Eleanor Parker on DVD: A Cursory, Comprehensive Guide

When I read Maddy Loves Her Classic Films’s post announcing an Eleanor Parker blogathon I had three thoughts:

  • I can’t wait to read all these new posts
  • what would I write about if I hadn’t soft-stopped film blogging because Baroness and Beyond kind of takes up all that time and bandwidth
  • I can’t not blog for the first-ever Eleanor Parker blogathon so what am I going to blog about

I landed on DVD releases because I’m assuming after folks read all the posts about Eleanor Parker movies, they’re going to want to see some Eleanor Parker movies. It’s always a good time to see Eleanor Parker movies. Though right now, with some asterisks, the time is better than ever.

Almost all of Eleanor Parker’s feature films are available today on DVD. Almost all of her Golden Age titles have been available since 2018, when Warner Archive released The Last Ride (1944), while Kino Lorber’s release of The Oscar (1966) a few months ago is the most recent new-to-DVD Parker film.

Despite Warner Home Video taking years to release any of Parker’s Warner films—though they did release a couple of her MGM pictures—Warner Archive quickly made up for it, releasing not just Parker’s Warner Bros. titles, but also the MGM ones, the United Artists releases, and even the independents. Over the years, Warner Archive didn’t just keep Warner Home Video releases in print—like Home from the Hill (1960) and Escape from Fort Bravo (1953)–it upgraded them, releasing a Blu-ray of Home from the Hill in 2018. Over the years, Warner Archive was even able to get other out-of-print Parker films from other studios—notably The Naked Jungle (1954)–back in print on the label.

Of Parker’s forty-three feature films (not counting uncredited cameos and voice work while including Hollywood Canteen), thirty-seven have been released on DVD.

Parker’s Warner years, 1942-1950, took the longest to get to DVD, which does make sense–there are just more of them. Almost half of Eleanor Parker’s feature film filmography is movies mdae at Warner during the forties. Starting in 2009 with Warner Archive and going through 2018, the label released over twenty Eleanor Parker films (both new to home video as well as taking over distribution from other studios).

So as much as I might grumble about the lack of an Of Human Bondage (1946) release… Warner Archive has done a great job making Parker’s filmography consistently accessible. Because Parker’s filmography came to DVD very much out of order, for simplicity’s sake (I hope) I’ll be going chronologically using the theatrical release dates. But in groups. You’ll see. We’re going for comphrensive but still somewhat concise and definitely cursory.

Parker’s earliest available film on DVD is actually a short, 1942’s Soldiers in White, which appears as an extra on the Warner Home Video (now Warner Archive) release of They Died With Their Boots On. Seemingly coincidentally, Parker was originally set to debut in Boots On, but ended up on the cutting room floor. Sadly that footage doesn’t make the DVD.

Another of Parker’s WWII-era propaganda shorts at Warner, Men of the Sky, is available on Across the Pacific. Also originally Warner Home Video, also now Warner Archive.

The first couple years of Warner Archive saw some of Parker’s rarest early features films making their home video debuts. Between Two Worlds (1944) and Pride of the Marines (1945), both costarring John Garfield; Marines may be the first Parker film on the label and soon got one of the cover art upgrades. When the label started, Warner Archive was very much about releasing films new to home video in any format, not just DVD, and Parker’s forties films perfectly aligned to that mission.

Also during this period is Hollywood Canteen (1944), which has Parker in a credited cameo. Warner Home Video has released that film multiple times–mostly in box sets–starting in 2008, though it’s currently out of print again and not available through Warner Archive. It is, however, available streaming.

Parker’s other mid-to-late forties films came out irregularly and out of order. For instance, Voice of the Turtle (1947) came out with some other Ronald Reagan Warner films in 2012, while Errol Flynn romantic comedy Never Say Goodbye (1946) came out in 2010. Parker’s second film with Flynn, Escape Me Never, waited until in 2014. Both the Flynn films were available on VHS, possibly the only Eleanor Parker films of the forties on home video. The Woman in White (1948), pairing Parker again with Gig Young (after Escape Me Never) took until 2016. And then The Last Ride (1944) came out in 2018, two years after Warner Archive seemed to be done with Parker releases.

Five of Parker’s six unreleased on home video films are from this era and all Warner releases—1942’s Busses Roar, 1943’s The Mysterious Doctor, 1944’s Crime by Night and The Very Thought of You, and 1946’s Of Human Bondage.

