My earliest memories of Eleanor Parker were of her TV work. She was Sally Field's oldest sister in a TV movie I enjoyed as a kid, a nifty Christmas murder mystery entitled Home for the Holidays. Yes, Eleanor was a bit too old at that point to Sally's sister, but somehow, she made it work. I also am a child of the Aaron Spelling era. God Bless Aaron Spelling! Thanks to him, I saw stars like Ms. Parker on Love Boat and Fantasy Island. Even as a kid, I knew there was something special about the Golden Age Hollywood stars Spelling showcased. Eleanor Parker was a natural fit for these shows and seeing this classy lady made me look for her movies on TV. In addition, my Dad liked Eleanor Parker so he also piqued my interest in her.
The first movie I saw with Eleanor Parker was The Sound of Music. I must admit that understood why Captain Von Trapp (Christopher Plummer) would be engaged to this woman. Parker's Baroness was oozing with sophistication. Yes, I was ok with Von Trapp ending up with Maria, but I felt sorry for the Baroness. The movie that made a true fan had to be Lizzie. Parker plays a woman with multiple personality disorder. I was amazed by performance. Unfortunately, this film was released the same year as Joanne Woodward's The Three Faces of Eve, so it tends to be forgotten. If TCM shows this movie, do yourself a favor and watch it.
As time passed, I had the opportunity to see more of Ms. Parker's films. I think my personal favorite is Between Two Worlds. Eleanor Parker showed at a young age she could hold her own in highly talented cast which included Paul Henreid, John Garfield, Sydney Greenstreet, and Edmund Gwenn. But I also enjoy Scaramouche, Valley of the Kings, and The King and Four Queens. These films are wonderful examples of Parker's star power and screen presence . By the 1950's, it was clear that Eleanor Parker had become of one Hollywood's top leading ladies.
TCM will honor Eleanor Parker on December 17th with a mini-marathon of her films from 6 am to 8pm. There is no modern version of Eleanor Parker. She was a unique actress. Parker had the ability to play in gritty films like Detective Story and The Man with the Golden Arm. However, she was equally solid in westerns like Escape From Fort Bravo or adventure films like The Naked Jungle. Eleanor Parker was one of the last great stars of old Hollywood and she will be missed.
RIP: POLLY BERGEN
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