Eve Arden (born Eunice Mary Quedens, April 30, 1908 – November 12, 1990) was an American film, stage, and television actress, and comedian. She performed in leading and supporting roles over nearly six decades.
Beginning her career on Broadway in the early 1930s, Arden's first major role was in the RKO Radio Pictures drama Stage Door (1937) opposite Katharine Hepburn, followed by roles in the comedies Having Wonderful Time (1938) and the Marx Brothers' At the Circus (1939). Arden would go on to earn an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her role in Mildred Pierce (1945).
In the latter part of her career, she played the sardonic but engaging title character of a high school teacher in Our Miss Brooks, winning the first Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series, and as the school principal in the musicals Grease (1978) and Grease 2 (1982).
Arden was born in Mill Valley, California on April 30, 1908 to Charles Peter Quedens, son of Charles Henry Augustus and Meta L. (née Dierks) Quedens, and Lucille (née Frank) Quedens, daughter of Bernard and Louisa (née Mertens) Frank, both of German descent. Lucille, a milliner, divorced Charles over his gambling, and went into business for herself. Although not Roman Catholic, young Eunice was sent to a Dominican convent school near Modesto, and later attended Tamalpais High School, a public high school in Mill Valley until age 16. After leaving school, she joined a stock theater company.
She made her film debut under her real name in the backstage musical Song of Love (1929), as a wisecracking, homewrecking showgirl who becomes a rival to the film's star, singer Belle Baker. The film was one of Columbia Pictures' earliest successes. In 1933, she relocated to New York City, where she appeared in multiple Broadway stage productions in supporting parts. In 1934, she was cast in that year's Ziegfeld Follies revue. This was the first role in which she was credited as Eve Arden. Told to change her name for the show, she looked at her cosmetics and "stole my first name from Evening in Paris and the second from Elizabeth Arden". Between 1934 and 1941, she would appear in Broadway productions of Parade, Very Warm for May, Two for the Show, and Let's Face It!.
Her film career began in earnest in 1937 when she signed a contract with RKO Radio Pictures, and 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. In 1938, she appeared in a supporting part in the comedy Having Wonderful Time, starring Ginger Rogers and Lucille Ball. This was followed by roles in the crime film The Forgotten Woman (1939), and the comedy At the Circus (1939), opposite Groucho Marx, a role that would require her to perform acrobatics.
In 1940, she appeared opposite Clark Gable in Comrade X, followed by the drama Manpower (1941), opposite Marlene Dietrich. She also appeared in a supporting part in the Red Skelton comedy Whistling in the Dark (1941), and the romantic comedy Obliging Young Lady (1942). Her many memorable screen roles include a supporting role as Joan Crawford's wise-cracking friend in Mildred Pierce (1945) for which she received an Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actress, and James Stewart's wistful secretary in Otto Preminger's murder mystery, Anatomy of a Murder (1959). (One of her co-stars in that film was husband Brooks West.) In 1946, exhibitors voted her the sixth-most promising "star of tomorrow".
Arden's ability with witty scripts 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 best-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 on radio, then on television, by Robert Rockwell). Except for Chandler, the entire radio cast of Arden, Gordon, Richard Crenna (Walter Denton), Robert Rockwell (Mr. Philip Boynton), Gloria McMillan (Harriet Conklin), and Jane Morgan (landlady Margaret Davis) played the same roles on television.
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. Her wisecracking, deadpan attitude as the character ultimately became her public persona as a commedienne as well.
She won a 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 a very brief guest appearance 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, Lucy Ricardo (Lucille Ball) and Ethel Mertz (Vivian Vance) argue over whether a certain portrait on a nearby wall is Shelley Winters or Judy Holliday. Lucy urges Ethel to ask a lady occupying the next booth, who turns and replies, "Neither. That's Eve Arden." Ethel suddenly realizes she was just talking to Arden herself, who soon passes Lucy and Ethel's table to leave the restaurant while the pair gawk.
Desilu Productions, jointly owned by Desi Arnaz and Ball during their marriage, was the production company for the Our Miss Brooks television show, which filmed during the same years as I Love Lucy. Ball and Arden became acquainted when they co-starred together in the film Stage Door in 1937. Ball, according to numerous radio historians, suggested Arden for Our Miss Brooks after Shirley Booth auditioned for but failed to land the role and Ball – committed at the time to My Favorite Husband – could not.
