Eleanor Parker received her third Oscar nomination for playing Marjorie Lawrence, an opera singer paralyzed by polio in Interrupted Melody. You know, speculating about the 1955 Best Actress field is a really hard task. It must have been between Anna Magnani and Susan Hayward but I have no idea where to place the other ones. Eleanor Parker seems to be a fourth, though I feel she might have even been third and fifth as well. We'll never, I guess, but I tend to say she was fourth because of the part and the character but she couldn't get ahead of Katharine Hepburn, in my opinion.
Interrupted Melody is a very enjoyable movie that is quite easy to watch. Although it's a typical 50s Hollywood with Paris at MGM and lots of driving in front of a screen, there's something orginial about, maybe it's the way it tackles some serious issues. Moreover, it was much less sentimental than expected and the characters were believable and credible. I might even say that the Oscar for the Best Writing, Story and Screenplay was a deserved one. Although Glenn Ford got the top billing here, nowadays he would be campaigned as a supporting actor (he's more of a co-lead, though). His work is decent despite the fact that his character was not that interesting.
Eleanor Parker, however, gets the opportunity to shine as Marjorie Lawrence. This would be a typical Oscar role even by nowadays' standards: truth to be told, the Academy has always loved biopics. 'But who's Eleanor Parker?' ask most of the people. Film buffs quickly say 'You know, the Baroness from The Sound of Music'. Oscar fans, however, say 'She's a three-time Oscar nominated, wonderful actress having her prime at the early fifties.' Thank goodness I was able to watch her some of her excellent performances. In fact, she's a really versatile performer. For her, it's no big deal to play the innocent prisoner girl, then a paralyzed opera singer and then a bitchy Austrian baroness. I felt that Eleanor was fully up to her task in Interrupted Melody.
When I first read the synopsis of this movie, two words instantly came to my mind: Greer Garson. I wasn't surprised at all to find out that she was actually the original choice to play Marjorie. I was sure she would have been wonderful but somehow I've become a bit hesitant to say that. First of all, Greer was 51 at the time and it would have been a bit ridiculous to see her as a young girl (that was a bit embarassing even in her fourties). Second, I doubt that anyone could have played the way Marjorie had to be played - like Eleanor Parker did.
Despite my initial resistance to this character, Eleanor quickly won me over, even in her first scenes, which would seem a bit hilarious to some. However, I felt that she completely identified with the character's struggles, hopes and optimism. Although some changes in the character didn't go as smoothly as I usually like it, I loved that she made a very modern approach to this character. She avoids sentimentality (which might have been a setback for her at the time as that's what she must have been expected to be sentimental) and everything just seems to be excellently balanced about this character. She doesn't make her a usual 50s perfect person, she shows that Marjorie can be a Bitch with a capital be, though she (in my opinion) avoids being campy. Eleanor makes Marjorie a very complex and fascinating character and she wonderfully developed her.
Eleanor Parker's chemistry with Glenn Ford works miraculously: the atmosphere between them is unusually vibrant and sexy and somehow neither of them was afraid of emphasising the sexuality and sexual attraction of the characters. We get a few "hints" about their sex life and both Parker and Ford deliver them naturally without being too forced.
Eleanor does way more than she wass required to do: she excels at the most unexpected places. She shows both the divaish attitude of Marjorie and her struggles as a paralyzed, broken woman. Eleanor didn't make the scenes depressing or too soappy. Again, she found the perfect balance between the emotions and it all works so wonderfully. I admit that the scenes where she's singing to the soldiers are really cheesy but they don't go beyond a certain point.
All in all, Eleanor Parker's vibrant, wonderful performance as Marjorie Lawrence is a real treat to watch. She approached this character in a very odd way (for her time) and the result is something endlessly charming and impressive. She does way more than I expected her to do and gets the most out of this showy, interesting part. A really pleasant surprise coming from a hard-to-find movie.
What do you think?