Eleanor Parker, baroness in 'Sound of Music,' dies at 91

Tue Dec 10, 2013 4:26pm EST
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By Will Dunham and Eric Kelsey

(Reuters) - Eleanor Parker, a Hollywood leading lady of the 1940s and 1950s and three-time Oscar nominee who starred alongside big names including Frank Sinatra and Kirk Douglas and later appeared as the baroness in the blockbuster "The Sound of Music," has died. She was 91.

Parker, whose ability to tackle many kinds of roles including heavy drama and light comedy earned her the nickname the "woman of a thousand faces," died of complications from pneumonia at a medical facility near her home in Palm Springs, California, on Monday, said family friend Richard Gale.

The radiant redhead from Ohio never won an Academy Award but was nominated as best actress three times in a five-year period. Those nominations came for playing a horrified prison inmate in "Caged" (1950), the neglected wife of a cop portrayed by Douglas in director William Wyler's "Detective Story" (1951), and as polio-stricken opera singer Marjorie Lawrence in "Interrupted Melody" (1955) with Glenn Ford.

One of her best roles came in another 1955 film, portraying drug addict Sinatra's spiteful crippled wife in director Otto Preminger's "The Man With the Golden Arm." Parker also co-starred with Sinatra in director Frank Capra's "A Hole in the Head" (1959).

"He can be a bad boy but he does it charmingly," Parker said of Sinatra in a 1969 Baltimore Sun interview.

She had a secondary role, playing the child-hating Baroness Elsa Schraeder, in her most enduring movie -- the 1965 musical "The Sound of Music" starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer. It became the highest grossing film to date.

Parker's co-stars included some of the top leading men in Hollywood: Clark Gable ("The King and Four Queens"), Humphrey Bogart ("Chain Lightning"), Errol Flynn ("Never Say Goodbye" and "Escape Me Never"), Charlton Heston ("The Naked Jungle"), Robert Mitchum ("Home from the Hill"), Ronald Reagan ("The Voice of the Turtle"), as well as Sinatra, Douglas and Ford.