Despite all three of Parker’s 1950 releases—Caged, Chain Lightning, and Three Secrets—being Warner Bros. releases, only two of them are available through Warner Archive. Three Secrets was an independent production theatrically distributed by Warner Bros. After years of consistent VHS availability, Three Secrets took forever to get to DVD (in the United States, there was at least one European PAL release) with Olive Films finally getting it out in 2012 and keeping it in print since. They also released a Blu-ray.

Chain Lightning, Parker’s only pairing with Humphrey Bogart and one of Bogart’s final Warner pictures, came out from Warner Archive in 2012. The film had both a VHS and LaserDisc release, so Bogart clearly hasn’t been as popular on DVD as previous home video formats.

Regular Warner Home Video released Caged in 2007 as part of a “Cult Camp Classics” collection. After numerous critics recognized the film as probably noir and definitely not camp, Warner took off that banner in a reissue; the current Warner Archive edition makes no mention of “Cult” or “Camp.” Caged never had a VHS release and it was a big deal when it aired on regular TV. Even before Turner Classic Movies (TCM) came along in the nineties, many of Parker’s features were licensed to pay cable stations. So having it always accessible (you can even stream it) is great.

With a single exception—1951’s Valentino (I’ll bet there’s a great story to whoever owns the rights on this one)—all of Parker’s other films have been released to DVD. I’ll discuss the asterisks when we get to them.

Just as Caged was a big deal in 2007—“Cult Camp” or not–Detective Story (1951) had been one in 2005 when Paramount released it, seemingly out of nowhere, as they embraced their back catalog. Before the infinite streaming libraries and vast manufactured-on-demand back catalogs, it took studios a while to figure out their home video strategies and no one was really expecting Paramount to go all in on rare classics like Detective Story (1951). It quite infamously (for those of us who found unreleased classics infamous) never had a VHS release, unlike Parker’s other Paramount release, The Naked Jungle (1954), Jungle, which Paramount released on DVD in 2004, had always been available on home video formats. Charlton Heston movies always got VHS releases.

The rest of Parker’s early fifties films are available from Warner Archive. A Millionaire for Christy (a Fox distribution in 1951) came out in 2012 on DVD, which was Warner Archive was anywhere near done getting the Warner Bros. Parker pictures released. Christy had never been available on home video before.

Many of Parker’s MGM films—Above and Beyond (1952), Scaramouche (1952), Escape from Fort Bravo (1953), Valley of the Kings (1954), and Interrupted Melody (1955)—all VHS releases, but took quite a while for DVD release. Scaramouche and Fort Bravo did get Warner Home Video releases pre-Warner Archive—while Warner Archive has taken over for Scaramouche, apparently the Escape from Fort Bravo is still Warner Home Video. Above and Beyond, Valley of the Kings, and Interrupted Melody all had to wait for Warner Archive. Both Above and Beyond and Interrupted Melody came out in Warner Archive’s first six months, coincidentally showcasing some of Parker’s finest performances.

Many Rivers to Cross (1955), Parker’s third and final film with Robert Taylor (after Beyond and Kings), came out in 2008 from Warner Home Video, before their other two collaborations. Oddly, Rivers was the only one without any previous home video release.

The latter half of the fifties is when the DVD publishing labels become more varied. There are some more Warner Archive releases of her late fifties films—Lizzie (1957) and The Seventh Sin (1957) (home video firsts for both pictures, including the first widescreen presentation of Sin), which came out in 2016. But with the rest of the films… it’s complicated.

1955’s The Man With the Golden Arm, for example, did have—at one time—a Warner Home Video DVD restoration amid countless public domain knock-offs. The Warner DVD seems to be out of print but is still available and is probably still the safest bet. The current crop of public domain releases don’t inspire confidence, though it’s 2020 so you can also probably stream it for free. And the British Network Blu-ray is region-free.

Meanwhile, The King and Four Queens (1956) first came to DVD in 2009 from MGM Home Video, who soon bumped it to their own MOD service, which seems to still be available. Olive Films has put out a Blu-ray, but not a DVD. Again, complicated.

A Hole in the Head (1959), which may have been the first ever Eleanor Parker DVD when it came out in 2001, seems to have stayed in print from then to whenever MGM Home Video finally disappeared and Olive Films took over the license. They’ve got it out on DVD and Blu-ray.

The sixties are just going to be more unstable when it comes to rights and releases, right after Warner Archive swoops in with awesome again.