Arden tried another series in the fall of 1957, The Eve Arden Show, but it was canceled in spring of 1958 after 26 episodes. In 1966, Arden played Nurse Kelton in an episode of Bewitched. She later co-starred with Kaye Ballard as her neighbor and in-law, Eve Hubbard, in the 1967–69 situation comedy The Mothers-in-Law, which was produced by Arnaz after the dissolution of Desilu Productions. In her later career, Arden made appearances on such television shows as Bewitched, Alice, Maude, Hart to Hart, and Falcon Crest. In 1985, she appeared as the wicked stepmother in the Faerie Tale Theatre production of Cinderella.
Arden was one of many actresses 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. Arden was cast in 1983 as the leading lady in what was to be her Broadway comeback in Moose Murders, but she wisely withdrew (and was replaced with the much younger Holland Taylor) after one preview performance, citing "artistic differences". The show went on to open and close on the same night, becoming known as one of the most legendary flops in Broadway history.
Arden published an autobiography, The Three Phases of Eve, in 1985. In addition to her Academy Award nomination, Arden has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame: Radio and Television (see List of stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for addresses). She was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in 1995.
Arden was married to Ned Bergen from 1939–1947, and to actor Brooks West from 1952 until his death in 1984 from a heart ailment, aged 67. She and West had four children; all but the youngest were adopted. All four survived their parents.
On November 12, 1990, Arden died from cardiac arrest and heart disease, aged 82, at her home, according to her death certificate. Some sources, including her manager, Glenn Rose, said she had also been battling cancer. However, cancer is not mentioned in her death certificate. She is interred in the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery, Westwood, Los Angeles, California.
|1929||Song of Love||Maisie LeRoy|
|1937||Oh, Doctor||Shirley Truman|
|1938||Cocoanut Grove||Sophie De Lemma|
|1938||Having Wonderful Time||Henrietta|
|1938||Letter of Introduction||Cora Phelps|
|1939||Women in the Wind||Kit Campbell|
|1939||Big Town Czar||Susan Warren|
|1939||Forgotten Woman, TheThe Forgotten Woman||Carrie Ashburn|
|1939||At the Circus||Peerless Pauline||Alternative title: The Marx Brothers at the Circus|
|1939||Child Is Born, AA Child Is Born||Miss Pinty|
|1939||Slightly Honorable||Miss Ater|
|1940||She Couldn't Say No||Alice Hinsdale|
|1940||No, No, Nanette||Kitty|
|1940||Comrade X||Jane Wilson|
|1941||That Uncertain Feeling||Sally Aikens|
|1941||Ziegfeld Girl||Patsy Dixon|
|1941||She Knew All the Answers||Sally Long|
|1941||San Antonio Rose||Gabby Trent|
|1941||Whistling in the Dark||'Buzz' Baker|
|1941||Last of the Duanes||Kate|
|1941||Sing for Your Supper||Barbara Stevens|
|1941||Bedtime Story||Virginia Cole|
|1942||Obliging Young Lady||'Space' O'Shea - AKA Suwanee Rivers|
|1943||Hit Parade of 1943||Belinda Wright||Alternative title: Change of Heart|
|1943||Let's Face It||Maggie Watson|
|1944||Cover Girl||Cornelia Jackson|
|1944||Doughgirls, TheThe Doughgirls||Sgt. Natalia Moskoroff|
|1945||Pan-Americana||Helen 'Hoppy' Hopkins|
|1945||Earl Carroll Vanities||'Tex' Donnelly|
|1945||Patrick the Great||Jean Matthews|
|1945||Mildred Pierce||Ida Corwin|
|1946||My Reputation||Ginna Abbott|
|1946||Kid from Brooklyn, TheThe Kid from Brooklyn||Ann Westley|
|1946||Night and Day||Gabrielle|
|1947||Unfaithful, TheThe Unfaithful||Paula|
|1947||Arnelo Affair, TheThe Arnelo Affair||Vivian Delwyn|
