By Beth Hanna | Thompson on Hollywood December 10, 2013 at 12:26PM
Ms. Parker was an elegant, ladylike yet sensual film actress. Still, her most recognizable role, as the Baroness who loves Christopher Plummer’s character, Captain von Trapp, in “The Sound of Music” (1965), called for an icy demeanor. Uninterested in his houseful of children, she loses him to the governess, played memorably by Julie Andrews. (Laura Benanti played the part in the recent version on NBC.)
The highest accolades of Ms. Parker’s career came a decade before.
She was nominated for an Oscar for dramatic roles as a wrongly convicted young prisoner in “Caged” (1950), a police officer’s neglected wife in “Detective Story” (1951) and an opera star with polio in “Interrupted Melody” (1955), a biography of the Australian soprano Marjorie Lawrence. She also received an Emmy Award nomination in 1963 for an episode of “The Eleventh Hour,” an NBC series about psychiatric cases.
If she never became a star, admirers contended, it was because of her versatility.
"Eleanor Parker was and is one of the most beautiful ladies I have ever known," said Plummer in a statement. "Both as a person and as a beauty. I hardly believe the sad news for I was sure she was enchanted and would live forever."
"I'm primarily a character actress," she said in a 1988 interview, explaining why she never achieved the stardom of so many of her co-stars. "I've portrayed so many diverse individuals on the screen that my own personality never emerged."
Like William Holden, Robert Preston, Dustin Hoffman and others, Parker was discovered at the Pasadena Playhouse.
Parker quickly proved to be more than just a pretty face. She was a character actress in a movie star's body — a nuanced, sensitive dramatic performer whether as a young woman on a ship bound for the afterlife in the 1944 drama "Between Two Worlds" or as John Garfield's resilient love interest in the 1945 classic "The Pride of the Marines."
She was so adaptable that she became known as "the star with 100 faces."
Her career fully blossomed with such follow-up films as Scaramouche with Stewart Granger, Above and Beyond with Robert Taylor, Escape From Fort Bravo with Holden, Valley of the Kings with Taylor, and The Naked Jungle with Charlton Heston.
She took on one of her most challenging roles in 1955 in Interrupted Melody, portraying opera star Marjorie Lawrence, who continued her career after contracting polio. Faced with having to lip-synch nine arias in three languages, she holed up in a Lake Arrowhead cabin for two weeks and played records eight to 10 hours a day.
The result: her third Oscar nomination.