Parker, whose ability to tackle many kinds of roles including heavy
drama and light comedy earned her the nickname the "woman of a
thousand faces," died of complications from pneumonia at a medical
facility near her home in Palm Springs, California, on Monday, said
family friend Richard Gale.
The radiant redhead from Ohio never won an Academy Award but was
nominated as best actress three times in a five-year period. Those
nominations came for playing a horrified prison inmate in "Caged"
(1950), the neglected wife of a cop portrayed by Douglas in director
William Wyler's "Detective Story" (1951), and as polio-stricken
opera singer Marjorie Lawrence in "Interrupted Melody" (1955) with
One of her best roles came in another 1955 film, portraying drug
addict Sinatra's spiteful crippled wife in director Otto Preminger's
"The Man With the Golden Arm." Parker also co-starred with Sinatra
in director Frank Capra's "A Hole in the Head" (1959).
"He can be a bad boy but he does it charmingly," Parker said of
Sinatra in a 1969 Baltimore Sun interview.
She had a secondary role, playing the child-hating Baroness Elsa
Schraeder, in her most enduring movie — the 1965 musical "The Sound
of Music" starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer. It became
the highest grossing film to date.
Parker's co-stars included some of the top leading men in Hollywood:
Clark Gable ("The King and Four Queens"), Humphrey Bogart ("Chain
Lightning"), Errol Flynn ("Never Say Goodbye" and "Escape Me
Never"), Charlton Heston ("The Naked Jungle"), Robert Mitchum ("Home
from the Hill"), Ronald Reagan ("The Voice of the Turtle"), as well
as Sinatra, Douglas and Ford.
"HE USED TO CALL ME GRANDMA"
Parker fondly recalled working with the rakish Flynn when she was in
"I guess I was a little old-fashioned for Errol. He used to call me
'Grandma,'" Parker was quoted as saying in Doug McClelland's 2003
biography, "Eleanor Parker: Woman of a Thousand Faces."
[to top of second column]
"Once, while we were waiting for a scene to be set
up, he was holding a glass of what looked like milk. I was thirsty
from rehearsing and asked for a sip. I nearly choked! The drink was
mostly gin. But I liked Errol. He treated you the way you wanted to
be treated," she said.
Parker's last starring role came in "Madison Avenue" (1962), and her
last movie was the Farrah Fawcett stinker "Sunburn" (1979).
Despite her reputation as a versatile and respected actress who
worked with A-list directors and top actors in about three dozen
movies, Parker's fame diminished as the decades passed.
"I've often wondered why she did not then and does not now receive
greater recognition," screenwriter William Ludwig wrote in a forward
for McClelland's biography. "Two reasons occur to me. She never
played Eleanor Parker but was always the character in the script.
Audiences did not think of her but thought of the character.
"The other reason, as I think about it, is that she
so thoroughly prepared a role that she made her work look easy, the
way Fred Astaire made his dance routines look easy. The sweat is
never visible on the screen. It comes in preparation, not in
performance," said Ludwig, who won an Academy Award for his script
for Parker's "Interrupted Melody."
Parker was born to a middle-class family on June 26, 1922, in
Cedarville, Ohio. She started acting in school plays as a girl and
later moved to California to study acting at the Pasadena Playhouse.
At the playhouse, while merely sitting in the audience during a
show, she was spotted by a studio scout and was signed by Warner
Bros. in 1941.
Parker was married four times and had four children.
(Editing by Mary Milliken and Leslie
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