Monday, December 09, 2013

Eleanor Parker, 1922-2013

I was greatly saddened to learn today of the passing of three-time Oscar nominee Eleanor Parker, an actress I hold in such high regard that five years ago she was included on my list of 20 Favorite Actresses.

As I wrote earlier this year, Eleanor Parker has been part of my moviegoing life since I first started going to the movies. THE SOUND OF MUSIC (1965) was the second movie I ever saw, and that film probably had a bigger overall impact on my life than any other movie, for a whole host of reasons. Without a doubt, that movie is part of the reason I'm sitting here writing this blog today. And most certainly, THE SOUND OF MUSIC is the source of more happy moviegoing memories for me than any other film. I thus owe Eleanor Parker a great debt for her role in making a film which has been so incredibly special in my life.

In more recent years I came to appreciate the depth of Parker's career and her chameleon-like transformations in so many wonderful films. My favorite Parker role may be her early work as the charming bride of soldier Dennis Morgan in THE VERY THOUGHT OF YOU (1944)...or perhaps it's her wonderfully daffy comedic role in THE VOICE OF THE TURTLE (1947), playing a woman afraid of her own kitchen utensils...or her saucy turn as the flame-haired actress in SCARAMOUCHE (1952), looking amazing in Technicolor...or perhaps it's when she battles killer ants with Charlton Heston in THE NAKED JUNGLE (1954).

The actors who played the von Trapp children in THE SOUND OF MUSIC used their joint "Sound of Music 7" Twitter account to express sorrow over Parker's passing, while Nicholas Hammond (Friedrich) Tweeted on his personal account that Parker was "a gracious beautiful true film star." Several of the other actors from the film Tweeted similar sentiments.

My fellow musicals fan, Jessica, has posted a lovely tribute to Eleanor Parker at Comet Over Hollywood.

Farewell and thank you to a most remarkable lady.

Update: Turner Classic Movies has announced that there will be a 14-hour tribute to Eleanor Parker on Tuesday, December 17th. The seven films shown will be THE VERY THOUGHT OF YOU (1944), OF HUMAN BONDAGE (1946), THE WOMAN IN WHITE (1948), CAGED (1950), SCARAMOUCHE (1952), INTERRUPTED MELODY (1955), and HOME FROM THE HILL (1960). Parker was nominated for two of her Oscars for CAGED and INTERRUPTED MELODY.

TCM also informed me via Twitter that they were able to incorporate Parker into the annual "TCM Remembers" which debuts tonight, December 10th. My understanding is that TCM Remembers will air sometime between 4:45 and 5:00 p.m. Pacific Time. (Update: Here's the link for TCM Remembers.) There's also a separate "TCM Remembers" solo tribute to Eleanor Parker currently airing on TCM. (Update: Here's a link to the Parker tribute at the TCM website.)

Additionally, Parker fans might like to visit John DiLeo's 2012 tribute to the actress at ScreenSavers.

Here is the obituary from the Los Angeles Times.

Eleanor Parker movies reviewed here over the past few years: MEN OF THE SKY (1942), SOLDIERS IN WHITE (1942), BUSSES ROAR (1942), CRIME BY NIGHT (1944), THE VERY THOUGHT OF YOU (1944), PRIDE OF THE MARINES (1945), NEVER SAY GOODBYE (1946), THE VOICE OF THE TURTLE (1947), IT'S A GREAT FEELING (1949), A MILLIONAIRE FOR CHRISTY (1951), DETECTIVE STORY (1951), ABOVE AND BEYOND (1952), SCARAMOUCHE (1952), ESCAPE FROM FORT BRAVO (1953) (also here), MANY RIVERS TO CROSS (1955), THE KING AND FOUR QUEENS (1956), and THE SOUND OF MUSIC (1965).

Related post: TCM Star of the Month: Eleanor Parker (June 2013).

Update: Here are reviews of parker in THE LAST RIDE (1944), CHAIN LIGHTNING (1950), VALLEY OF THE KINGS (1954), and WARNING SHOT (1967).


Blogger Vienna said...

Such sad news. She was a fine actress.

12:00 AM  
Blogger Jessica Pickens said...

"Chameleon like" is a perfect description. I love that we both have the same favorite Parker films :)
Though I'm sad, I'm happy that she seemed to live a long and happy life.

