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.