Though, to be fair, Warner Home Video put out the first release of Home from the Hill (1960). Warner Archive released that Blu-ray upgrade a couple years ago, which is definitely something the film deserves… Hill is one of Parker’s only melodramas and the good one. And Warner Archive’s also got the DVD of Hill, showing you can’t assume what Warner Home Video’s going to keep on their label and what they’re going to give to Warner Archive.

Parker’s next two films were at Twentieth Century Fox—1961’s Return to Peyton Place, which Fox Home Video released in 2005 as part of their “Studio Classics” line but has since let mercifully go out of print—and 1962’s Madison Avenue, which Fox’s Cinema Archives MOD label released with a truly atrocious pan-and-scan transfer. It too is out of print, though far less mercifully. Parker’s got a great hat in Madison Avenue. Return to Peyton Place had a VHS release, Madison Avenue did not.

Seemingly out of nowhere in 2015, Warner Archive released a DVD of the very much not a Warner Bros. release, Panic Button (1964); at the time of its theatrical release, Parker was shocked got any kind of distribution at all. But after years of pan-and-scan EP tapes, all of a sudden there’s a legit Panic Button. Widescreen and everything. Warner Archive saves the day again.

Parker’s next film, The Sound of Music (1965), has been released on DVD and other home video formats.

The last five years of the sixties bring almost all of Parker’s remaining feature film credits. An American Dream (1966) came out early in Warner Archive’s publishing history—2010—and they’ve kept it in print. The Oscar (1966), which might qualify for that “Cult Camp Classic” collection, came out on DVD and Blu-ray just this year from Olive Films with the closest thing the film’s ever had to a restoration. There was probably a VHS at some point… no one was expecting a Blu-ray of The Oscar, whether they wanted one or not.

The Tiger and the Pussycat (1967) had a 2001 DVD release from Koch Records and soon went out of print. It’s not cheap if you want it used.
Also in then out of print is 1967’s Warning Shot, which Paramount released on DVD in 2005. It’s cheaper than Tiger but it’s still pretty expensive for a used disc given the movie’s available streaming.

Finally for the sixties, Eye of the Cat (1969). After years without any official home video release—including VHS—Shout! Factory put out a Blu-ray in 2018, which is apparently the first time the theatrical version has been seen in fifty years. The television version had scenes reshot, including ones with Parker. But no DVD, just the Blu-ray.

Parker’s last theatrical credit, Sunburn (1979), isn’t available on Region 1 DVD. Like the other Farrah Fawcett vehicles of the late seventies, it’s mostly forgotten; though there is a Japanese DVD from 2003, still available, if you’ve got a Region 2 capable DVD player and want to see Parker in her last theatrical role. Where she doesn’t even get to speak onscreen.

Parker did do quite a bit of television work, where she does speak onscreen, and much if not most of it has been released on DVD.

Unfortunately, the closest thing to an Eleanor Parker long-hidden gem, a 1960 TV movie, The Gambler, the Nun and the Radio, is not among the releases. Don’t worry, though, we’ve got some “Love Boat” coming up.

Besides Gambler, most of Parker’s sixties television work was guest spots on series. She appeared on “Checkmate!,” which Shout! Factory has released in a series set on DVD, as well as “The Eleventh Hour.” Warner Archive has the first season of “Hour” out, which includes Parker’s episode.

In 1968, Parker appeared on the last two episodes of “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” That two-parter came a feature film internationally, How To Steal the World. Warner Home Video released the series originally in 2008 and again in 2014; it’s currently out of print. The movie version is available in print from Warner Archive, who have an “U.N.C.L.E.” movie collection.

After a brief stint on weekly TV—the unreleased “Bracken’s World”—Parker did mostly TV movies for the seventies and a fair number of them have been out on DVD at one time or another.

Parker’s first TV movie, 1969’s Hans Brinker, came out in 2004 from Kultur Video. It seems to still be in print from them. Maybe I’ll Come Home in the Spring (1970) first came out on DVD in 2001 and has been out from one vaguely legit publisher or another since. Then Parker’s next TV movie, Home for the Holidays, appeared briefly in some Echo Bridge Home Entertainment horror compilation sets… all of the ones containing Holidays soon went out of print. Trivia note: Parker appears with Sally Field in both films, as her mother in Spring and her sister in Holidays.

Parker’s seventies series show guest appearances–on “Ghost Story” in 1972 and “Hawaii Five-O” in 1978—have both been released. Warner Archive put out “Ghost Story” (or “Circle of Fear,” its reissue title) in 2012 but it’s gone out of print. Ghost is in print in the UK both on DVD and Blu-ray, for those Region-capable.

