WCW: Eleanor Parker

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She’s the Baroness, bitches! From The Sound of Music. Except she’s so much more, including a three-time Oscar nominee. Let’s run down mid-century actress Eleanor Parker’s (1922-2013) frock flicks resume:

 

Escape Me Never (1947)

Set in early-20th-century Venice, and about a fictional family of “musical geniuses.” Parker plays a wealthy English heiress involved in an affair.

1947 Escape Me Never

Love that hair wave and the neckline ruffle!

1947 Escape Me Never

(Photo by Warner Bros./De Carvalho Collection/Getty Images)

1947 Escape Me Never

That’s a lot of ruffle! Courtesy Everett Collection

 

The Woman in White (1948)

An adaptation of the 1860 ghost story. Parker plays the main character, Laura, as well as the ghost.

1948 The Woman in White

Rocking that headdress!

1948 The Woman in White

It’s a mix of 1940s and 1860s, but it’s really pretty.

1948 The Woman in White

Okay that fitting could be improved…

 

Valentino (1951)

A biopic about silent film actor Rudolph Valentino. Parker plays the actress that Valentino falls in love with.

1951 Valentino

Clearly in costume for a Spanish-set film.

1951 Valentino

That’s got to be costumes for The Sheik (1921) #headnecklace

 

Scaramouche (1952)

An 18th-century-set swashbuckler. Parker plays the actress in love with the titular Scaramouche, and competes with the virginal Aline (Janet Leigh) for his affections.

Scaramouche (1952)

Let’s just say that the film takes the 18th century setting very loosely.

Scaramouche (1952)

In a stage costume.

Scaramouche (1952)

And another — which seems much more 1890s cancan than 18th century to me.

Scaramouche (1952)

Shoulder loofah! (Yep, another stage costume)

Scaramouche (1952)

Flirting with Napoleon in a dress that looks influenced by the 1938 Marie Antoinette.

 

Escape from Fort Bravo (1953)

A Western set during the Civil War. Parker plays Carla, who helps some Confederate soldiers escape.

1953 Escape from Fort Bravo

Plaid with mesh ball fringe!

1953 Escape from Fort Bravo

Back when Confederate soldiers were noble.

1953 Escape from Fort Bravo

Ah, the gentle woman’s touch!

1953 Escape from Fort Bravo

Okay I like that sheer dress, but what is the lady on the left wearing on her head?

 

The Naked Jungle (1954)

Oh god, this sounds potentially very racist: “The Leiningen South American cocoa plantation is threatened by a 2-mile-wide, 20-mile-long column of army ants.” Set in 1901. Parker plays a newly arrived and married American dealing with said army of ants.

1954 The Naked Jungle

I mean, what would you wear to battle ants?

1954 The Naked Jungle

Hanging around the plantation in your Edwardian trumpet skirt.

1954 The Naked Jungle

Ah yes, how every Edwardian woman went to bed.

 

Many Rivers to Cross (1955)

A Western set in 18th-century Kentucky. Parker plays Mary, who rescues a trapper and falls in love with him, but he pushes her away.

1955 Many Rivers to Cross

Because the 18th century was all about floofy bangs?

1955 Many Rivers to Cross

I would not have pegged this as “18th century” based on this picture alone.

1955 Many Rivers to Cross

Learnin’ to shoot like a man!

 

The King and Four Queens (1956)

A vaguely-19th-century-set Western. Parker plays a woman whose family are outlaws; Clark Gable arrives, and things get scrappy yet romantic.

1956 The King and Four Queens

How could she resist his leathery-ness?

1956 The King and Four Queens

Sorry, I just know this is from the “Clark Gable/dentures/horrible breath” period.

 

The Sound of Music (1965)

THE BARONESS, BITCHES. 1930s Austria. Allegedly.

1965 The Sound of Music

Quick, what’s 1930s about this?

1965 The Sound of Music

Who cares, she’s fabulous! (That suit is VERY 1960s)

1965 The Sound of Music

I love this gown! It’s just not 1930s!

1965 The Sound of Music

She’s bitchy yet noble!

The Sound of Music (1965) costumes

How Captain von Trapp could look at anyone else, I don’t know.

 

The Kent Family Chronicles: The Bastard (1978)

Parker plays the bitchy step-mother who refuses to acknowledge her dead husband’s bastard, setting off a ridiculous chain of events in late 18th century France, England, and the American colonies.

1978 The Bastard

That’s a lot of purple.

