Eleanor Parker Dies; Sound of Music Actress Was 91

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Eleanor Parker, a three-time Academy Award nominated actress best-known as the baroness in The Sound of Music, died Monday in Palm Springs.

The cause of death was pneumonia complications. She was 91. Eleanor Parker's death was confirmed to the L.A. Times by her son, actor Paul Clemens.

None of the versatile, talented Parker's three Oscar nominations were for The Sound of Music, the iconic film for which she is still best known.

Parker brought coolness, reserve and elegance to her portrayal of the baroness determined to marry the captain played by Christopher Plummer.

"Eleanor Parker was and is one of the most beautiful ladies I have ever known," said Plummer Monday in a statement. "I hardly believe the sad news."

"I was sure she was enchanted and would live forever."

The fame accompanying Parker's role in the musical about the Von Trapp family was "something she came to make peace with" after many years, her son said.

"It was a lovely role, and she was terrific in it," Clemens said.

"But it was hardly her greatest role. It was only in the last 10 years of her life that she became glad she had done the film. People of all ages know it."

Her death came just four days after NBC aired its live version of The Sound of Music with Carrie Underwood as Maria, sparking a great deal of debate.

Eleanor Parker Photo

The striking redhead appeared in more than three dozen movies, acting opposite Hollywood's leading men including Clark Gable, William Holden and Glenn Ford.

She earned her first best actress Oscar nomination for 1950's Caged, in which she played a naive woman who is turned into a hardened criminal in prison.

The next year, she received one for Detective Story, starring as the wife of a detective (Kirk Douglas) who harbors a dark secret that could destroy their marriage.

Parker earned her final Oscar nomination as a polio-stricken opera singer who makes a comeback in the glossy 1955 feature Interrupted Melody.

"That was her personal favorite," her son said. "She loved opera and learned to sing all the arias," though her singing was later dubbed in by Eileen Farrell.

That same year, she appeared with Frank Sinatra in The Man With the Golden Arm and with Robert Taylor in the western comedy Many Rivers to Cross.

She had a long career in television, including roles on shows including Bracken's World, The Love Boat, Fantasy Island and Murder, She Wrote.

ABC will air the original 1965 The Sound of Music on December 22.

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