Eve Arden is one of the Husband’s favorite stars, & he introduced me to her most famous role with re-runs on TV. I was just a smidgen too young to have watched the 1st broadcasts of Our Miss Brooks, but watching them with him gave me even more appreciation for her considerable talents. I did have the pleasure of seeing Eve Arden in the title role in Hello, Dolly while I was doing summer stock on Cape Cod in the early 1970s. She was a terrific Dolly Levi.
I never met her, but I wanted to be her, or rather I wanted to receive a review that would claim- “Stephen Rutledge has the charm & the crack top timing of a male Eve Arden.” If my demented memory serves me right, I had a better chance at being compared to Kay Ballard.
Her 50 year career doing supporting & leading roles on stage, in films, radio & TV included an Oscar nomination for Mildred Pierce, but she is best remembered for playing the sardonic high school teacher in the classic Our Miss Brooks on radio & television, & to another generation as the Rydell High School principal in Grease & Grease 2. Ironically. she never finished high school, leaving at 16 to join a stock company.
Eve Arden had an approximately 30 second guest role in a 1955 I Love Lucy episode- L.A. at Last in which she played herself. While awaiting their food at The Brown Derby, Lucy & Ethel argue over whether a certain portrait on the wall is of Shelley Winters or Judy Holliday. Ethel decides to ask a lady sitting in the booth next to them, who replies: "Neither. That's Eve Arden." Ethel suddenly realizes she'd just been talking to Arden herself. As the star is leaving she is gawked by Lucy & Ethel. This same episode also guest starred William Holden.
Desilu Productions, was owned by Desi Arnaz & Lucille Ball, & was the production company for the Our Miss Brooks television show, which was filming during the same period as I Love Lucy. Ms. Ball & Ms. Arden were acquaintances, having worked together in Stage Door in 1937; it was Ball, who suggested Arden for the radio & TV versions of Our Miss Brooks.
Arden's comic talent & timing were absolute perfection for her best known role, Madison High School English teacher Connie Brooks in Our Miss Brooks. Arden portrayed the character on radio from 1948 to 1957, & on TV from 1952 to 1956, & in a 1956 feature film. Arden's character clashed with the school's principal, Osgood Conklin (Gale Gordon), & was burdened by an unrequited crush on fellow teacher Philip Boynton (Jeff Chandler, & on TV by Robert Rockwell).
Eve Arden was born Eunice M. Quedens in Mill Valley, California, & she made her Broadway in 1934 in the Ziegfeld Follies , & her last work was in Grease 2 in 1982. She chose her stage name while shopping for cosmetics & spotting the names Evening in Paris & Elizabeth Arden. She was married to actor Brooks West for 32 years, until his death in 1984. Eve Arden passed away in 1990 at the age of 82. Happy Birthday, Eve!
"I've worked with a lot of great glamorous girls in movies and the theater. And I'll admit, I've often thought it would be wonderful to be a femme fatale. But then I'd always come back to thinking that if they only had what I've had - a family, real love, an anchor - they would have been so much happier during all the hours when the marquees and the floodlights are dark."
Have I mentioned it's wet - A Pic a Day in May #25
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