Eleanor Parker movies on TCM
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.
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 whether the eight-legged victim 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. (Check out: “Eleanor Parker, Jean Arthur, Patricia Neal: Golden Age Actresses” 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.
Eleanor Parker, who turns 91 in ten days (June 26, 2013), can be seen at her most radiantly beautiful in several films Turner Classic Movies is showing this evening and tomorrow morning as part of their Star of the Month Eleanor Parker “tribute.” Among them are the classic Scaramouche, the politically delicate Above and Beyond, and the biopic Interrupted Melody, which earned Parker her third and final Best Actress Academy Award nomination. (Image: publicity shot of Eleanor Parker in Scaramouche.)
The best of the lot is probably George Sidney’s balletic Scaramouche (1952), in which Eleanor Parker plays one of Stewart Granger’s love interests – the other one is Janet Leigh. A loose remake of Rex Ingram’s 1923 blockbuster, the George Sidney version features plenty of humor, romance, and adventure; vibrant colors (cinematography by Charles Rosher); an elaborately staged climactic swordfight; and tough dudes parading around in tights and wigs.
Scaramouche is centered, to put it quite literally, on avenging bastard Stewart Granger, who’s out to get meanie, effete swordmaster Mel Ferrer. But it’s Eleanor Parker’s flaming red hair that nearly steals the show. Parker is a lively presence as a low-brow stage actress who falls for Granger’s actor-in-disguise.
I find the buoyant George Sidney version of Scaramouche way more entertaining than Rex Ingram’s stately take on Rafael Sabatini’s novel. Ingram’s version, however, is much more faithful to the book. Ramon Novarro starred as André-Louis Moreau a.k.a. Scaramouche, with Alice Terry as his love interest, Edith Allen as the actress, and Lewis Stone as Scaramouche’s nemesis. MGM stalwart Stone and fellow Scaramouche 1923 player John George have small roles in the 1952 remake.
Polio and opera singing: Interrupted Melody
Eleanor Parker delivers an appropriately grandiose performance as opera diva Marjorie Lawrence in Curtis Bernhardt’s melodramatic but entertaining Interrupted Melody (1955). Co-starring Glenn Ford and featuring a very young Roger Moore, the film turned out to be one of Parker’s biggest box office hits. She lost that year’s Best Actress Oscar to Anna Magnani in The Rose Tattoo.
Lizzie (1957), about a woman suffering from multiple-personality disorder, is considered a poor man’s version of Nunnally Johnson’s The Three Faces of Eve, released that same year and a respectable success that earned Joanne Woodward the Best Actress Oscar.
Directed by Ronald Neame (The Poseidon Adventure), the Chinese-set The Seventh Sin (1957) was a poorly received remake of the Greta Garbo star vehicle The Painted Veil (also remade in 2006 with Naomi Watts), while Eleanor Parker supports Robert Vaughn and David McCallum in How to Steal the World (1968), a mash-up of a couple of episodes from the TV series The Man from U.N.C.L.E. shown in theaters outside the United States. Of note, the big-screen The Man from U.N.C.L.E. reboot currently in the works is reportedly to star Man of Steel‘s Henry Cavill (replacing Tom Cruise) and The Lone Ranger‘s Armie Hammer.
Above and Beyond: Dropping the A-Bomb on Hiroshima
Robert Pirosh’s cliché-ridden Valley of the Kings (1954) is a waste of Eleanor Parker’s talent and, really, for the most part so is Melvin Frank and Norman Panama’s Above and Beyond (1953). At least the latter film, though lacking in drama and psychological or political insights, offers some historical interest, as it revolves around the U.S. government’s decision to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Robert Taylor plays Paul W. Tibbets, the pilot assigned to that mission. Above and Beyond earned Beirne Lay Jr. an Oscar nomination for Best Motion Picture Sory.
Infinitely more interesting than Frank and Panama’s film is a Paul W. Tibbets interview published in The Guardian in 2002. Here’s a Tibbets quote, answering a question about his thoughts on people saying “Let’s nuke ’em,” or “Let’s nuke these people.”
Oh, I wouldn’t hesitate if I had the choice. I’d wipe ’em out. You’re gonna kill innocent people at the same time, but we’ve never fought a damn war anywhere in the world where they didn’t kill innocent people. If the newspapers would just cut out the shit: “You’ve killed so many civilians.” That’s their tough luck for being there.
Don’t expect to hear any bit of dialogue even remotely similar to the above quote in Above and Beyond.
Eleanor Parker today on TCM
8:00 PM SCARAMOUCHE (1952). A young man masquerades as an actor to avenge his friend’s murder. Director: George Sidney. Cast: Stewart Granger, Eleanor Parker, Janet Leigh, Mel Ferrer, Henry Wilcoxon, Nina Foch, Richard Anderson, Robert Coote, Lewis Stone, Elisabeth Risdon, Howard Freeman, John Dehner, John Litel, Carol Hughes, George Baxter, Douglass Dumbrille, John Eldredge, John George, Rex Reason, Dorothy Patrick. Color. 115 min.
