The classic supermodel of the 1950’s, Suzy Parker, was born on October 28, 1932, in Long Island, New York. Her full name is Cecilia Ann Renee Parker. She is the forth model to gain fame through working with Richard Avedon and Horst P. Horst.
Suzy Parker grew up in Highland Park, New Jersey where attended school. Suzy was introduced in to fashion by her older sister, the supermodel Dorian Leigh. Dorian had been the highest paid model in the mid to late 1940’s, and Suzy later succeeded her as the world’s highest paid model for a period of time during the 1950’s. When Suzy was 15 years old, Dorian introduced her to her agent, Eileen Ford, who then signed Suzy to Ford Models.
Suzy began working with the best in the field and posing for numerous magazines including Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. She became the leading model for Coco Chanel during much of the 1950’s. Because she is the first model to earn more than US $200 and hour, many feel she deserves the title of the world’s first supermodel. No matter, at 5’10 by the tender age of 14, and with flaming red hair, Suzy had “it”, and others wanted her for it.
Suzy became famous in great part due to her name. Her sister had become famous as “Dorian Leigh” because their parents had frowned upon the modeling profession. Dorian did not want to offend them with her professional choice of careers by using her real name. Suzy, however, used the family name after Dorian had become a respected woman in the business.
Like her sister before her, she became Richard Avedon’s signature model for a period. Dovima replace Dorian. She was replaced by a short time by the blonde Sunny Harnett (She worked with Avedon for about a year). Then Suzy came along. Avedon said of their first working session together, “The first time I ever photographed her she couldn’t keep still. I tried the pose, and she was all over the place. So I just walked out. …She understood the balance of clothes. She had a much stronger, more assured look than most of the other models.” With Richard Avedon, she enjoyed a playful relationship similar to that of an older brother and his younger sister.
Though Eileen Ford judged her to be too tall, Diana Vreeland gave her a chance. Suzy was described as possessing “spectacular looks and sparkling manner”. She was also intelligent and worked with Avedon in visualizing his dramatic ideas and in bringing them to life with her own personal touches. She was instinctively graceful and expressive, and often placed Avedon in awe of her.
Suzy made her acting debut in 1957’s Funny Face, starring Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire. The musical was based on Richard Avedon’s working relationship with his models. She went on to Kiss Them for Me, Circle of Deception and Ten North Frederick. She also made several television appearances in series including Tarzan and The Twilight Zone.
Suzy Parker like many supermodels of her day (and since) have dated rock stars or have inspired them in their music. Today, artists like Rupaul for the hit song “Supermodel” or Prince for the hit song “Cindy C.” are among the most recent. However, Suzy Parker was the first supermodel to inspire artists in their music. In 1969, the Beatles wrote the song, Suzy Parker during their “Get Back” sessions. A few hits of the song found their way into the film Let It Be. The cover of the title is “When You Get to Suzy Parker Everybody Gets Well Done”. The BBC allegedly banned the song because of its suggestive nature. However, it was later published on the Hahst-Az-Sön bootleg.
Suzy’s relationships with her lovers led to three marriages. Her daughter, Georgia, was born from her first marriage. Dinah, Charles and Christopher were born from her third marriage to the actor Bradford Dillman, whom she married in 1963. The couple met during the filming of 1960’s Circle of Deception.
Chamber of Horrors (1966)
Circle of Deception (1960)
The Best of Everything (1959)
Ten North Frederick (1958)
Kiss Them For Me (1957)
Funny Face (1957)
The Twilight Zone