Thursday, May 3, 2012

Eve Arden

I remember "Our Miss Brooks" on television. I was only 2 years old when it came on, and 6 when the show ended, but I remember. My guess is that Eve Arden (1908 - 1990) had such an unforgettable voice that I didn't forget her. Even though her voice was quite low, she had a lilting quality in it that was wonderful to hear. It also would have helped in her acting career, both on the stage and screen.

TCM just ran Stage Door (1937) which was Eve's fourth movie.  It would be a good start. Stage Door starred Katharine Hepburn and Ginger Rogers, and included Ann Miller who was only 14 years old, and Lucille Ball in the main cast. Grady Sutton, Franklin Pangborn and Jack Carson also show up in small parts. It was nominated for four Oscars including Best Picture. One biographer on IMDb said that Eve's wise-cracking character would be forged in Stage Door and she would use it throughout her career. The only thing I didn't like about the movie is that whenever Miller and Rogers were dancing, they didn't show their feet!

Eve would make two more films with Ginger. Having Wonderful Time (1938), and We're Not Married! (1952) which also included Marilyn Monroe.

There were a lot of films made in the 1930s. Eve made her share, but most were not noteworthy. The stars were, though. She got to work with Fred MacMurray, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and Clark Gable.  In 1939 she worked with the Marx Brothers in At the Circus. She worked with Gable again in Comrade X (1940).

In Ziegfeld Girl (1941) she worked with James Stewart, Judy Garland and Hedy Lamarr. She worked again with Stewart in Anatomy of a Murder (1959), and Lamarr was in Comrade X.

One of the better movies of the 1940s was Joan Crawford's Mildred Pierce (1945) with Eve in a substantial role. This one got Eve her only Oscar nomination, for Best Supporting Actress, and Crawford won for Best Actress.

By the end of that decade, television was beginning to take hold. "Our Miss Brooks" came along in 1952 and stayed for four years. Do you remember Gale Gordon as the principal, Mr. Conklin, or the squeeky voiced Walter Denton played by Richard Crenna?

At the end of the final season there was a movie made by the same name. The next year Eve tried another series called "The Eve Arden Show" but it didn't last.

Now we will see Eve and other stars in the same boat making movies together, all while working on TV. Gale Gordon and Eve are featured in a Frankie Avalon film called Sergeant Dead Head (1965). And Eve is with Joe Flynn and Phil Silvers in The Strongest Man in the World (1975).

Also look for Eve playing a charm school teacher in a recurring part on "The Red Skelton Hour." She then gets another series, this time co-starring with Kaye Ballard, called "The Mothers in Law."

Amid the TV movies and other guest spots, Eve gets a great role, fitting the character she used and worked all of her life, as the principal in Grease (1978). She would reprise this role in Grease II (1982) her final movie. Grease was set in the 1950s, and Eve Arden was the perfect choice as Principal McGee. All of the Baby Boomers remembered her as a teacher!

Some of the character names she used over the years show her comedic style.

  • Peerless Pauline
  • Olive Lashbrooke
  • Miss 'Woodie' Woods
  • Clara Appleby (with Red Skelton)
  • Harriet Crumply
  • Clarissa 'Wedgie' Wedge

Her last role, of 97 titles on IMDb, was on "Falcon Crest" in 1987. But I will always remember her as Connie Brooks.


  1. A great choice to profile. Who doesn't love Eve Arden? Her personality and manner made her one of the most recognizable character actors of the studio, and later early TV, era. Nobody could deliver a wisecrack like Eve Arden! I'll never forget her walking around the boarding house in "Stage Door" with that cat draped around her neck. Over at Wonders in the Dark, where every week they conduct a best of the year poll, she looks set to take the best supporting actress of 1937 award this week for "Stage Door." It's too bad she didn't win that Oscar for "Mildred Pierce." She deserved it. I also liked her later in her career in "Anatomy of a Murder."

    1. Thanks, R.D. I haven't seen a lot of her work, but I would bet she could pull of a great dramatic part. But there's no hiding that voice!

      BTW, Your blog The Movie Projector is a great site! Check R.D.'s blog out at -
      In fact, I would be hard pressed to find a movie I didn't like in your Hall of Fame.

  2. Arden was always a bright spot in whatever film (good or bad) she appeared. I loved her in the Grease movies!

  3. Thanks, Kim. You are right. Bit Actors are usually the bright spots in between the stars.

  4. Love Eve Arden. Doesn't everyone? If not, they should! She added so much to so many films. Imagine "Comrad X" or "Ziegfeld Girl," "Mildred Pierce" or "One Touch of Venus" (or any of her films) without the dry drollery of Eve Arden. She more than deserved her turn to star in her own long-running hit TV (and radio) series. I was pleased to learn that she was born and raised in Mill Valley, CA, a town just a few miles away from here.

    Great choice, Allen, she's one of the best!

    1. Thanks, Eve. Eve was one of the best, but there are so many Bit Actors out there. I still have quite a large list to go!

  5. Enjoyed your write-up on Eve Arden. I've always enjoyed her, even as a little girl. I loved her in Stage Door and Mildred Pierce, and I listen to her quite frequently on some tapes I have of "Our Miss Brooks." I caught a TV episode on You Tube, but I'd love to get the series on DVD -- she was so good!

    1. Thanks for the note, Karen. I couldn't find the series on DVD. I wonder if the early episodes were discarded by the studio. In 1952 they would have still been making kinescopes of TV shows. They weren't very good quality, so they didn't take very good care of them. In their wisdom, they thought that nobody would ever want to see those old shows again. How wrong they were!

  6. Charming profile of a performer everybody loved, whether they worked with her or merely watched her from the audience. There's one title missing from your tribute, but it's not your fault; it's been languishing in the Warner Bros. vaults for inexcusable decades. The picture is The Dark at the Top of the Stairs (1960), wherein Eve plays Lottie Lacey, the abrasive, sexually frustrated sister of Cora Flood (Dorothy Maguire). It's the performance of Eve's career, and for that alone it's criminal that it's not available. (There are other reasons, too; just visit the movie's IMDb page and get a load of that amazing cast.) I hope you, as an ardent "Ardenite", get to see it someday.

    Again, excellent post!

    1. Thanks, Jim. Eve could play any kind of part she wanted to. Most know her for her comedy, but I will see if I can find Dark at the Top somewhere. It sounds like a history lesson as much as a character study.


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