10:00 PM INTERRUPTED MELODY (1955). Australian opera singer Marjorie Lawrence and her battle against polio. Director: Curtis Bernhardt. Cast: Glenn Ford, Eleanor Parker, Roger Moore, Cecil Kellaway, Peter Leeds, Evelyn Ellis. Color. 106 mins. Letterbox Format.
12:00 AM HOME FROM THE HILL (1960). A southern landowner’s family is torn apart by the revelation that he has an illegitimate son. Director: Vincente Minnelli. Cast: Robert Mitchum, Eleanor Parker, George Peppard, George Hamilton, Everett Sloane, Luana Patten, Anne Seymour, Constance Ford, Ray Teal. Color. 150 mins. Letterbox Format.
2:45 AM LIZZIE (1957). A mousy woman discovers she has two other personalities. Director: Hugo Haas. Cast: Eleanor Parker, Richard Boone, Joan Blondell, Hugo Haas, Ric Roman, Dorothy Arnold, Marion Ross, Johnny Mathis. Black and white. 81 min.
4:15 AM HOW TO STEAL THE WORLD (1968). Secret agent Napoleon Solo fights to stop a top-secret plot to conquer the world. Director: Sutton Roley. Cast: Robert Vaughn, David McCallum, Barry Sullivan, Eleanor Parker, Leslie Nielsen, Leo G. Carroll, Tony Bill, Peter Mark Richman, Hugh Marlowe, Dan O’Herlihy, Ruth Warrick, David Hurst. Color. 90 min.
6:00 AM THE SEVENTH SIN (1957). An adulteress tries to redeem herself by helping to fight an epidemic in China. Director: Ronald Neame. Cast: Eleanor Parker, Bill Travers, George Sanders, Jean-Pierre Aumont, Françoise Rosay, Ellen Corby. Black and white. 93 min.
7:45 AM MANY RIVERS TO CROSS (1955). A pioneer woman sets her sights on a trapper. Director: Roy Rowland. Cast: Robert Taylor, Eleanor Parker, Victor McLaglen, Jeff Richards, Russ Tamblyn, Alan Hale Jr, John Hudson, Rhys Williams, Josephine Hutchinson, Sig Ruman, Rosemary DeCamp, Russell Johnson. Color. 95 mins. Letterbox Format.
9:30 AM VALLEY OF THE KINGS (1954). Archaeologists clash with graverobbers. Director: Robert Pirosh. Cast: Robert Taylor, Eleanor Parker, Carlos Thompson, Leon Askin, Kurt Kasznar, Aldo Silvani, Victor Jory. Color. 86 min.
11:15 AM ABOVE AND BEYOND (1952). The pilot who helped drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima struggles with the demands of the dangerous mission. Director: Melvin Frank and Norman Panama. Cast: Robert Taylor, Eleanor Parker, James Whitmore, Larry Keating, Larry Gates, Jeff Richards. Black and white. 122 min.
Palm Springs resident Eleanor Parker is Turner Classic Movies’ Star of the Month of June 2013. Thus, eight more Eleanor Parker movies will be shown this evening on TCM. Parker turns 91 on Wednesday, June 26.
Eleanor Parker received her second Best Actress Academy Award nomination for William Wyler’s psychological crime drama Detective Story (1951). The movie itself feels dated, partly because of several melodramatic plot developments, and partly because of Kirk Douglas’ excessive theatricality as the detective whose story is told. Parker, however, is excellent as Douglas’ wife, though her role is subordinate to his.
Just about as good is Best Supporting Actress Oscar nominee Lee Grant, whose career would be derailed by the anti-Red hysteria of the ’50s. Grant would make her comeback in the ’70s, eventually winning a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her performance opposite Warren Beatty in Hal Ashby’s Shampoo (1975). For the record, 1951’s winners were Vivien Leigh as Best Actress and Kim Hunter as Best Supporting Actress, both for Elia Kazan’s A Streetcar Named Desire.
I’ve never watched the rarely shown A Millionaire for Christy (1951). This 20th Century Fox production was directed by George Marshall (Destry Rides Again) and co-stars Fred MacMurray (Double Indemnity), by then on his way to becoming a (mostly) minor Western star – before coming back in the ’60s as one of those insufferable Disney Dads.
Eleanor Parker as Alice Terry, Mae Murray, June Mathis, etc.
Lewis Allen’s Valentino (1951) is a must-see disaster, a laughably absurd biopic of Rudolph Valentino, the star of The Sheik and The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Eleanor Parker plays a fictitious character that’s part Mae Murray, part Alice Terry, part-June Mathis, part-Natacha Rambova, part-Jean Acker, part you-name-it.
Whether or not “partly” depicted in the film, Alice Terry, Valentino’s co-star in The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and The Conquering Power, and the widow of the director of those two films, Rex Ingram, sued Columbia Pictures for $750,000. She received a six-figure out-of-court settlement, as the film portrays Eleanor Parker’s character having an affair with Valentino both before and after Terry’s marriage to Ingram. Of note, Valentino star Anthony Dexter looks quite a bit like the original.
