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Robert Osborne - June 2013
Remind Me

Robert Osborne on Eleanor Parker

TCM's Star of the Month for this une could best be described as "Hollywood's most famous unknown movie star." Mention the name of Eleanor Parker these days to anyone with even a sprinkling of interest in movies past and present and they're likely to say, "Eleanor Parker? Oh, yes, great tap dancer!" (No, no, that was Eleanor Powell.) A confusion in names is always understandable, but the fact that so many people are not at all aware of Eleanor Parker is difficult to wrap one's brain around. She did, after all, have a high profile career in films for 50, count 'em, 50 years (1941-91). She also accumulated three Best Actress Academy Award® nominations along the way and spent considerable quality time under contract to not one but two major Hollywood studios (Warner Bros. from 1941-1950, MGM from 1951-59.)

She also costarred with many of the most popular male stars in the film business (including Gable, Bogart, Garfield, Holden, Sinatra, Mitchum, Kirk Douglas), she worked for some of the finest directors (Wyler, Capra, Preminger, Minnelli, Wise, Sturges, Curtiz) and had a prominent role in what was for years the second highest-grossing film of all time, The Sound of Music. (It is E. Parker, third billed, who plays the beautiful baroness who tries to lure Christopher Plummer away from Julie Andrews in that mega-hit.)

So Miss Parker was not only widely seen but, from the very start, considered a photogenic comer with great potential, even managing early on to snap up two film roles that every actress in Hollywood coveted--the female leads in the film versions of two giant Broadway successes: John Van Druten's The Voice of the Turtle, a.k.a. One for the Book, and Sidney Kingsley's Detective Story.

So why, after all that top-of-the-line work, isn't this attractive and talented lady not better known today? One can only speculate. Perhaps it's because the range of roles she played was so mixed that she never developed the kind of strong, singular image usually required to make one a star. Maybe it's due to the fact that off screen she kept such a low, placid profile, rarely stepping into a nightclub or onto a red carpet, never courting press coverage or misbehaving in a way to get her name splashed across headlines.

But every Monday this month on TCM we're going to do what we can to up the Eleanor Parker profile considerably, giving you 34 chances to see this talented lady we feel is so woefully under appreciated. We'll begin on June 3 with the first feature in which audiences saw her (a 1942 Warner B-budgeter Busses Roar), followed during the next weeks by many of the highlights of her varied career, including MGM's swashbuckling delight from 1952, Scaramouche.

Also, we'll bring you her versions of stories earlier done on screen by Bette Davis and Greta Garbo, plus those three exceptional performances that brought E.P. attention from Oscar®: 1950's Caged, 1951's Detective Story and 1955's Interrupted Melody. I'll also be telling you about movies she didn't do, and why. And with your help, we'll try to unravel the mystery of why this incandescent actress is today such a "famous unknown" among movie stars.

by Robert Osborne