Eleanor Parker was an American actress of great depth and versatility who appeared in many movies and television series over 5 decades from 1941. During the 1950's she was nominated three times for the Best Actress Academy Award. Her best remembered role is as Baroness Elsa Schrader in 'The Sound of Music' in 1965.
BiographyShe was born Eleanor Jean Parker on June 26, 1922, in Cedarville, Ohio. Her father was a mathematics teacher and she had two elder siblings. The family moved to East Cleveland, Ohio and she attended Shaw High School where she got her first taste of acting, performing in school plays. She fell in love with the stage and her earliest ambition was to become an actress. To this end, at age 15 she began attending the Rice Summer Theatre on Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts.
Movie ActressAfter graduating when she was 18 she continued her acting education at the Pasadena Playhouse in California whilst gaining stage experience in summer stock in Cleveland. In 1941 she was given a screen test by Warner Brothers and signed a contract with the studio. She technically made her movie debut in the same year with a bit part in the Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland hit, 'They Died with Their Boots On' but the scenes in which she appeared were not used. Her actual first appearance on film was in 1942 in 'Soldiers in White', a short intended as a wartime tribute to the Army Medical Corps. She appeared in several such shorts as part of her movie education, until she finally appeared in her first feature 'Busses Roar' later in 1942. (The plural of "bus" is "buses" - the spelling error was deliberate.)
Movie StarEleanor was an immediate hit with the movie-going public and gave polished performances in her early movies such as 'Mission to Moscow' in 1943 and 'The Very Thought of You' the following year and by the time she appeared in 'Pride of the Marines' in 1945, she had become a top-billed movie star.
Her successes continued through the rest of the decade. She received good reviews for her performance in the Bette Davis role of Mildred Rogers in the otherwise disappointing remake of 'Of Human Bondage' in 1946 and co-starred with Ronald Reagan in 'Voice of the Turtle' in 1947.
Academy RecognitionEleanor was now a full Hollywood star and her choice of scripts dramatically improved resulting in a purple patch during the early 1950's when she was nominated three times for the Best Actress Academy Award.
Her first nomination came in 1950 for the prison film 'Caged', in which she brilliantly shows her character's transformation from vulnerable innocent to hardened convict. She received her second nomination the following year for her strong performance opposite Kirk Douglas in 'Detective Story' and her third came in 1955 in 'Interrupted Melody' playing an Australian opera star battling with polio. Also in 1955 she made an unforgettable impression as Frank Sinatra's supposedly crippled wife in the powerful 'The Man with the Golden Arm', directed by Otto Preminger.
Eleanor continued to give high quality performances in good movies such as 'The King and Four Queens' with Clark Gable in 1956 and 'A Hole in the Head' in 1959, costarring Frank Sinatra. She also appeared in 'Home from the Hill' with Robert Mitchum in 1960 and the popular 'Return to Peyton Place' the following year, but her movie career had by now peaked. Her last starring role was opposite Dana Andrews in 'Madison Avenue' in 1962. After that her movie career gradually tailed off with solid displays in secondary roles, most memorably as the Baroness Schraeder in the Oscar-winning 'The Sound of Music in 1965. She also featured in the noirish 'Warning Shot' in 1967 and the stylish thriller 'Eye of the Cat' in 1969. Her last movie appearance was in 1979 in the disappointing 'Sunburn' starring Farrah Fawcett Majors.
Television CareerEleanor first appeared on television in 1960 the Buick-Electra Playhouse drama series, playing a nun, and gradually television became a bigger part of her acting career. During the 1960's she appeared on many series such as 'The Eleventh Hour', 'Kraft Suspense Theatre' and 'The Man from Uncle'. In 1969 she began a run of 16 episodes of Bracken's World, for which she received a Golden Globe Best Actress nomination, and during the rest of her career she featured in many made for TV movies such as 'Home for the Holidays' in 1972, 'Guess Who's Coming to Dinner' in 1975 and 'Once Upon a Spy' in 1980. Her last credited appearance was in the 1991 TV movie 'Dead on the Money'.
PersonalEleanor married four times, firstly in 1943 to Fred Losse, a dentist in the US Navy whom she met whilst filming 'Mission to Moscow' in 1943. The marriage was short-lived and they divorced in 1944. Her second husband was producer, Bert Friedlob whom she married in 1946. It was Friedlob's second marriage also. The couple had two girls and a boy and divorced in 1953.
Eleanor was married from 1954 to 1965 to Paul Clemens, an American portrait painter. The marriage produced one child, Paul Clemens, who became a movie and TV actor. Her final marriage was in 1966 to Raymond N. Hirsch, an executive of the Schubert Theatre Company. The marriage ended in 2001 with Hirsch's death.
Eleanor Parker died from pneumonia on December 9, 2013 in Palm Springs, California. She was aged 91 years.
Eleanor Parker Academy AwardsNo Wins:
Three Unsuccessful Nominations:
Best Actress ... Caged (1950)
Best Actress ... Detective Story (1952)
Best Actress ... Interrupted Melody (1955)
Eleanor Parker Filmography
They Died with Their Boots On
Soldiers in White (Short)
The Big Shot
Men of the Sky (Short)
Vaudeville Days (Short)(uncredited)
The Mysterious Doctor
Mission to Moscow
Between Two Worlds
Atlantic City (uncredited)
Crime by Night
The Last Ride
The Very Thought of You
Pride of the Marines
Of Human Bondage
Never Say Goodbye
Escape Me Never
Always Together (uncredited)
The Voice of the Turtle
The Woman in White
It's a Great Feeling
A Millionaire for Christy
Above and Beyond
Escape from Fort Bravo
The Naked Jungle
Valley of the Kings
Many Rivers to Cross
The Man with the Golden Arm
The King and Four Queens
The Seventh Sin
A Hole in the Head