Another must-see disaster is Russell Rouse’s The Oscar (1966), a Hollywood-set cautionary tale based on Richard Sale’s novel about the pitfalls of fame and the dangers of golden statuettes of naked men holding long swords between their legs. Eleanor Parker plays the agent who discovers ambitious actor Stephen Boyd, who falls for beauty Elke Sommer.
Among those glimpsed in The Oscar‘s cameos and supporting roles are Merle Oberon, Milton Berle, Joseph Cotten, Jill St. John, Tony Bennett, Peter Lawford, Hedda Hopper, Nancy Sinatra, Bob Hope, and Oscar winners Ernest Borgnine, Ed Begley, Walter Brennan, Broderick Crawford, Frank Sinatra, James Dunn, and Edith Head. The film’s last scene was clearly based on the Frank Capra / Frank Lloyd Oscar tale that, according to Capra’s biographer Joseph McBride, never happened – or at least not the way the director described it in his autobiography.
Note: The IMDb lists Joan Crawford as one of The Oscar‘s guest stars. I don’t recall seeing her in the movie.
A latter-day Frank Capra and a drug-addicted Frank Sinatra
Speaking of Frank Capra, he’s the director of the 1959 comedy A Hole in the Head, his next-to-last movie. (Released in 1961, A Pocketful of Miracles was the last one.) Frank Sinatra is Eleanor Parker’s leading man.
Sinatra is also Parker’s leading man in Otto Preminger’s The Man with the Golden Arm (1955), a melodrama about drug addiction that left censors apoplectic and audiences wondering how it would feel to shoot up heroin. The Man with the Golden Arm was a huge box office hit, earning Frank Sinatra his one Best Actor Oscar nomination. Eleanor Parker, unfortunately, is way over the top as Sinatra’s harridan-from-hell wife, while Kim Novak is the angelic side of the film’s dysfunctional triangle.
A curiosity: An American Dream (1966) features former Star Trek actor and current Facebook celebrity George Takei.
Eleanor Parker movie schedule
8:00 PM DETECTIVE STORY (1951). A cop accidentally uncovers his wife’s unlawful past. Director: William Wyler. Cast: Kirk Douglas, Eleanor Parker, William Bendix, Cathy O’Donnell, Gladys George, George Macready, Lee Grant, Joseph Wiseman, Gerald Mohr, Frank Faylen. Black and white. 103 min.
10:00 PM A MILLIONAIRE FOR CHRISTY (1951). A woman is after a man who has inherited a million dollars. Director: George Marshall. Cast: Fred MacMurray, Eleanor Parker, Richard Carlson, Una Merkel, Chris-Pin Martin, Douglas Dumbrille, Nestor Paiva. Black and white. 91 min.
11:45 PM VALENTINO (1951). Rudolph Valentino is torn between love and career. Director: Lewis Allen. Cast: Anthony Dexter, Eleanor Parker, Richard Carlson, Patricia Medina, Dona Drake, Lloyd Gough, Otto Kruger, Joseph Calleia. Black and white. 104 min.
1:45 AM THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN ARM (1955). A junkie tries to kick his drug addiction. Director: Otto Preminger. Cast: Frank Sinatra, Eleanor Parker, Kim Novak, Arnold Stang, Darren McGavin, Robert Strauss, George E. Stone. Black and white. 119 mins. Letterbox Format.
4:00 AM THE KING AND FOUR QUEENS (1956). A con man tries to win the confidence of a handful of widows. Director: Raoul Walsh. Cast: Clark Gable, Eleanor Parker, Jean Willes, Barbara Nichols, Sara Shane, Roy Roberts, Jay C. Flippen, Jo Van Fleet, Arthur Shields. Color. 84 mins. Letterbox Format.
5:30 AM A HOLE IN THE HEAD (1959). A man’s lifestyle could cost him custody of his son. Director: Arthur S. Black Jr. Cast: Frank Sinatra, Edward G. Robinson, Eleanor Parker, Carolyn Jones, Thelma Ritter, Joi Lansing, Keenan Wynn, Dub Taylor. Color. 120 mins. Letterbox Format.
7:45 AM AN AMERICAN DREAM (1966). A man suspected of murdering his wife has to elude the police and a gang of hoodlums. Director: Robert Gist. Cast: Stuart Whitman, Janet Leigh, Eleanor Parker, Barry Sullivan, Lloyd Nolan, J.D. Cannon, Murray Hamilton, Warren Stevens, Harold Gould, George Takei, Richard Derr. Color. 103 min.
9:45 AM THE OSCAR (1966). An unscrupulous actor fights his way to the top. Director: Russell Rouse. Cast: Stephen Boyd, Elke Sommer, Eleanor Parker, Merle Oberon, Milton Berle, Joseph Cotten, Jill St. John, Edie Adams, Ed Begley, Bob Hope, Tony Bennett, Peter Lawford, Hedda Hopper, Ernest Borgnine, Walter Brennan, Broderick Crawford, Frank Sinatra, James Dunn, Edith Head. Color. 119 min.
Eleanor Parker movie schedule via the TCM website.
Eleanor Parker Detective Story photo: Paramount Pictures.
Eleanor Parker in Scaramouche publicity shot: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.