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Eleanor Parker: June 26, 1922-Dec. 9, 2013

Actress who starred in ‘The Sound of Music’ appreciated her anonymity


  • Illustration by Shan Stumpf

[As is our tradition, we’ve profiled some of the lesser-known individuals we lost in 2013 – people who, through their contributions to our culture, left this world a better place than they found it.]

Best known as the purring baroness in The Sound of Music, Eleanor Parker was an award-winning silver screen actress who began her acting career at age 15. Despite the head start, Parker never quite made it to the A-list, in part because of her versatility and desire to avoid the siren call of character acting. Instead of playing the same kind of character in every movie (take a hint, Jason Statham) she tackled each role a la Heath Ledger, losing herself in her roles.

Audiences of the day had a hard time identifying with her as a particular type of character, rather than a stream of disparate characters, so she never gained much momentum in the media. Parker embraced the anonymity and considered it a sign that she’d been successful. She was once quoted as saying, “When I’m spotted somewhere, it means that my characterizations haven’t covered up Eleanor Parker the person. I prefer it the other way around.”

In an age where actors are part and parcel with the roles they play, even after they die, it’s nice to be reminded of a time when acting was treated as an art, rather than a platform to merchandise sales and solo albums. Parker succumbed to complications from pneumonia and passed away near her home in Palm Springs in early December, long before Carrie Underwood clomped onto the set of The Sound of Music Live!