Parker signed a contract with Paramount for one film a year, with an option for outside films.[15] 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 Oscar in 1951 for her performance.


She followed Detective Story with her portrayal of an actress in love with a swashbuckling nobleman (played by Stewart Granger) in Scaramouche (1952), a role once intended for Ava Gardner. Parker later claimed that Granger was the only person she didn't get along with during her entire career.[9] 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 solid hit and while Parker was making a third film for MGM, Escape from Fort Bravo (1953), when she signed a five year contract to the studio.[16]

She was named as star of a Sidney Sheldon script, My Most Intimate Friend[17] and of One More Time, from a script by Ruth Gordon and Garson Kanin directed by George Cukor but neither was not made. Back at Paramount, Parker starred with Charlton Heston as a 1900s mail-order bride in The Naked Jungle (1954), directed by Byron Haskin and produced by George Pal.

She returned to MGM where she was reunited with Taylor in an Egyptian adventure film, Valley of the Kings (1954), and a 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."[8]

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 Woman in White. She had commitments to make two films a year at MGM and one a year at Paramount. "Personally I prefer to be under contract," she said.[18]

MGM gave her one of her best roles as opera singer Marjorie Lawrence in Interrupted Melody (1955). This was a big hit and earned Parker a third Oscar nomination; she later said it was her favorite film.[9]

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, the supposedly wheelchair-bound 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 Raoul Walsh-directed Western 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 in the role originated by Greta Garbo and once intended for Ava Gardner. Both films flopped at MGM and Parker's plans to produce her own film, L'Eternelle, about French resistance fighters, did not realise.[19]

Later films

Parker supported Frank Sinatra in a 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. That was made by 20th Century Fox who also 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 60s she worked increasingly in television, with the occasional film role such as Panic Button (1964).

Parker's best-known screen role was playing the Baroness Schraeder in the 1965 Oscar-winning musical The Sound of Music. The Baroness was famously and poignantly unsuccessful in keeping the affections of Georg von Trapp (played by Christopher Plummer) after he falls in love with Maria (played by Julie Andrews).

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, television would occupy more of her energies.

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

In 1963, Parker appeared in the NBC medical drama about psychiatry 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 the ABC drama about psychiatry, Breaking Point. In 1968, she portrayed a spy in How to Steal the World, a film originally shown as a two-part episode on NBC's The Man from U.N.C.L.E..

In 1969–70, 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."[21]

She also appeared in the Ghost Story episode "Half a Death" (1973), a suspense-thriller about a wealthy woman reconciling the lives of her two daughters.

Parker starred in a number of theatrical productions, including the role of Margo Channing in the Broadway musical version of the film All About Eve, Applause. The role was originally played in the musical by Lauren Bacall and in All About Eve by Bette Davis. In 1976, she played Maxine in the Ahmanson Theater revival of The Night of the Iguana. She quit the Circle in the Square Theatre revival of Pal Joey during previews. She wrote the preface to the book How Your Mind Can Keep You Well, a meditation technique developed by Roy Masters. She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6340 Hollywood Boulevard.

Personal life

Parker was married four times:

She was the grandmother of one-time child actor Chase Parker.[23]


Eleanor Parker died on December 9, 2013 at a medical facility in Palm Springs, California of complications of pneumonia. She was 91.[24]


Parker was raised a Protestant and later converted to Judaism, 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 later embraced Messianic Judaism 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 Roy's book, How Your Mind Can Keep You Well.[25]

