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Eve Arden (April 30, 1908 – November 12, 1990) was an American actress. Her almost 60-year career crossed most media frontiers with supporting and leading roles, but she is perhaps best remembered for playing the sardonic but engaging high school teacher in the classic Our Miss Brooks (radio and television), and as the Rydell High School principal in the films Grease and Grease 2.

Early life

Arden was born Eunice M. Quedens in Mill Valley, Californiamarker, to Lucille and Charles Peter Quedens. Her parents divorced when she was a child. Arden said she was an insecure child, declaring later in life that she needed therapy because her mother was so much more beautiful than she.

At 16, Arden left Tamalpais High Schoolmarker and joined a stock theater company. She made her film debut, under her real name, in the backstage musical Song of Love (1929). She played a wisecracking showgirl who becomes a rival to the film's star, singer Belle Baker. The film was one of Columbia Pictures' earliest successes.

Eve Arden's Broadwaymarker debut came in 1934, when she was cast in that year's Ziegfeld Follies revue.



from Whiplash (1948)
Her film career began in earnest in 1937 when she appeared in the films Oh Doctor and Stage Door. Her Stage Door portrayal of a fast-talking, witty supporting character, gained Arden considerable notice and was to be a template for many of Arden's future roles.

Her many memorable screen roles include a supporting role as Joan Crawford's wise-cracking friend, Ida, in 1945's Mildred Pierce (for which she received an Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actress), and James Stewart's wistful secretary in Otto Preminger's then-explicit murder mystery, Anatomy of a Murder (1959). (One of her co-stars in that film was husband Brooks West.) She also performed some acrobatics while trying to steal a wallet from Groucho Marx in the Marx Brothers film At the Circus (1939).

Radio and television

Arden's quick wit made her a natural talent for radio; she became a regular on Danny Kaye's short-lived but memorably zany comedy-variety show in 1946, which also featured swing bandleader Harry James and gravel-voiced character actor-comedian Lionel Stander.

Kaye's show lasted one season, but Arden's display of comic talent and timing set the stage for her to be cast in her most well-known role, Madison High School English teacher Connie Brooks in Our Miss Brooks. Arden portrayed the character on radio from 1948 to 1957, in a television version of the program from 1952 to 1956, and in a 1956 feature film. Arden's character clashed with the school's principal, Osgood Conklin (played by Gale Gordon), and nursed an unrequited crush on fellow teacher Philip Boynton (played originally by future film star Jeff Chandler and later in the series by Robert Rockwell).

Arden's portrayal of the character was so popular that she was made an honorary member of the National Education Association, received a 1952 award from the Teachers College of Connecticut's Alumni Association "for humanizing the American teacher", and even received teaching job offers.

Arden won a radio listeners' poll by Radio Mirror magazine as the top ranking comedienne of 1948-1949, receiving her award at the end of an Our Miss Brooks broadcast that March. "I'm certainly going to try in the coming months to merit the honor you've bestowed upon me, because I understand that if I win this (award) two years in a row, I get to keep Mr. Boynton," she joked. But she was also a hit with the critics; a winter 1949 poll of newspaper and magazine radio editors taken by Motion Picture Daily named her the year's best radio comedienne.

Arden had an approximately 30 second guest role in a 1955 I Love Lucy episode entitled "L.A. at Last" in which she played herself. While awaiting their food at The Brown Derby, a Hollywood restaurant, Lucy (Lucille Ball) and Ethel (Vivian Vance) argue over whether a certain portrait on the wall of a Hollywood actress 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, who is then treated to a pair of gawking eyes when she passes their table to leave the restaurant. This same episode also guest starred William Holden. Desilu Productions, jointly owned by Desi Arnaz and 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 and Ms. Arden became acquaintances when they co-starred together in Stage Door in 1937. Arden tried another series in 1957, The Eve Arden Show, but it was cancelled after only a few episodes.

Arden also co-starred with Kaye Ballard in the 1967–69 situation comedy The Mothers-in-Law, which was produced by her old friend Desi Arnaz after the dissolution of Desilu. A few years afterward,she made a new sitcom pilot co-starring Don Knotts, but it failed to attract a network buyer.

Other credits

Arden was one of many stars to take on the title roles in Hello, Dolly! and Auntie Mame in the 1960s; in 1967, she won the Sarah Siddons Award for her work in Chicago theatre.

She became familiar to a new generation of film-goers when she played the harassed Principal McGee in both 1978's Grease and 1982's Grease 2, as well as making appearances on such television shows as Alice and Falcon Crest. In 1985 she appeared as the wicked stepmother in the Faerie Tale Theatre production of Cinderella.

Arden published her biography, The Three Phases of Eve, in 1985. It is notable for its discretion in regard to Arden's many co-stars, and her loyalty to the Hollywood studio system that nurtured her career.

In addition to her Academy Award nomination, Arden also received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Famemarker at 6714 Hollywood Boulevard. She was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 1995.

Personal life and death

Arden was married to Ned Bergen from 1939 to 1947, and to actor Brooks West from 1952 until his death in 1984 from a heart ailment. She and West had four children, three of whom were adopted.

According to some sources, she had an affair with Danny Kaye in the 1940s.

Arden died of advanced colorectal cancer and heart disease at her home in Los Angeles, Californiamarker at the age of 82 and is interred in the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemeterymarker in Westwood, Californiamarker.



Short subjects:
  • Screen Snapshots: Off the Air (1947)
  • Screen Snaphots: Hollywood Life (1954)

Television credits


Further reading

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