The Sound Of Music actress Eleanor Parker has died at the age of 91. Signed to Warner Bros. when she was just 18, Parker served her apprenticeship throughout the 1940s by doing voice work and bit parts, eventually starring in a 1946 remake of Of Human Bondage that was, unfortunately for her, measured against the star of the previous version, Bette Davis. Parker’s career didn’t really take off until 1950, when she won the Best Actress Award at the Venice Film Festival for her role as the sacrificial virgin heroine of the prototypical women-in-prison picture, Caged.
Between 1950 and 1955, Parker was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress three times: for Caged; for her role as Kirk Douglas’ wife with a guilty secret in Detective Story (1952); and for the biopic Interrupted Melody (1955), in which she played the opera singer Marjorie Lawrence. Parker also co-starred with Humphrey Bogart in Chain Lightning (1950), appeared in the swashbuckler Scaramouche (1952), and the action adventures Escape From Fort Bravo (1953) and The Naked Jungle (1954).
She co-starred with Frank Sinatra twice, in Otto Preminger’s drug-addict melodrama The Man With The Golden Arm (1955) and the Frank Capra comedy A Hole In The Head (1959). In 1960, she played Robert Mitchum’s high-strung wife in Vincente Minnelli’s Home From The Hill. In 1965, Parker stared in arguably her most lasting role as the Baroness, Julie Andrews’ romantic rival in The Sound Of Music.
A year later, Parker appeared in two movies that fell on the sleazier end of the camp-classic scale, The Oscar and the Hollywood version of Norman Mailer’s An American Dream. As movie roles dried up, Parker moved increasingly into television, winning a Golden Globe nomination for starring in the first season of the inside-Hollywood series Bracken’s World and costarring with Sally Field in the generation-gap TV movie Maybe I’ll Come Home In The Spring (1971). Her final feature film was the Farrah Fawcett vehicle Sunburn (1979). She retired after the 1991 TV film Dead On The Money.