7:34 AM  
Blogger DKoren said...

Very sad news. She is one of my favorites as well, always a joy to watch.

8:41 AM  
Blogger Melissa Clark said...

I'm so glad they'll be showing "The Very Thought of You." I've wanted to see that one for a long time and haven't had a chance.

Thanks for a lovely tribute to a wonderful actress. Even if she'd only played the Baroness in "The Sound of Music" I'd have always had a soft spot for her, but she was so much more than just that role.

9:05 AM  
Blogger Caftan Woman said...

I have yet to meet anyone who doesn't feel that Stewart Granger in "Scaramouche" made a huge mistake in romantic choice at the end of that film. As the hubby puts it, "Janet Leigh is no slouch, but Eleanor Parker is the babe to end all babes!"

12:50 PM  
Blogger Terence Towles Canote said...

I don't only think t Stewart Granger made a mistake in Scaramouche, but I think Christopher Plummer made one in The Sound of Music! Speaking as a fellow, anytime you have a choice between two women and one of them is Eleanor, you're going to choose Eleanor!

Anyhow, she was so incredibly talented. She had the talent of a character actress and the looks of a leading lady. Wonderful tribute, Laura!

4:19 PM  
Blogger GunsDonovan said...

@Caftan Woman, tell your hubby, I would hate to live on the difference.

4:34 PM  
Blogger Blake Lucas said...

This is a little belated I know but because she was also a favorite of mine I just wanted to throw some affection her way. And I appreciated rereading this because I had overlooked there was a separate "TCM Remembers" for her and as I'm sure it will be on during the Tribute tomorrow, I'll pick up and watch it then. I must say the Tribute films are a good selection, even if not all equal, in showing her range and evolution over the period the 7 films cover, and begins and ends conspicuously well.

Eleanor Parker is one of those actresses who was always with me and I always enjoyed in the 1950s, though didn't catch up her earlier 40s one until later, and I like her all through in any key. My favorites largely overlap yours, Laura, as I also favor the unheralded "The Very Thought of You" (her deserved breakthrough), "Scaramouche" (who wouldn't love that wonderful movie!) and the absolutely terrific "The Naked Jungle" in which the plot of rampaging ants dovetails so perfectly with the rampaging neurosis of Charlton Heston's puritanical plantation owner after mail order bride Eleanor Parker comes to live with him. For another movie though, I think you underrate "Many Rivers to Cross"--frontier comedy I always enjoyed and in which you found Parker's character annoying but I found her captivating, amusing, and a lot of fun. I looked up your review of this, and well, I like it better, and still do.

But I really believe the best movie she is in, a great movie, is the melodrama HOME FROM THE HILL directed by Vincente Minnelli, and I'm partly writing because this is last film on the Tribute tomorrow so hope to motivate you or someone to see it or record it. Parker plays Robert Mitchum's wife in an appropriately intense melodramatic key (though she has effective quieter moments too), and I feel she never got quite enough credit for her contribution (the three male leads, George Peppard and George Hamilton along with Mitchum, have come in for plenty of deserved praise--Mitchum, in truth, is at this peak in it). The movie is for me one of Minnelli's two greatest melodramas, along with SOME CAME RUNNING, which it immediately followed in his career. It's a very special movie, and very beautiful. Parker shares the moving final scene with one of the three male leads (but I won't say which one!) and it will make a good end for anyone who watches those Parker films on the tribute chronologically.

5:58 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi Blake,

Thanks so much for taking the time to leave your thoughts on this favorite actress. I'm glad to know I was able to point you in the direction of her special "TCM Remembers."

It's fun to hear which favorites we share, and given that several people including yourself have told me how much they like MANY RIVERS TO CROSS, I wonder if I was just not in the right frame of mind when I saw it. I'll definitely be returning to it in the future to see -- I certainly love both Parker and Robert Taylor.

I've also been wanting to revisit THE NAKED JUNGLE which is such a tremendously entertaining movie.

Thanks as well for your recommendation of HOME FOR THE HILL tomorrow. A while back I got a great deal on the Mitchum set which includes it -- one more film I need to be sure to see, and I hope other readers will record it tomorrow and check it out, it sounds very interesting.

Thanks, as always for sharing your detailed thoughts, I always enjoy them!

Best wishes,

11:28 PM  

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