Suzy Parker (Cecilia Ann Renee Parker)

Suzy Parker

Suzy Parker and two of her sisters were tall, all measuring between 5’10” and 6’1″. Sister Dorian (who modelled under the name Dorian Leigh) was the sole exception, standing 5’5″. In 1944, Dorian worked as an advertising copy writer when a coworker encouraged her to go to the Conover Modeling Agency. Dorian was one of the top models in the world, arguably referred to as the “world’s first supermodel” (along with Lisa Fonssagrives). When Parker was about age 15, Dorian telephoned Ford Modeling Agency and told Eileen and Jerry Ford that she would sign on with them if they also took her younger sister, sight unseen. Eager to represent Dorian, they agreed. Expecting to meet a similarly petite, extremely thin, flawless, pale-faced, electric blue-eyed, raven-haired younger version of Dorian, they were shocked to meet Suzy for the first time. Parker was already 5’10”, big-boned, and had carrot red hair, pale-green eyes, and freckles. She would become more famous than Dorian. Suzy Parker’s photo appeared in Life magazine when she was 15. That same year, one of her first magazine advertisements was for DeRosa Jewelry. Although she still lived with her parents in Florida, she stayed in New York City with Dorian when she had modeling assignments there. Dorian introduced Parker to her fashion-photographer friends, Irving Penn, Horst P. Horst, John Rawlings, and a young Richard Avedon. Parker became Avedon’s muse, she said years later that “The only joy I ever got out of modeling was working with Dick Avedon.” She became the so-called signature face of the Coco Chanel brand. Chanel herself became a close confidante, giving Parker advice on men and money as well as creating numerous Chanel outfits for her.

Suzy Parker was the first model to earn $200 per hour and $100,000 per year. Vogue declared her one of the faces of the confident, post-war American woman. By 1955, she owed income taxes on her modeling income from previous years, amounting to more than $60,000 in back taxes and rapidly accumulating penalties, an enormous amount at the time. Jerry Ford paid her tax bill and found her assignments. She worked also non-stop for Vogue, Revlon, Hertz, Westinghouse, Max Factor, Bliss, DuPont, Simplicity, Smirnoff, and Ronson shavers, to name a few. She also was on the covers of about 70 magazines around the world, including Vogue, Elle, Life, Look, Redbook, Paris Match and McCall’s. After being introduced to, and taught photography by, war photographer Robert Capa, Parker was briefly listed as a member of Magnum Photos. Her first film role was in Kiss Them for Me (1957), playing the main interest of Cary Grant’s character. Soon after she accepted a cameo role in Funny Face (1957), on screen for two minutes in a musical number described as “Pink Number”. Her other films include: Ten North Frederick (1958), The Best of Everything (1959), A Circle of Deception (1960) during which she met future husband Bradford Dillman, Flight from Ashiya (1964), Chamber of Horrors (1966) and dramatic roles in TV shows such as Burke’s Law and The Twilight Zone plus appearances as herself on a number of quiz shows such as I’ve Got a Secret. After marrying her third husband, actor Bradford Dillman, in 1963, and suffering injuries in a car accident in 1964, she mostly retired from modeling and acting. Suzy Parker decided to end dialysis treatments. She returned home and died at age 70 surrounded by family at her orchard in Montecito on May 3, 2003. She was survived by two of her three sisters: Dorian (who died in 2008 at age 91 and reportedly did not attend her sister’s funeral due to a long estrangement) and Florian (“Cissie”, “Cissy”), who died at the age of 92 on October 9, 2010. Her husband, Bradford Dillman, her four children, and two stepchildren also survived her.

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Born

  • October, 28, 1932
  • USA
  • Long Island, New York

Died

  • May, 03, 2003
  • USA
  • Montecito, California

Cause of Death

  • kidney failure

Cemetery

  • Santa Barbara Cemetery
  • Santa Barbara, California
  • USA

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