Thursday, February 12, 2009

Eleanor Parker

Actress Eleanor Parker (b. 1922) is largely forgotten nowadays, though she was a well-respected actress, especially during her 1950s prime. Often cast as the loyal but suffering wife (Detective Story; Above and Beyond), her most (in)famous role may be as a prisoner in 1950’s Caged, better known today for its camp value than for the Oscar nominations that Parker and co-star Hope Emerson received. I find it to be well photographed and with riveting performances by a well-known cast, which runs the gamut from Jane Darwell and Agnes Moorehead (ah-ha! That's why it's campy!!!) to Ellen Corby and Jan Sterling. Perhaps the female convict concept just lends itself to such sniggering and derision. Parker also received a Best Actress Oscar nod for 1951’s Detective Story, where she played Kirk Douglas’ loyal wife who nevertheless has a dark secret. 1955’s Interrupted Melody (a film I’ve yet to see) scored Parker her third and final Oscar nomination. Here she’s opera singer Marjorie Lawrence, who was stricken with polio at the prime of her career and fought gamely to return to the stage. 1955 would prove to be Parker's stellar year, as she appeared in The Man with the Golden Arm, Interrupted Melody, and a little gem called Many Rivers to Cross.

Parker is an actress I'm interested in because she wasn't the sex vamp or villainess, and not the "good girl" in the same vein as June Allyson or Doris Day. Her career is largely based on serving the thankless role of the loyal, supportive wife, a characterization that was emphasized in the 1950s. It hasn't aged well, as that type of woman doesn't exist anymore, and if it did, it would be frowned upon in this post-Feminist era. But I can imagine that time period more clearly because of Parker's place in it. Perhaps I find myself wishing that certain aspects of that era would make a comeback. Whatever the case may be, Eleanor Parker was always an entertaining, reliable and-- most of all-- sympathetic performer; and well worth discovering.

Selected Filmography:

Pride of the Marines (1945)
Of Human Bondage (1946)
Caged (1950)
Detective Story (1951)
Scaramouche (1952)
Above and Beyond (1952)
Valley of the Kings (1954)
Interrupted Melody (1955)
The Man with the Golden Arm (1955)
The Seventh Sin (1957)
Home from the Hill (1960)
The Sound of Music (1965)

Thanks to Millie at Classic Forever for inspiring this post…

By His Side: Eleanor Parker and John Garfield in 1945's "Pride of the Marines."


  1. Great post, C.K. Dexter Haven! You're descripton of lady Parker and why you believe you like her so much is simply divine.
    I've put both "Caged" and "Detective Story" on my films-to-see-list!

  2. For some inexplicit reason Warner’s cheapened “Caged” by including it in a box set called “Camp Classics: Women in Peril” with two horrible films called “The Big Cube” (Lana Turner) and “Trog” (Joan Crawford). While these two films can be considered camp, “Caged” (also available as a stand-alone DVD) is a more serious look at women in prison. Certainly, above the level of the 70’s B films like “Women in Cages”, “The Big Doll House” etc. True, it follows the standard innocent young girl unjustly sentence to prison who becomes harden and criminal finding her only way out is through a life of crime however, the film rises above the level of exploitation with good performances by Parker and Hope Emerson.

    Parker was a terrific actress who never got the big role she deserved to break out from the pack.

    Excellent Pick C.K.!

  3. That's a really cool post. I've never really know much about her. I enjoyed this one. She's quite beautiful. Love that pic.

  4. She was absolutely stunning in the "Naked Jungle" with Chuck Heston, and totally beautiful and sophisticated (albeit a bit sly) in "The Sound of Music."

  5. she's always worth watching--and quite fascinating in The Woman in White

  6. I absolutely adore Eleanor Parker! She is definitely in my top 20 favorite classic actresses. I saw her in Caged and thought she was excellent. You should check her out in Between Two Worlds, a very interesting film.

  7. I think Eleanor Parker, like some others, actually quit acting largely because the loyal wife roles were all they were offered, there was a real scarcety of good women's roles, for decades after, Hayes."

    My favorite movie since I was a little kid is, "Detective Story."

    I also recommend, "Escape From Fort Bravo," She is wonderful in it and her scenes with William Holden are hot stuff.


  8. I thought her beauty was astounding. She had extraordinary elegance, style and grace.

  9. I have her performance in Scaramouche.. funny
    performance and man she was Beautiful( excuse me, IS beautiful)

  10. This is indeed a real beauty and with a meaning in her eyes too, not like mostly vulgar and androgenous modern actresses, that people without criteria are forced to consider pretty by the industry. Besides, she was an excellent, classy and elegant professional. I'm glad to discover that there are sill people who love film as an art and therefore Hollywood golden age.

  11. Eleanor Parker is a forgotten talent, who most people don't realize was pretty popular in the late 40's through the late 50's. It's a shame people have forgotten her... if only for the fact she is one of the most beautiful woman to ever grace a movie screen

  12. I know she was what every women really wishes she could look like to every man, a women with elegant class and strength. She was beautiful classy sexy in "Naked Jungle" What a figure! What man could resist such a woman. She had the kind talent and grace that is really rare. Hollywood missed the bus with this great actress.I could think of 10 films she should of been cast in. Just remembering her I would love to have a whole day of her movies. I still cherish her.Great! actress!Forever a devoted fan. Alberta Rivera San Francisco,Ca



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