1978 The Bastard

Is it one of those toilet paper dolls?

1978 The Bastard

Wig wings!

1978 The Bastard

Trying to bring something serious to the production.

What’s your favorite of Eleanor Parker’s frock flick roles, and why is it The Sound of Music?

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About the author

Kendra

Website

Kendra has been a fixture in the online costuming world since the late 1990s. Her website, Démodé Couture, is one of the most well-known online resources for historical costumers. In the summer of 2014, she published a book on 18th-century wig and hair styling. Kendra is a librarian at a university, specializing in history and fashion. She’s also an academic, with several articles on fashion history published in research journals.

15 Responses

  1. LouisD

    The Naked Jungle is a very good movie, praised by great french critics such as Bertrand Tavernier. It is difficult not to fall in love with her in this movie

    Reply
  2. Victoria Solt

    Escape Me Never may be mostly set in Venice, but I can’t help feeling that that first still is of a scene set in the south Tyrol or some other part of the Alps; I can’t otherwise account for the leather-braces-with-breast-strap the man is wearing.

    Reply
    • Janet Nickerson

      It’s the same family of musicians (Sanger) from ‘The Constant Nymph’.

      Reply
  3. susan

    Coupla things: The makeup artist who did “Valentino” did a brilliant job. That actor’s looks is near perfect. 2. You may know that the scary ant story comes from “Leiningen Verses the Ants” a short story we read early in high school. All I remember is being terrified.

    Reply
    • hsc

      It’s not makeup in VALENTINO– Anthony Dexter just had a really close natural resemblance to Valentino, and was cast because of it.

      Even though the “biofilm” had to fictionalize most of the people involved in Valentino’s life, due to a refusal by survivors to sanction the film– Eleanor Parker’s playing a fictional character– the film was hit by defamation lawsuits from former co-star Alice Terry and Valentino’s brother and sister, and the producer’s plans for a remake of THE SHEIK starring Dexter were quickly scrapped.

      What seemed like a bankable gimmick turned into a liability, and Anthony Dexter wound up in a series of low-budget films– largely really bad “historical” action films and wretched sci-fi films like FIRE MAIDENS FROM OUTER SPACE and 12 TO THE MOON– before dropping acting and his screen name and finishing life as a HS teacher.

      Among his “historical” films are the merely crappy THE BRIGAND (1952, more “dumb-ass” than “Dumas”) and CAPTAIN KIDD AND THE SLAVE GIRL (1954, with Eva Gabor as half the title) and the downright horrendous CAPTAIN SMITH AND POCAHONTAS (1953)– which should probably have resulted in not only the Powhatan nation but the entire state of Virginia suing for defamation. (Tidewater Virginia suddenly has the Blue Ridge Mountains flanking the James River– Wikipedia says this was shot on location in Virginia– and the Powhatan people are stock-costumed like it’s a Western– because “Injuns” are “Injuns.”)

      These films– he also took on Billy the Kid and Columbus, in addition to another “pirate” movie and ended his career with a small part in THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE– constitute such a consistently bad body of work that Anthony Dexter might warrant a Snark Week profile– except that having to watch more than one of these in too short a span of time might constitute cruel and unusual punishment.

      Reply
  4. Kelly

    In Escape from Fort Bravo, I think the friend with the odd hat is wearing a dress made with the leftover muslin from Scarlett’s barbecue dress! Thanks for this–I had no idea that Eleanor Parker had such an illustrious career!

    Reply
  5. Alys

    I wish I had known the term “shoulder loufa” in the 80s and early 90s, when it would have been so useful in conversations about bridesmaids’ dresses I was being forced to wear in the name of friendship.

    Reply
  6. Jessica A

    I know this post is about Eleanor Parker, and I love her, but does anyone else feel that Clark Gable got typecast as a heroic romantic lead long after it became kinda gross? I mean, I know there were/are glaring age differences between male and female leads in many movies, but in “The King and Four Queens” and “The Misfits” looking at Gable kinda reminds me of my curmudgeonly 80-year-old neighbor when I was a kid.

    Reply
  7. SarahV

    One day, someone will do a mirror image Sound of Music from the perspective of the scintillatingly awesome Baroness who watches as an allegedly naive young ingenue, freshly thrown out of the convent, arrives on scene and steals her fiance.

    With music. And nazis.

    Reply
  8. Damnitz

    Even with a Napoléon who can not put his hand properly in his waistcoat…

    The 50s were very cruel dealing with the 18th century…

    Reply

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