With deepest respect to those who dubbed her "The Woman of a Thousand Faces," I believe this is a misnomer of sorts. Lon Chaney, who carried the name of "The Man of a Thousand Faces," and rightly so, accomplished much of what he did by submitting to hours of self-applied makeup. Rendering some of the most memorable performances of the silent cinema, his constant companion was said to be his makeup case.
Not so with Eleanor Parker. For this writer, she is the Chameleon Lady of Hollywood. For the most part, her acting prowness relied on the dramatic, or the comedic mood she chose to set through the wide emotional range and deep well that she could dig into at a moment's notice. With a variety of faces and emotions, and in her own polished style, she brought to each role an inner beauty and inner luminescence that lit up the whole screen. She also had the gift of being able to enhance the performance of others and often left the
audience gasping for more! While other less confident actors may have set
their minds on upstaging her if they could, it's fair to say that they never
achieved this feat. In contrast, she never upstaged others - it just wasn't in
her--nor her style.
As the Hollywood Reporter graciously once published, “She is lovely,
has a voice of splendid quality and a talent for tearing at the heartstrings
that is as good as a ticket to the end of the rainbow.” And tear at our heart
strings she did...
With a Divine ability to reflect a split second facial expression that finely bordered
between laughter and tears, her magnificently trained voice, so sadly lacking in today's actors, many times made a role complete and a movie well worth the admssion price.
One well-known screenwriter wrote, "Miss Parker never gave a bad performance and always revealed the person she portrayed rather than the actress doing the portrayal. An undeviating perfectionist, a consummate professional, she was one of the most technically accomplished, intensely hard-working and intelligently dedicated artists I had ever been fortunate enough to have appear in a script of mine…and at that time, I had been writing scripts for some twenty years.”
In Eleanor's own words, "My face and personality seem to change with each different style or color of hair-do. Photographs taken with different hair styles vary. Sometimes I look like me, but no two pictures ever look alike.”
Moreover, “The real thing to work on is personality. As you develop yourself, your interests and your enthusiasm, you find a new personality evolves. Confidence plays a big part in making any dream come true. But you earn confidence with hard work, with the knowledge that you are prepared for whatever may happen.”
Screenwriter William Ludwig, who co-screen wrote "Interrupted Melody," and shared an Oscar for it, wrote that moviegoers “didn’t go to her films to see Miss Parker being Miss Parker in a different dress or locale. You went to see that person she created on film.”
No, this writer insists, rather than be a "woman of a thousand faces," she was the Chameleon Lady of Hollywood's Golden era and none in Hollywood would dare dispute this fact. She may not been the most glamorous, flamboyant personality in Hollywood, but she was the greatest motion picture actress of her epoque.
"The Voice of the Turtle" - 1947