Palms Springs area resident Eleanor Parker, who turns 91 next June 26, was one of the best actresses of Hollywood's studio era. Strangely, Parker isn't nearly as well-remembered today as she should be despite three Best Actress Academy Award nominations (Caged, 1950; Detective Story, 1951; Interrupted Melody, 1955), a number of box office and/or critical hits, and a key role in one of the biggest blockbusters of all time (The Sound of Music). Hopefully, the 34 Eleanor Parker movies Turner Classic Movies will be showing each Monday this month — Parker is TCM's Star of the Month of June — will help to introduce the actress to a broader 21st-century audience. (See also: June 2013 Eleanor Parker movies: Detective Story, Valentino, The Oscar.)
Eleanor Parker movies
"When I am spotted somewhere it means that my characterizations haven't covered up Eleanor Parker the person. I prefer it the other way around," Parker once said. In fact, the title of Doug McClelland's 1989 Eleanor Parker bio, Eleanor Parker: Woman of a Thousand Faces, refers to how the actress was known at the time: a versatile performer who could play comedy or drama, sweet and innocent or vicious and jaded; she could look incredibly beautiful or — well, slightly-less-than incredibly beautiful.
In truth, Eleanor Parker was no Lon Chaney. After stepping on a spider, no one in his/her right mind would worry if that could have been Eleanor Parker. But versatile she was, even if some of her performances weren't as good — or as excellent — as others. You can check out a handful of Parker's "thousand faces" tonight, beginning with the enjoyable Warner Bros. B thriller Busses Roar (1942), featuring cold-hearted saboteurs, oil-yielding fields, and roaring busses.
In Delmer Daves' The Very Thought of You (1944), the recently married Parker finds herself at odds with her family, while in the now utterly forgotten Edward A. Blatt's Between Two Worlds (1944), she and fellow luxury-liner passengers John Garfield and Paul Henreid, among others, try to figure out where they are, why they're there, and where in hell (or heaven or purgatory) they're going in this smooth remake of Outward Bound (1930).
The Michael Curtiz-directed Mission to Moscow (1943), starring Walter Huston as American ambassador Joseph E. Davies in the Soviet Union, got Warner Bros. head Jack Warner in trouble during the anti-Communist hysteria of the post-World War II years, while a headless ghost toplines the mystery thriller The Mysterious Doctor (1943), featuring Parker and John Loder.
Crime by Night (1944), a programmer starring Jerome Cowan and Jane Wyman, is the best one of the lot. This surprisingly clever and well-acted crime comedy is reminiscent of — and in my humble opinion is superior to — MGM's William Powell-Myrna Loy Thin Man movies. In a supporting role, Eleanor Parker is duly eclipsed by leading man Cowan and supporting player Faye Emerson. (See also: "Eleanor Parker, Jean Arthur, Patricia Neal: Forgotten Actresses Montage" and Eleanor Parker among actresses who've never received an Honorary Oscar.)
Below is Eleanor Parker's Turner Classic Movies June 3 film schedule (Pacific Time), via the TCM website.
Eleanor Parker film schedule
5: 00 PM BUSSES ROAR (1942). A saboteur rigs a bomb to destroy a strategic oil field. Director: D. Ross Lederman. Cast: Richard Travis, Julie Bishop, Charles Drake, Eleanor Parker, Elisabeth Fraser, Richard Fraser.
6: 15 PM THE VERY THOUGHT OF YOU (1944). In-law problems threaten a wartime marriage. Director: Delmer Daves. Cast: Dennis Morgan, Eleanor Parker, Dane Clark, Faye Emerson, Beulah Bondi, Henry Travers, William Prince, Andrea King.
8: 00 PM BETWEEN TWO WORLDS (1944). Passengers on a luxury liner realize they are en route to the afterlife. Director: Edward A. Blatt. Cast: John Garfield, Eleanor Parker, Paul Henreid, Sydney Greenstreet, Edmund Gwenn, George Tobias, George Coulouris, Faye Emerson, Sara Allgood, Dennis King, Lester Matthews, Isobel Elsom.
10: 00 PM MISSION TO MOSCOW (1943). True story of U.S. Ambassador Joseph E. Davies' attempts to forge a wartime alliance with the Soviet Union. Director: Michael Curtiz. Cast: Walter Huston, Ann Harding, Oscar Homolka, Eleanor Parker, Gene Lockhart, George Tobias, Richard Travis, Helmut Dantine, Victor Francen, Henry Daniell.
12: 15 AM CRIME BY NIGHT (1944). Married detectives investigating a small-town murder uncover a spy ring. Director: William Clemens. Cast: Jane Wyman, Jerome Cowan, Faye Emerson, Eleanor Parker, Charles Lang, Stuart Crawford.
1: 30 AM THE LAST RIDE (1944). A detective suspects foul play in a series of accidental deaths. Director: D. Ross Lederman. Cast: Richard Travis, Charles Lang, Eleanor Parker, Jack La Rue, Cy Kendall.
2: 30 AM THE MYSTERIOUS DOCTOR (1943). Nazi agents use a headless ghost as a front. Director: Ben Stoloff. Cast: John Loder, Eleanor Parker, Bruce Lester, Lester Matthews, Forrester Harvey.
3: 30 AM HOLLYWOOD CANTEEN (1944). A serviceman and a starlet find love at the star-staffed serviceman's center. Director: Delmer Daves. Cast: Joan Leslie, Dane Clark, The Andrews Sisters, Jack Benny, Joe E. Brown, Eddie Cantor, Eleanor Parker, Joan Crawford, Alexis Smith, Bette Davis, Jack Carson, Kitty Carlisle, Helmut Dantine, Faye Emerson, Victor Francen, John Garfield, Sydney Greenstreet, Alan Hale, Paul Henreid, Robert Hutton, Andrea King, Peter Lorre, Ida Lupino, Irene Manning, Joan McCracken, Dolores Moran, Dennis Morgan, Janis Paige, William Prince, Joyce Reynolds, Roy Rogers, Trigger, S.Z. Sakall, Zachary Scott, Barbara Stanwyck, Craig Stevens, Donald Woods, Jane Wyman, Dorothy Malone.