The Cool, Sophisticated Baroness
Who did she play in The Sound of Music?
Eleanor Parker was the glamorous Baroness (Elsa Schraeder) in The Sound of Music movie. She (The Baroness) lived in Vienna, was
a widow, affluent, and loved the high society life. The Captain used to take trips to Vienna to meet up with her.
However she did not fit in with the family, and the children made it very obvious that they disapproved of her, and definitely didn’t want her as a stepmother when the Captain announced their wedding intentions. She came across as a cold person, and wanted to send the children to boarding school.
She was the one responsible for deviously making Maria leave the house unannounced, to return to the convent. No wonder participants at The Sound of Music Singalong are encouraged to make catty meeoowing noises every time she appears on the screen.
Surrounded by a musical family, she very much stands out as being the only non-musical person there, and is excluded from the musical bond that there is with the others in the von Trapp household. She has no singing part, and shows obvious jealousy towards Maria for being united in the family's music.
Eleanor Parker was perhaps the biggest “name” to join the cast. Director Robert Wise wanted her in The Sound of Music to add credibility to the movie, as most of the other actors were relatively unknown.
During filming in Salzburg, Parker would enjoy the evenings unwinding in the Bristol Hotel, where many of the actors were staying, singing along with other members of the cast and crew to Christopher Plummer in full flow on the piano.
The Baroness: "Why didn't you tell me?"
The Baroness: 'To bring along my harmonica.'
"Somewhere out there is a lady who I think will never be a nun. Auf Wiedersehen, darling."
"There's nothing more irresistible to a man than a woman who's in love with him."
Eleanor Parker before The Sound of Music
She was born Eleanor Jean Parker in Cedarville, Ohio, USA on June 26th 1922. Her Dad was a mathematics teacher. She always wanted to be an actress, loved performing in school plays, and went on to act in shows in Cleveland, where the family had moved to. She traveled down to California to study at the Pasadena Playhouse, was spotted by a Warner Brothers scout, and at the age of 18 was signed by them. Her movie career started with a role in Soldiers in White in 1942. The previous year she had a false start, as her scenes in They Died With Their Boots On were cut.
She appeared in several 'B' Grade movies in the early 1940’s before graduating up to ‘A’s permanently. She had roles in films like Mission To Moscow (1943), Between Two Worlds (1944), and Of Human Bondage (1946).
Most of her success came in the early 1950’s with three Oscar nominations – Caged (1950) (she won the best actress award at the Venice Film Festival), Detective Story (1951), and Interrupted Melody (1955). She also put in a strong performance in The Man with the Golden Arm (1955) in which she played opposite Frank Sinatra. Parker had to have all her hair shaved off for her role as a convict in ‘Caged’!
However, she is best remembered for her relatively small role as The Baroness in The Sound of Music, no doubt due in large part to the huge success of the film.
The variety of her roles showed what a highly talented and versatile actress Eleanor Parker was.
If you would like to see Eleanor in any of her movies, visit our store for a great selection.
These attributes led to her being dubbed Woman of a Thousand Faces, the title of her biography, written by Doug McClelland in 1989.
Eleanor Parker After The Sound of Music
Eleanor appeared in several unsuccessful movies after playing The Baroness, but appeared in many TV series throughout the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. Her last appearance was in Dead on the Money (1991). In 1963 she won an Emmy Nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress for appearing in an episode of the TV series The Eleventh Hour, and a Golden Globe Nomination in 1970 for Best Lead Actress in the TV series Bracken’s World.
She lived in quiet retirement in Palm Springs, California until December 9th 2013, when she died of complications to pneumonia.
Eleanor was married to Raymond Hirsch (since 1966), her fourth husband. She had four children from previous marriages – Susan, Sharon, Richard and Paul.
You can find her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6340 Hollywood Boulevard.
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