And Paramount has kept “Hawaii Five-O” in print.

Parker’s last two TV movies of the seventies–She’s Dressed to Kill (1979) and The Bastard (1978)–have both had home video releases on DVD. A label called Jef Films released She’s Dressed to Kill in 2008 for a while before someone apparently told them to stop. More legitimately, Acorn Media released “Kent Chronicles” box set, which included 1978’s The Bastard, the only one in the three-part series Parker appeared. The set has since gone out of print and was never cheap, though if you really wanted to watch the series… it’s streaming. No such luck on She’s Dressed to Kill.

Once Upon a Spy (1980), an unsold pilot (co-starring not just Ted Danson but Christopher Lee), is available on DVD from Sony’s MOD service and in print.

Otherwise in the eighties, Parker irregularly took guest spot parts in the guest spot shows of the day—she started on “Fantasy Island” on the pilot and came back twice, did two “Love Boat” episodes, a “Murder, She Wrote,” a “Hotel,” a “Vega$,” and a “Finder of Lost Loves.” The only show without some DVD releases is “Finder,” which is also only unsuccessful one of the shows. Though unsuccessful DVD releases did lead to show incomplete Parker appearance availability.

Not all of her “Island” episodes saw DVD before they stopped doing season sets (there are only the first three seasons and they’re not in print), though apparently the show does stream in its entirety if you can find streaming.

Only one of Parker’s “Love Boat” episodes has been released on disc, the other is presumably coming up in the next season set. Except the next season seems very late. But Parker’s “Vega$” spot is available and in print. Both “Boat” and “Vega$” are out now through Spelling Entertainment.

And while Universal Home Video’s “Murder, She Wrote” doesn’t seem to be in print, there are enough of Parker’s season set still readily available. And “Hotel” is in print from VEI.

Now, while almost seventy percent of Parker’s eighties work has been available on DVD (if it isn’t currently and there’s also streaming), TV started on an unfortunate note—no Gambler, the Nun, and the Radio—and it ends on an unfortunate note.

There’s no sign of Parker’s last credit, 1990’s Dead on the Money, one of the early TNT original movies. It’d be very nice for that one to be available but only slightly more possible than Gambler.

As far as where to start… we do give suggestions. But almost anywhere in Eleanor Parker’s filmography is a good place to start and, thanks to Warner Archive in specific and twenty-first century home video industry in general, right now is still the best time to see Eleanor Parker movies. This post is from a very U.S. home video market perspective so fingers crossed wherever you’re at can import Warner Archive. And I definitely missed some streaming availability in this post, so check your services, but don’t forget your public library. They might not just have the currently available titles, they might be able to find some of the out-of-print ones, like Detective Story.

They might even be able to find The Oscar on Blu-ray for you.

The Oscar. On Blu-ray.

Maybe there are always possibilities, after all.

9 Comments

  1. Erica D.

    Wow, this is an amazing reference, Andrew! Thank you for taking the time to compile all of this information. I’m delighted to see that A MILLIONAIRE FOR CHRISTY is available on DVD because there are still some (old) outlets stating that it has never been released on physical media. I actually tried looking up her episode of “Murder, She Wrote” but it is no where online, which is a shame. I don’t believe I have seen any of the work Eleanor did towards the end of her career.

    Like

    1. Andrew Wickliffe

      Thank you 🙂 Yeah, it’s so weird what hasn’t made it to DVD; it’s like, if it’s not Warner or MGM, you have a better chance of an indie production than say, some Universal comedy from the late forties.
      And, yes, it’s a real bummer how little later work is available online–with the TV shows, I really do think libraries (or I guess if Netflix does discs still 🙃) are the best bet. Though that’s not good for sitting down to a late 70s, early 80s Eleanor Parker TV binge 🙂
      That last TV movie, DEAD ON THE MONEY, has such a fun EP performance, it’s always bugging me it’s not available. She’s married to Kevin McCarthy (INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS), they’re eccentric wealthy people, it’s delightful.
      Can’t wait to read your CHRISTY post! I’m going to make an afternoon of reading the Blogathon, today hopefully 🙂

      Like

  2. mikestakeonthemovies

    WOW! Invaluable. This was very informative for a collector like myself and to even include the TV work. Again a big WOW. I checked my catalog and it seems I have 39 feature films here on the shelf at Mike’s Take. Not including the TV work or shorts but since you went into that I realize I have the shorts included on the Warner discs and even some of the guest appearances like the Man From UNCLE series and Checkmate. Well Done and thanks.

    Like

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