With a sad heart, I must take a moment for Eleanor Parker. The news is breaking that she passed on at the ripe age of 91.
She was best known as Baroness Elsa Schraeder in The Sounds of Music, though had been nominated for three Oscars times before that for playing strong women in a time when strong women were generally frowned upon.
Despite that, she has played opposite leading men such as Clark Gable, William Holden and Glenn Ford, in addition to Georg on Trapp actor Christopher Plummer.
Ms. Parker never established herself as a major name, instead choosing to be a character actress, one of those people we see and call “that guy/lady who played that one character in the movie about…” You may not know Margaret Hamilton by name, but you’d recognize her with or without her green witch makeup, and Clint Howard, an actor more memorable for his “crazy eyes” (you’ll know him when you see him). Even before you knew his name, you knew his face. In her era, Eleanor Parker was largely another “that lady who played,” despite her Oscar nominations, a fact she openly acknowledged. She spent years adjusting to the fame that The Sound of Music brought her, though it was a decade after her last Oscar nomination.
Said Plummer, “Eleanor Parker was and is one of the most beautiful ladies I have ever known, I hardly believe the sad news for I was sure she was enchanted and would live forever.”
I think you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone who disagrees, Mr. Plummer. Though this was one of her lesser challenging roles, her coolness and pragmatism certainly make it one of her most memorable.
Ms. Parker joins Richard Haydn (1905-1985), the ever-lovable “Uncle Max”Detweiler, and Peggy Wood (1892-1978), the unforgettable Mother Abbess who encouraged her to climb e’vry mountain until she found her dream. Portia Nelson (1920-2001), Ana Lee (1913-2004), Evadne Baker (1897-1995), Sisters Berthe, Margaretta, and Bernice, respectively, as well as Norma Varden (1898-1989), the stern housekeeper, Frau Schmidt and Doris Lloyd (1896-1968), the “other baroness,” Baroness Ebberfeld. Gilchrist Stuart (1919-1977) and Ben WRight (1915-1989), Franz and Herr Zeller, round out the list of actors from Sound of Music that we have lost.