Saturday, January 27, 2018


I suppose that everyone, even if they don't consciously think about such trivia, has a favorite celebrity couple. I would guess that the most ubiquitous/popular would be Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, who turned their marriage(s) into a jet-setting adventure, better than any movie that they ever made together.

Frankly, I don't think about such trivia either but when I read of the passing of Bradford Dillman at age 87 on Tuesday, January 16th, I immediately thought of how handsomely he paired with Suzy Parker, his wife of 40 years.

Belatedly, I come to reminisce about a couple who even had names that seemed to sparkle with style.

Ah, style.

Bradford and Suzy met in 1960 when they starred together in Twentieth Century-Fox's "Circle of Deception." They married in 1963 and remained together for 40 years - until Parker's death in 2003. She was 70.

Suzy was arguably the definitive fashion model of her time before she ventured into acting, most memorably opposite Gary Cooper, Diane Varsi and Geraldine Fitzgerald in Philip Dunne's very fine 1958 film version of John O'Hara's "Ten North Frederick" and especially as the glamorously doomed Gregg Adams in Jean Negulesco's compulsively watchable 1959 film version of Rona Jaffe's seminal novel, "The Best of Everything."

Bradford, meanwhile, made his Broadway debut in 1956 in Eugene O'Neill's "Long Day's Journey into Night," in the role of the author's alter ego, Edmund Tyrone, and starred with Dean Stockwell, Orson Welles and Diane Varsi (again) in 1959's "Compulsion," Richard Fleischer's excellent take on the notorious Leopold-Loeb case. (Stockwell, coincidentally, played Edmund Tyrone in Sidney Lumet's 1962 film version of "Journey.")

He had an urbane presence that matched his name. Bradford personified breeding and bearing. Yes, that vague, not easily acquired quality - bearing. Suzy had it, too. And they had style - real style.

I confess. All sorts of fancy words would come to mind whenever I would see photographs of them together (or alone) - chic, cosmopolitan, metropolitan, voguish, elegant, sophisticated, cultured, dressy, stylish, chichi, bearing - words that hardly apply to the self-described, rather vulgar "power couples" desperately seeking attention today.

Kim and Kanye?

Get real.

Donald and Melania?

No, I'm afraid that "style" is dead, stone cold dead. And so is the notion of  bearing. Especially bearing. (Would anyone today even know what that word means?)

And neither will be coming back any time soon.

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(from top)

~Suzy Parker and Bradford Dillman at a '60s Hollywood event

~Bradford Dillman, relaxing with a script
 ~photography: Suzy Parker Dillman 1963©

~Suzy Parker and Bradford Dillman in a scene from "Circle of Deception"
~Photography: 20th Century-Fox 1960©

 ~Suzy Parker, taking a photograph with her Leica
~photography: Peter Stackpole 1953©

~Suzy Parker and Bradford Dillman on a 20th Century -Fox backlot when he was there making "In Love and War" and she was filming "The Best of Everything"
~Photography: 20th Century-Fox 1959©


Charlotte said...

Yes, it's amazing how many people are impressed with celebrity who really have no sense of style, who are only wealthy and rather vulgar about it, at that.

Tish said...

My favorite couple was Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis in the 1950s and '60s. They seemed so well-matched and they had a unique glamour that seemed natural and realistic. But, of course, they didn't last!

Walt said...

interesting article today, Joe, and I remember seeing the movies you mentioned that Brad and Suzy were in......yeah, you either have class or you don' can't fabricate it.....

Bill from Philly said...

Suzy Parker... She was gorgeous and sexy and refined at the same time. Thank the heavens for photography. There are so many wonderful archival pictures of her during her modeling days to access on-line. Again, gorgeous, absolutely gorgeous.

Bunuel said...

Suzy Parker also had a great voice. I can't quite describe it but it was something of a purr - and yet it wasn't. Rather singular.

wwolfe said...

The first time I heard Suzy Parker's name was when I saw the movie "Let It Be," in which there's a short clip of the Beatles singing their song named after Ms Parker. I never knew until now that she and Bradford Dillman were married, nor even that she had died at a relatively young age. Thanks for this tribute to a stylish couple. (I'd include Vivian Leigh and Laurence Olivier among other such famous couples.)

joe baltake said...

Yes, Bill, Vivian & Sir Larry. Yes, Tish, Janet & Tony. Each and every one of the couples from the 1940s and '50s had a distinct style all their own. I'm sure that there are others, but Suzy & Brad - for reasons I can't fully explain - remain etched in my brain.

Marvin Halpern said...

Many thanks for the beautiful Dillman/Parker tribute. In emphasizing their personas rather than the films which they were in (although you did mention several such films), you were able to give such a loving tribute to the couple that your readers will not soon forget the people that they were, rather than the films they were in. A "memorial" should have just that goal; namely, to make the reader remember the deceased as people rather than as merely a composite of their works. You succeeded beautifully in this regard.

Thank you again.

Best regards.

Marvin Halpern

Peter Warner said...

Suzy Parker. I loved her flowing red hair and cheekbones. Those cheekbones, yes!