Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Birthday Girl: Eleanor Parker

The very chic Miss Eleanor Parker turns 86 today. She's been low-profiling it since a 1991 TV movie called Dead on the Money (downside: it stars Corbin Bernsen; upside: also co-starring is Sheree North, which has to be worth something), but she's very much still with us.

Because of that little musical she made, she's probably most remembered as a bitchy, brittle type; in fact, she was a real leading lady (if never a top star), one who leavened the Greer Garson/Deboah Kerr high-lady style with something earthier and warmer.

And she was very dressy:

My favorite Parker picture is the sudsy biopic Interrupted Melody, in which she suffers beautifully as a diva who's struck down by both polio and love trouble. It's a good old-fashioned wallow, and it makes one wish she'd had the chance to make more good weepies.

Even before I discovered her birthday, I was thinking of Parker this week, as yesterday we ate lunch at Cairo's magnificent Mena House Hotel, where the coffee shop has a view of the Great Pyramid (which is best seen from a distance - a distance, that is, from the hordes of ravening, deeply regrettable tourists).

One of Parker's most lavish (if not most successful) films, Valley of the Kings, was partly filmed at the Mena House, and she figures heavily on the illustrated menu (try the Club Sandwich, by the bye - very tasty).

The problem for any leading lady appearing with Robert Taylor was the sheer difficulty of being more beautiful than he. Parker held her own better than most.

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