|1947||Song of Scheherazade||Madame de Talavera|
|1947||Voice of the Turtle, TheThe Voice of the Turtle||Olive Lashbrooke|
|1948||One Touch of Venus||Molly Stewart|
|1949||My Dream Is Yours||Vivian Martin|
|1949||Lady Takes a Sailor, TheThe Lady Takes a Sailor||Susan Wayne|
|1950||Paid in Full||Tommy Thompson|
|1950||Curtain Call at Cactus Creek||Lily Martin|
|1950||Tea for Two||Pauline Hastings|
|1950||Three Husbands||Lucille McCabe|
|1951||Goodbye, My Fancy||Miss 'Woody' Woods|
|1951||Two Tickets to Broadway||Showgirl|
|1952||We're Not Married!||Katie Woodruff|
|1953||Lady Wants Mink, TheThe Lady Wants Mink||Gladys Jones|
|1956||Our Miss Brooks||Connie Brooks|
|1959||Anatomy of a Murder||Maida Rutledge|
|1960||Dark at the Top of the Stairs, TheThe Dark at the Top of the Stairs||Lottie Lacey|
|1965||Sergeant Deadhead||Lt. Charlotte Kinsey|
|1975||Strongest Man in the World, TheThe Strongest Man in the World||Harriet Crumply|
|1978||Grease||Principal Greta McGee|
|1981||Under the Rainbow||The Duchess|
|1982||Grease 2||Principal Greta McGee|
|1951||Starlight Theatre||Julie Todd||"Julie"|
|1952–56||Our Miss Brooks||Connie Brooks||Main role (130 episodes)|
|1955||I Love Lucy||Herself (cameo)||"Hollywood at Last"|
|1957–58||Eve Arden Show, TheThe Eve Arden Show||Liza Hammond||Main role (26 episodes)|
|1959–67||Red Skelton Show, TheThe Red Skelton Show||Clara Appleby||Recurring role (6 episodes)|
|1961||Checkmate||Georgia Golden||"Death by Design"|
|1962||My Three Sons||Marisa Montaine||"A Holiday for Tramp"|
|1964||Vacation Playhouse||Claudia Cooper||"He's All Yours"|
|1965||Laredo||Emma Bristow||"Which Way Did They Go?"|
|1966||Bewitched||Nurse Kelton||"And Then There Were Three"|
|1966||Run for Your Life||Mame Huston||"Who's Watching the Fleshpot?"|
|1966||Man from U.N.C.L.E., TheThe Man from U.N.C.L.E.||Prof. Lillian Stemmler||"The Minus-X Affair"|
|1967||Danny Thomas Hour, TheThe Danny Thomas Hour||Thelda Cunningham||"The Royal Follies of 1933"|
|1967–69||Mothers-in-Law, TheThe Mothers-in-Law||Eve Hubbard||Main role (56 episodes)|
|1969||In Name Only||Aunt Theda Reeson||TV film|
|1972||Very Missing Person, AA Very Missing Person||Hildegarde Withers||TV film|
|1972||All My Darling Daughters||Miss Freeling||TV film|
|1974||ABC Afternoon Playbreak, TheThe ABC Afternoon Playbreak||Mrs. Owens||"Mother of the Bride"|
|1974||Girl with Something Extra, TheThe Girl with Something Extra||Aunt Fran||"The Greening of Aunt Fran"|
|1974||Owen Marshall: Counselor at Law||Dr. Lucille Barras||"Subject: The Sterilization of Judy Simpson"|
|1975||Harry and Maggie||Maggie Sturdivant||TV pilot|
|1975||Ellery Queen||Vera Bethune / Miss Aggie||"The Adventure of Miss Aggie's Farewell Performance"|
|1977||Maude||Lola Ashburn||"Maude's Aunt"|
|1978||Guide for the Married Woman, AA Guide for the Married Woman||Employment lady||TV film|
|1978||Flying High||Clarissa 'Wedgie' Wedge||"It Was Just One of Those Days"|
|1979||Vega$||Sarah Bancroft||"Design for Death"|
|1980||Dream Merchants, TheThe Dream Merchants||Coralee||TV miniseries|
|1980||Alice||Martha MacIntire||"Alice in TV Land"|
|1980||Love Boat, TheThe Love Boat||Ms. Brenda Watts||"The Affair: Parts 1 & 2"|
|1980||B. J. and the Bear||Mrs. Jarvis||"The Girls of Hollywood High"|
|1980||Hart to Hart||Sophie Green||"Does She or Doesn't She?"|
|1981||Nuts and Bolts||Martha Fenton||TV film|
|1983||Great Performances||Queen of Hearts||"Alice in Wonderland"|
|1985||Faerie Tale Theatre||The Stepmother||"Cinderella"|
|1986||Amazing Stories||Jane's Mother||"Secret Cinema"|
|1987||Falcon Crest||Lillian Nash||"Manhunt"|
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