Academy Award nominations


Year Title Character Notes
1941 They Died with Their Boots On Bit Part (scenes deleted)
1942 The Big Shot Telephone Operator
Busses Roar (1942) Norma
Soldiers in White Nurse Ryan short subject
Men of the Sky (1942) Mrs. Frank Bickley short subject
Vaudeville Days (1942) 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 (1944) 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
The Voice of the Turtle Sally Middleton
1948 The Woman in White Laurie Fairlie
Ann Catherick
1949 It's a Great Feeling (1949) Herself cameo
1950 Chain Lightning Joan "Jo" Holloway
Caged Marie Allen
Won-Volpi Cup
Nominated-Academy Award for Best Actress
Three Secrets Susan Adele Connors Chase
1951 Valentino Joan Carlisle
Sarah Gray
A Millionaire for Christy Christabel "Christy" Sloane
Detective Story Mary McLeod Nominated-Academy Award for Best Actress
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 Nominated – Academy Award for Best Actress
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
1962 Madison Avenue Anne Tremaine
Checkmate (TV series) Marion Bannion
Gussie Hill
episode: The Renaissance of Gussie Hill
1963 The Eleventh Hour (U.S. TV series) Connie Folsom episode: Why Am I Grown So Cold?
Nominated – Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Single Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
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 (TV series) 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
1969 Eye of the Cat Aunt Danny
Hans Brinker Dame Brinker
Bracken's World Sylvia Caldwell episodes 1-16
Nominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Television Series Drama
1971 Maybe I'll Come Home in the Spring Claire Miller
Vanished (TV movie) Sue Greer
1972 Circle of Fear Paula Burgess episode: Half a Death
Home for the Holidays Alex Morgan
1973 The Great American Beauty Contest (TV movie) Peggy Lowery
1975 Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (TV movie) Christine Drayton
1978 Hawaii Five-O Mrs. Kincaid episode: The Big Aloha
The Bastard Lady Amberly
1979 Sunburn Mrs. Thoren
She's Dressed to Kill (TV movie) Regine Danton
1980 Once Upon a Spy (TV movie) The Lady
Vega$ Laurie Bishop episode: A Deadly Victim
1981 Madame X (1981 film) Katherine Richardson
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 (TV series) 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 (TV movie) Catherine Blake

Source: "Eleanor Parker". IMDb. Retrieved 25 September 2013. 

Theatre Credits


  1. IMDB page
  2. 1 2 ELEANOR PARKER LIVES UP TO PLAN Hopper, Hedda. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 11 Nov 1951: E1.
  3. Scott, John L. (4 Jan 1948). "Eleanor Parker Nearing Turning Point of Career: 'Turtle' Star Facing Year of Decision". Los Angeles Times. p. B1.
  4. Hollywood.com biography
  5. Rotten Tomatoes biography
  6. "Director Lauds Eleanor Parker". Los Angeles Times. 16 July 1946. p. A3.
  7. 1 2 Thompson, Howard (11 Jan 1953). "MISS PARKER PLOTS A PLACID CAREER". New York Times. p. X5.
  8. 1 2 3 "Eleanor Parker: Incognito, but Invincible" (PDF). Noir City Sentinel. Summer 2010.
  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". New York Times. 6 Aug 1946. p. 18.
  10. "STUDIO SUSPENDS ELEANOR PARKER: Warner Brothers' Actress Said to Have Refused New Role -- Virginia Mayo in Place". New York Times. 31 July 1948. p. 9.
  11. 1 2 Schallert, Edwin (15 May 1949). "Eleanor Parker in Lively Return: Back on Job, Eleanor Parker Calls for True-to-Life Roles". Los Angeles Times. p. D1.
  12. IMDB biography
  13. Schallert, Edwin (1 Feb 1950). "Drama: 'All-Star Game' On Way; Lupino Has New Find; Parker Contract Ended". Los Angeles Times. p. A7.
  14. Scott, John L. (11 Feb 1951). "Eleanor Parker Goes 'Uncaged' in Comedy: Vacation From Heavy Drama Roles Also Answers Problem of Typing". Los Angeles Times. p. D3.
  15. "ELEANOR PARKER IN DEAL AT METRO: Actress Signs Five-Year Pact With Studio – Will Appear in Gordon-Kanin Comedy". New York Times. 1 Aug 1952. p. 9.
  16. Hopper, Hedda (8 May 1953). "Eleanor Parker Will Enact TV Narrator". Los Angeles Times. p. B10.
  17. Scheuer, Philip K. (28 Feb 1954). "Eleanor Likes Her Co-workers and the Feeling's Mutual". Los Angeles Times. p. D1.
  18. Schallert, Edwin (29 Mar 1957). "Eleanor Parker Plans War Heroine Picture; Maria Schell Weds Soon". Los Angeles Times. p. A7.
  19. Barnes, Aleene (15 May 1960). "TV DEBUT: Eleanor Parker in Hemingway Story PARKER". Los Angeles Times. p. O3.
  20. "Eleanor Parker's Double Trauma". Los Angeles Times. 4 Sep 1969. p. f18.
  21. Obituary for Raymond N. Hirsch, legacy.com/obituaries/chicagotribune (2001)
  22. Yes he Cannes: Woodlands teen's film goes international
  23. "Eleanor Parker, Oscar-nominated Actress and Baroness in ‘Sound of Music,’ Dies at 91," washingtonpost.com, 9 December 2013
  24. Doug McClelland, Eleanor Parker: Woman of a Thousand Faces, Scarecrow Press 1989, p. 20
  25. IMDB awards
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